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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

National Convention

September 15-17, 2017



Published by FFRF

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

1PresidioCountySheriffsOfficeTX Latin-crossThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is demanding that a prominently exhibited cross be taken down from a Texas sheriff's office.

A concerned local resident informed FFRF that a Latin cross is on display above the reception window in the Presidio County Sheriff's Office. The cross features an eagle clutching a police badge above a holstered gun with the words "Peace" and "grace" on either side, below which is the inscription: "The Lord will guide you always." The cross is visible to all visitors.

The religious significance of the Latin cross is unambiguous and indisputable. An overwhelming majority of federal courts have found that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion, and only the Christian religion. And a majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

"The permanent display of a Latin cross in a government office is unconstitutional," FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert writes to County Sheriff Danny Dominguez. "The display of this patently religious symbol on public property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause."

There are also troubling social messages being transmitted due to the presence of the cross.

It unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity and conveys the message to the nearly 30 percent of Americans who are not Christians, including the 23 percent of Americans who are not religious, that they are not "favored members of the political community," to quote the U.S. Supreme Court. The effect is to make non-Christian and non-believing residents of Presidio County political outsiders.

The display is made more problematic by the imagery included on the cross. An eagle, a police badge, and a holstered gun together with a religious message, all on the cross, more transparently draws a connection between the Presidio County Sheriff's Department and the Christian religion — creating an unambiguous endorsement of Christianity. The display sends the message that the sheriff's department is an arm of the Christian faith, relegating non-Christian residents of Presidio County to second-class status and making those residents question law enforcement's commitment to serve and protect them.

Citizens interact with and rely on law enforcement officers during some of the most urgent and vulnerable times of their lives. These citizens should not be made to feel excluded and like political outsiders because the local government they support with their taxes oversteps its power by prominently placing religious iconography on government property. Nor should the Sheriff's Office turn devout Christian citizens into "insiders."

"The Presidio County Sheriff's Department is engaging in a blatant endorsement of Christianity," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Non-Christian citizens cannot feel comfortable in the Sheriff's Office with such an obviously Christian sign."

FFRF is asking that the Presidio County Sheriff's Department immediately remove the cross from the Sheriff's Office and ensure no such iconography is displayed in the office in the future.

FFRF, in tandem with the American Humanist Association, won a resounding federal court ruling on Monday, June 19, in a federal lawsuit over a Christian cross in a Pensacola, Fla., park. Earlier this year, as a result of a lawsuit filed by FFRF, the city of Santa Clara, Calif., removed a large cross from one of its public parks

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 29,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 1,200 in Texas. FFRF's purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

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Madison Guide

So, you find yourself in Madison ... what do you do next?
The answer is simple: everything!


Enjoy our tangle of one-way roads and triangle intersections as you make your way around the downtown isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. Take in the lake view from Monona Terrace convention center's rooftop terrace. Did you know that Otis Redding (singer of "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay") died in a tragic plane crash on Lake Monona? Now you do!

Wisconsin State Capitol — Celebrate the centennial of our beautiful beaux arts Capitol building. It's open to the public but guided tours offered many times a day are free and worth the time. The sixth-floor museum and observation deck are also open during summer months.

UW Memorial Union — Not just for students and alumni, the Memorial Union is a Madison staple! Visit Der Rathskeller (or Der Rath as it is affectionately called), a German beer hall-style watering hole for students, staff and community members. After you've filled your stein (plastic cup, actually) head out to the Terrace at Memorial Union, pull up one of the iconic chairs and soak up the sun or take in the entertainment. Enjoy food and beverages from diverse vendors. DO NOT pass up the ice cream from Babcock Hall Dairy, made right here at the university with extra generous "single dip" helping. Warning — it is not vegetarian. Stay late for Terrace After Dark music and films, or take advantage of the many events and activities! Don't miss Isthmus Jazz Fest on the Terrace June 16-17.

State Street — It's only two blocks from Freethought Hall! Go there for lunch, breakfast, dinner, drinks, eclectic shops and the very best people watching around.

Here are some other FFRF staff favorites:

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Overture Center — Don't miss the "dome illusion," especially at night! While you're there you can nosh on delicious treats at Fresco, the rooftop restaurant overlooking all of State Street and the MMoCA's sculpture garden. (Pro tip: It's part of the Food Fight Restaurant Group, so ask your loved ones for Food Fight gift cards that you can redeem at one of its 20 local bars and eateries).

Fromagination on the Square — Try the turkey sandwich with apple and cheese. A bit pricey but fresh, ready-made sandwiches.

Candinas on the Square — A great place if you're looking for a local gift to take home to Mom or Dad. (We think the caramel and the hazelnut are best.)

A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore — Notable for good reads and special orders. 315 W. Gorham Street off State Street.


Olbrich Botanical Gardens — Not to be missed! It's free to walk around or read in the beautiful outdoor gardens. Stroll through the tropics in the Bolz Conservatory, filled with tropical plants, flowers, orchids, birds, and a waterfall that feeds into a koi pond. $2 admission for the conservatory, but it's free to all on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.


Bikes that are an improvement over Madison's BCycle bike share stations can be rented from Machinery Row Bicycles, a short walk from the Capitol at the top of Williamson Street. It's located on the 12-mile bike path loop that goes around Lake Monona (and is also accessible via the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center), which is a lovely ride (or run, for the more ambitious). There is another bike path that runs along Lake Mendota, starting at the Memorial Union, called the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path. It's shorter, but provides access to Picnic Point, which is a nice walking path with a lake view. Bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited, but the view is spectacular. The UW Arboretum is a nice 6-mile loop for running or biking. 


Ella's Deli and Ice Cream Parlor, 2902 East Washington Ave., is a memorable spectacle and has been voted Best Deli in Madison 20 years in a row! Try the famous Reuben sandwich, and save room for one of their signature desserts! Don't forget to take a ride on the Original Parker Carousel built in 1927!


A North Carolina sheriff's office has agreed to cease its promotion of a fast-approaching prayer event after the Freedom From Religion Foundation raised constitutional objections.

FFRF recently sent a letter to the Ashe County Sheriff's Office, based in Jefferson, objecting to a "Time of Prayer" event it was scheduled to host on Saturday, June 24. Highlighting the event will be a prayer led by Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of the celebrity evangelist Billy Graham and sister of Franklin Graham. The sheriff's office had been advertising on its official website and social media accounts, giving the appearance of government endorsement of religion.

The Ashe County Sheriff's Office informed FFRF that it has removed mention of the event from the sheriff's website and moved its location from the steps of the sheriff's office, as was advertised, to the parking lot. The sheriff's office has also said that any group can use the parking lot for events, including FFRF's local North Carolina chapter, the Triangle Freethought Society.

FFRF is asking the county to address its remaining concern: that Ashe County officers, and perhaps Sheriff Terry Buchanan, will be appearing at the event in their official uniforms, and may even speak using their government titles. This would exacerbate the appearance that the sheriff's office endorses Christianity, which is already a concern due to the history of the event.

Quoting precedent from federal circuit courts and the Supreme Court, FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to the Ashe County Sheriff's Office warning against this state and church entanglement.

"Using a government title and uniform to promote his personal religious beliefs or the beliefs of Mrs. Lotz would give the unfortunate impression that the county supports and endorses those particular religious beliefs," wrote Seidel. "This presents a problem for the sheriff because the Establishment Clause prohibits the government from 'promoting or affiliating itself with any religious doctrine or organization.'"

Approximately 30 percent of Americans do not identify with Christianity and nearly 25 percent are not religious at all. Already, this event alienates non-Christian community members by featuring a prominent evangelical speaker.

"By endorsing a Christian prayer event, law enforcement officers demonstrate that they prefer Christianity over all over faiths and risk estrangement in their relationship with non-Christian citizens," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The Ashe County officers should focus on their secular duties citizens trust them with."

FFRF is asking for assurances that Sheriff Buchanan and his deputies do not attend or participate in the event in their official capacity or on government time. Ashe County officers have secular duties to take care of — and organizing or attending a "Time of Prayer" is far beyond the scope of civil government.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization, with more than 29,000 nonreligious members and chapters all over the country, including 600-plus members in North Carolina and a state chapter, the Triangle Freethought Society.

Photo via Shutterstock by Jeremy What

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