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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

National Convention

October 7-9, 2016

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Published by FFRF

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is happy to pay a Texas town 20 times the amount the town agreed to get from a church for a controversial piece of land.

The Port Neches City Council is selling a portion of Riverfront Park containing a 10-foot Latin cross to the First United Methodist Church for $100. FFRF objected to a cross on public property, and the City Council move is in response to that. 

FFRF is concerned that the city is penalizing itself—and its citizens—by deliberately underpricing to benefit the church. It would be delighted to generously compensate Port Neches, says a FFRF spokeswoman.

"In these times of fiscal austerity and municipal bankruptcies, we are trying to ensure that a city has resources to provide essential public services to its residents," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "$2000 will make that 20 times more certain than $100."

Gaylor notes that the divestiture the city should be making is of the unconstitutional cross, not of valuable public land. FFRF has previously spelled out the suspect nature of the sale: It was discussed in executive conference without a bidding process, and it appears to be a sweetheart deal with a religious organization calculated to "save the cross" and keep it in the same prominent location surrounded by public land. FFRF reproved the city for failure to mandate obvious fencing and clear disclaimers, which any court would require.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 23,000 members nationwide, including approximately 1,000 in Texas.

WASHINGTON, D.C.¬–With the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission having second thoughts about allowing advocacy ads on its buses, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wants the commuters to decide instead.

Washington, D.C-area commuters are riding on PRTC buses on the Prince William and D runs that are wrapped with a giant message stating, "I'm an Atheist and I Vote." The ads are part of a Freedom From Religion Foundation campaign to highlight the exploding secular vote in advance of the June 4 Reason Rally and the June 14 presidential primary in the District of Columbia.

But PRTC is exhibiting qualms about the ads. "A spokesperson for Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission told FOX 5 under their current ad guidelines that they could not deny the two-week ad buy, but the commission is considering new guidelines on June 2 on what kinds of ads would be allowed," a local TV station has reported.

FFRF feels that this sort of a reconsideration is arbitrary and undemocratic. Why not let the individuals using these buses resolve this instead? Journalists should interview commuters on the buses running the ads to get their feedback. Here's the PRTC bus schedule that includes the timings for the Prince William and D runs.

"We find it astonishing that PRTC officials are developing cold feet due to a bit of a brouhaha," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "This should be determined democratically, and the democratic thing to do here is to leave it to the folks riding these buses."

FFRF is a nonpartisan, apolitical freethought association (umbrella for atheists, agnostics and other nonbelievers) working to keep religion out of government. Learn more at www.ffrf.org.

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Port Neches at a crossroads

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FFRF objects to religious ROTC creeds

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is objecting to the injection of religion into U.S. Army programs.

Specifically, FFRF is taking issue with the JROTC and the ROTC's cadet creeds. The JROTC belief principle ends: "May God grant me the strength to always live by this creed." Not only does this strike the tone of a Christian prayer, it also adds the requirement that every JROTC cadet believe in a deity and actively seek its assistance.

The ROTC creed suffers from the same problems, since it concludes with: "May God give me the compassion and judgment to lead and the gallantry in battle to win." This, too, mimics a prayer and makes the cadet give an active appeal to God in order to participate.

"As currently written, both creeds violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover writes to Maj. Gen. Peggy Combs of the U.S. Army Cadet Command. "The U.S. Supreme Court has said time and again that the 'First Amendment mandates neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.' As a government program, the U.S. Army Cadet Command has a duty to ensure that the JROTC and ROTC remain neutral on matters of religion." 

"The creeds have the effect of alienating more than 23 percent of the population that is nonreligious (including 35 percent of millennials, the pool for JROTC recruits)," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The creeds imply that those who do not believe in God have a character flaw and send a message to aspiring cadets that they must have faith or they will never be successful."

By lending their power and prestige to religion, not only have the JROTC and ROTC programs created a potential legal liability for the U.S. Army Cadet Command, they have placed public high schools with JROTC chapters in a tricky situation, as well. Public schools cannot endorse religious programs, so as long as JROTC continues to incorporate religion, the schools have a constitutional obligation to distance themselves from it. This means that they can't advertise such programs, their staff cannot lead a JROTC event, and the JROTC cannot be given special access to perform at school-sponsored occasions.

FFRF asks that the religious language be removed from the creeds of both JROTC and ROTC in order to make them truly inclusive.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,800 nonreligious members nationwide.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is opposing a proposed bible class in an Arkansas school district.

Bentonville School Board member Brent Leas has recommended adding an elective academic bible study class to the 2017-18 curriculum. He is justifying it under Arkansas Act 1440, which was passed three years ago.

FFRF contends that such classes violate the notion that public schools should not play favorites when it comes to religion. And they are legally problematic under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Arkansas Constitution.

"Such a course is at odds with Article II, Section 24 of the Arkansas Constitution, which guarantees that 'no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship above any other,'" FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor writes to the Bentonville School Board

Besides, federal courts have a number of times ruled against schools for allowing proselytization to seep into the classroom.

The Christian bias in such a course proposal is obvious. If the Bentonville School District feels that its students will benefit from a deeper understanding of different belief systems, why has it not proposed classes on the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita or, indeed, Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion"?

Certainly in theory, a bible course may be permissible as part of a public high school curriculum, but, in practice, such classes are rarely taught in a legal manner, FFRF asserts. Southern Methodist University Professor Mark Chancey did a study in 2013 of bible classes that Texas had introduced six years before and found that many of them "are blatantly and thoroughly sectarian, presenting religious views as fact and implicitly or explicitly encourage students to adopt those views." The study surveyed bible courses in 57 school districts and found that a lot of the materials "are written specifically for Christian audiences for the purpose of strengthening their faith."

FFRF asks the Bentonville School District not to inject religion into the city's public school system.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,800 nonreligious members nationally, including more than 100 in Arkansas.

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