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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

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September 15-17, 2017

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

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FFRF condemns Manchester attack

1manchester

The Freedom From Religion Foundation expresses its deep sorrow at the horrifying toll of the Manchester terror attack — a toll that, heartbreakingly, includes a number of children.

While all the details aren't available yet, the act is a work of a suicide bomber, who, in recent history, have been most often religiously inspired. Religion is undoubtedly the motivation for the bombing and carnage.

The texts of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions — Islam, Christianity and Judaism —consider music and the arts as blasphemous. Muslim fundamentalists interpret the Quran as disapproving of any form of music as entertainment. The suicide bomber's choice of a famous pop singer's concert as a target is quite certainly not a coincidence.

And let's not blame Ariana Grande's political views (or, facetiously, her musical caliber) for the attack. "A big bomb goes off at a pop star's rock concert bombing a bunch of liberal trendies. The same people — god love them — on average who are promoting open borders, bringing Islamists in," rightwing provocateur Alex Jones said. This attitude is distasteful in the extreme.

ISIL has actually claimed credit for the bombing (even if it may not be directly responsible). ISIL is bent on spreading its religious "truth" worldwide. This mentality is not subject to evidence or reason. It promotes an "us versus them" thinking and the dehumanization of those who practice other faiths or no religion. Most important, religion, using that division and the superiority that comes with being part of a god's select group, silences people's innate human compassion.

Religion gives people what they believe to be a divinely sanctioned license to kill. Because the grant is divine and based on faith, reason and logic often can't overcome its contradictions and barbarity.

Even if Islamic terrorism has associated economic causes or is related to U.S. foreign policy, there can be no doubt that religion provides both the justification and the motivation for these terrorists. Religion convinces young men to kill themselves for the promise of a better future. Religion promises them an illusory paradise superior to the pain of this world.

As always with religiously motivated attacks, thoughts and prayers are feckless, at best. More religion is not the answer, more reason is. Don't #prayforManchester. On that note, it was refreshing that British Prime Minister Theresa May's initial response was, "All our thoughts are with the victims and the families" without the inclusion of a religiously obligatory reference to prayer.

The simple fact is that some people do not want to believe religion is bad for the world. And to maintain that outlook, they will ignore the mountains of evidence that show otherwise.

The way to protect our nation and the world from Islamist terrorism is to redouble our efforts to keep religion out of government, not to fan the flames by indulging in hateful rhetoric or by engaging in harmful interventions abroad.

The world needs less religion. Religion, humanity's first attempt to explain the world, has since become our biggest roadblock to truth and progress. We don't need more religious "truth," we need more curiosity, more compassion for those who are different, more people who are good without god. We need goodness uncorrupted by religious "truth."

1MissouriPRMayThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is taking issue with a Missouri school district superintendent’s open evangelizing at school events.

Willard Public Schools Superintendent Kent Medlin gave religious remarks and a prayer at the recent Willard High School graduation ceremony. He reportedly quoted the bible repeatedly in his commencement address, proselytized by discussing his savior and asked students and their families to join him in a prayer.

Medlin is notorious for pushing his religion on staff and students. Over the last few years, FFRF has sent several complaints to the school system. FFRF considers it unacceptable that Medlin abused his position of authority to promote his religion during a momentous occasion for students.

A graduating Willard High School senior, Ashlynn Bradley, who was present at the graduation ceremony alerted media and FFRF to Medlin’s proselytization and spoke out publicly against the remarks. As recognition of her commendable fealty to this country’s founding principles, FFRF is awarding Bradley the Cliff Richards Memorial $1,000 Student Activist Scholarship Award.

There can be no doubt that religious proselytizing by the school superintendent at a school function amounts to religious endorsement, FFRF contends.

“The Supreme Court has continually struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations,” FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott writes to the Willard Public Schools Board of Education. “School officials may not deliver prayers or invite others to give any type of prayer, invocation, or benediction at a public school graduation. The Supreme Court has settled this matter — high school graduations must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.”  

FFRF also stresses that the board must stop these religious practices not only because it is constitutionally required, but also to avoid the significant costs it would incur to take on an unwinnable legal challenge. When FFRF secured a court order against a California school district regarding its school board prayers and proselytizing by school officials last year, the court ordered the district to pay more than $200,000 in attorney fees and costs.

Plus, Willard Public Schools has a duty to remain neutral toward religion in the light of the demographic makeup of today’s youth. By promoting religion and prayers at school events, the school system alienates the 35 percent of young Americans who are not religious.

FFRF requests that the Willard Public Schools Board of Education take immediate steps to comply with constitutional requirements. While Medlin is retiring, his troubled legacy of religious proselytization and exclusion of non-Christians must end.

“Ashlynn Bradley engaged in an act of courage by going public about Superintendent Medlin’s constitutional violations,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Willard Public Schools Board of Education needs to learn a lesson from her.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 nonreligious members nationwide, including in Missouri. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

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