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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

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October 7-9, 2016

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

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At the start of football season, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is renewing its objection to Georgia Tech's football chaplaincy.

FFRF initially contacted the university in August of last year to complain about its chaplaincy program, enclosing a broader national report. FFRF received an emailed acknowledgment after a week. However, there still has been no response to date about any actions to remedy the situation. 

Derrick Moore continues to serve as Georgia Tech's football chaplain and receives compensation from Georgia Tech for his religious services. Moore regularly prays with the team before games, while wielding a sledgehammer. Maintaining such a chaplaincy program violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The idea that such religious activities are truly optional is questionable, at best. FFRF's report concluded that "athletes do not view coaches' suggestions as optional." Moreover, "coaches add to this pressure by sending chaplains to talk with players going through difficult times, instead of allowing players to seek out their own religious or professional counseling."

"Even if the chaplaincy were strictly voluntary, that fact does not alter the unconstitutionality of the practice," FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write in a letter to Georgia Tech President G.P. Peterson. "Courts have summarily rejected arguments that voluntariness excuses a constitutional violation." 

Additionally, Georgia Tech has only a Christian chaplain, showing an unconstitutional preference for Christianity. This is in spite of the fact that 44 percent of college-aged Americans are non-Christian and fully a third of millennials identify as nonreligious, according to the Pew Research Center.

In order to aid the university in protecting its students from religious discrimination, FFRF is also recommending the adoption of a model policy, which includes the maintenance of complete official neutrality in matters of religion. If adopted, this model policy would not only bring the university into compliance with the law but it would send the message that Georgia Tech values the rights of every student athlete to hold his or her own religious or nonreligious views, free from direct or indirect coercion or contrary endorsement.

"Apparently, we need to sledgehammer Georgia Tech officials in order to get any meaningful response," Barker adds.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including more than 400 in Georgia and an Atlanta-area chapter.

Congressional funding for combating the Zika virus is being held hostage to anti-women politics.

The Zika virus can cause dreadful brain damage, including microcephaly, to embryos and fetuses, as well as life-threatening reactions in some adult patients. The virus has spread around the globe, with more than 17,000 cases in the mainland United States and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico.

President Obama sought $1.9 billion in emergency funding for research and prevention early this year. GOP leadership inserted a provision slashing funding of Planned Parenthood into a $1.1 billion Zika funding bill passed by the Senate in May, prompting Democrats to correctly oppose it. House Republicans later passed a bill to provide $622 million in funds, largely by robbing other federal programs, such as the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, Democrats were forced once again to block a Zika funding bill because of the same GOP maneuvers.

This delay is unacceptable. The religiously motivated attempts to sabotage funding of Zika prevention and research are also a timely topic for letters to the editor and social media commentary. Please add your voice to protests over Congress' do-nothing stalemate. Watch the news to add pressure as needed.

CONTACT

Please contact your House representative and senators now to ask them to pass Obama's $1.9 billion Zika funding request, with no strings attached.

Find and contact your representative.

Find and contact your senators.

TALKING POINTS

Scroll to read current news articles. Feel free to utilize the talking points below, or to cut and paste this message:

Please pass with no further delay a clean $1.9 billion Zika funding bill, as requested by President Obama. It is a travesty that anti-women politics are holding up funding, as the Zika virus has infected more than 1 million people all over the Americas, including 17,000 cases in the United States. The Zika mosquito presents a frightening threat to infant and maternal health, and yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is out of funds. Pass Obama's requested funding with no strings attached so vital research and prevention can proceed. Zika funding should improve women's health, not be used as a weapon against women's rights.

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