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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

National Convention

November 2-4, 2018

Nontracts

women

Published by FFRF

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is continuing to spread its freethought message in the heart of the Deep South.

A 14-by-48-foot billboard featuring a secular play on our current national motto has just gone up on Cobb Parkway north of Roswell Street in the Atlanta area.

The eye-catching panel, depicting an astronaut floating in space, reads: "In SCIENCE We Trust."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), has put up the billboard for a month in Round Two of a new year-long campaign in the South's most bustling metropolis. A smaller 36-by-10-foot billboard with the same message went up in January at a different location on Cobb Parkway.

The message will rotate to a new spot in the Atlanta region in March.

Georgia FFRF member Jack Egger, who is underwriting the campaign, notes that it's satisfying to counter the godly motto, "In God We Trust," which optionally appears on many Georgia license plates.

"If all of us had faith in science and humanism, we would improve life on Earth so fast," urges Egger.

"In God We Trust" was belatedly adopted as a motto by Congress at the height of the Cold War. The original national motto, "E Pluribus Unum [From many, come one]," chosen by a committee of Founders, is superior, FFRF contends. That's because the original motto, still appearing on the Great Seal and on currency notes, celebrates unity through diversity and does not exclude citizens based on religion.

"It's truly unfortunate this godly usurper was adopted," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The United States is not a theocracy: Our government is supposed to be neutral toward religion, and citizens of any religion or no religion are equal under the law. But this ubiquitous motto sends an exclusionary message to the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population based on religious demographics."

Current Pew surveys reveal that a quarter of adult citizens and more than a third of Millennials qualify as "None," either specifying atheism, agnosticism or no religion.

Since 1990, the number of Americans with no religion has nearly tripled, from about 8 percent to 23 percent. With the secular trend projected to continue, "Generation Z" is primed to be the least religious generation yet. There are now more "Nones" than Catholics, and by 2035, Nones are projected to outnumber Protestants.

FFRF contends that it is time to jettison the divisive "In God We Trust" and return to a celebration of American can-do-ism and respect for the separation of religion and government. Its Atlanta campaign aims to further these goals.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its membership work to promote the viewpoint of freethinkers, including atheists and agnostics, and to protect the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government. FFRF has roughly 33,000 members and 20 chapters all over the country, including 500-plus and an Atlanta chapter in Georgia.

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FFRF spotlights Wis. school violations

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is drawing attention to a number of constitutional violations at various schools within a Wisconsin school district.

Several concerned Kenosha Unified School District parents have contacted FFRF to report instances of staff at Roosevelt Elementary School promoting Christianity. A fourth-grade classroom at the school includes multiple displays that propagandize for Christianity. Religious displays must be removed from classrooms and school walls, FFRF asserts.

"The district violates the Constitution when it allows its schools to display religious symbols or messages," FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne writes to Kenosha District Superintendent Sue Savaglio-Jarvis. "Public schools may not advance, prefer, or promote religion. The teacher's religious classroom decorations violate this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the district prefers religion over nonreligion, and Christianity over all other faiths."

A wall at Pleasant Prairie Elementary School (also in the Kenosha District) reportedly includes artwork depicting the biblical Noah's Ark story (Gen. 5–10). This religious art is similarly impermissible. And artwork of this nature is particularly inappropriate given that about 38 percent of Americans born after 1987 are not religious, according to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The fourth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary also reportedly told her class as part of a civil-rights lesson that God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, a reference to the biblical story in Exodus 3:1–4:17. The teacher's contrived justification was that Harriet Tubman was the "Moses of her people," and that this was a district-approved lesson. FFRF notes teachers can make a biblical allusion without presenting it as factual or using it as an excuse to proselytize.

The Kenosha School District must not allow religious indoctrination or promotion, FFRF contends.

"Public schools may not provide religious instruction," FFRF writes. "In the seminal Supreme Court case on this issue, McCollum v. Bd. Of Educ. (1948), the court held that that bible classes in public school were unconstitutional. The teacher's biblical lesson about God speaking to Moses through a burning bush violates this principle, particularly given the religious decorations in her classroom." 

Additionally, students at several schools in the Kenosha District regularly attend field trips to Timber-lee Christian Center, a recreational camp run by Timber-lee Ministries, whose stated mission is to "create engaging communities where each young person encounters Christ." One of the camp's educators has admitted to deliberately undermining science education by showing public school students that evolution is "goofy." The camp's "Science Education Center" even includes a seven-room "Creation Walk," with each room corresponding to one of the bible's seven days of creation. Students at the camp are also encouraged to attend Timber-lee's week-long summer camp, which is openly religious.

Sending students to a creationist camp under the guise of a "science trip" gives the appearance that the district views creationism as "science," which it is not. The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down teaching of "scientific creationism" in public schools, FFRF reminds school officials.

FFRF is asking the Kenosha Unified School District to immediately take corrective action to end these multiple infringements of the U.S. Constitution in schools around the district.

"It's appalling that Kenosha officials have been disregarding so many encroachments of the barrier between church and state," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "They need to take the First Amendment seriously."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Wisconsin-based national nonprofit organization with 30,000 members across the country, including more than 1,300 in Wisconsin. FFRF's purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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Author and New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg is the guest on this week’s "Freethought Matters." Michelle is interviewed by FFRF Director of Communications Amit Pal about the rise of Christian nationalism.

Michelle Goldberg's work has also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Glamour, Rolling Stone, The Nation, New York, The Guardian (UK) and The New Republic. Goldberg has taught at NYU’s Graduate School of Journalism, lectured throughout the United States and in Europe, and has been interviewed on many radio and television shows. Her signature book is: "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of the Christian Nationalism."

The half-hour show is hosted by FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Freethought Matters" first airs on Madison's local WISC-TV 3, which is affiliated with CBS, on Sundays at 11 p.m.

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