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Background on Trump-Pence Domestic Gag Rule

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More than 4 million people receive health care annually through Title X, the sole federal domestic program that exclusively funds reproductive health care and family planning. Planned Parenthood serves over 40 percent of Title X patients. By imposing restrictions that would make it impossible for these patients to receive birth control and other basic health care from providers like Planned Parenthood, this new gag rule would cut off access to cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment and general health exams from individuals’ preferred health care providers.

Furthermore, the proposed rule would undermine the patient-provider relationship. Individuals would no longer be able to trust that they are receiving the most comprehensive and accurate information about their own health and lives. Rather, the government would determine what kind of information women could receive about their pregnancy options. Americans across all demographics, socioeconomic statuses, sexualities, locations and insurance coverages deserve the right to information about their health care and bodies. This includes information regarding safe, legal abortion.

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Aderhold Amendment

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As it’s currently written, the Aderhold amendment would permit any faith-based child welfare organization in the country to discriminate against LGBTQ families, single mothers, atheists and others when making foster care and adoption decisions.

This bill would permit the religious ideologies of child welfare agencies to take priority over an obligation to care for the country’s most in-need children. This provision serves no purpose other than allowing faith-based organizations to “decline to provide, facilitate, or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely-held religious beliefs or moral conviction,” plainly targeting LGBTQ families and individuals in particular.

As we have seen in several other states, this would be done by flipping the script and purporting to prohibit states from discriminating against these organizations for their religious belief. The Aderholt Amendment is virtually identical to a bill that passed in South Carolina, which is actually even worse than similar bills in other states, since it lacks language stating that faith-based child welfare organizations still must follow all other state or federal laws.

Not only is this provision unconstitutional, it is deeply unethical. Passing this discriminatory bill would be a lasting moral failure on the part of Congress.

A team of 100 science educators, parents, and community members spent more than a year crafting new science standards. The Arizona Department of Education made these controversial changes as part of an “internal review” to those well-reasoned standards. This sort of “internal review” is normally limited to typographical or grammatical issues, and it is reportedly unprecedented for the department changes to be so substantive.

Here are some of the changes that the Department of Education has proposed:

  • Editing a “core idea,” applying to all grade levels, by changing the sentence, “the unity and diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution,” to “the theory of evolution seeks to make clear the unity and diversity of living and extinct organisms.” (p.4). This change adds the word “theory” and states that the theory “seeks” to do something, suggesting that the theory of evolution is something scientists are just trying out on a whim rather than the solid body of accepted scientific theory that has been consistently proven true.
  • In the eighth-grade standards, deleting a statement that genetic diversity contributes to evolution. (p.42, 43).
  • Two subtle changes to the high school standard — where evolution is directly taught as a stand-alone topic. (p.69). First, replacing the word “evolution” with the phrase “biological diversity.” Second, the department proposes inserting the word “may” into the following heightened standard: “construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution may result from natural selection.” These changes serve no purpose other than to suggest that evolution is not settled science, which it is.

Please contact the Arizona Department of Education today and encourage them to reverse these changes.

HB 965 would force school boards to display “the national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ ... in at least one prominent location of each school, such as an entry way, cafeteria, or other common area." FFRF has brought legal challenges to the phrase “In God We Trust,” both as the national motto and on currency, but the phrase has survived due to a legal fantasy that it is merely patriotic and has no religious significance (although the U.S. Supreme Court has never considered this question). Like similar bill’s around the nation, North Carolina’s HB 965 is unquestionably intended as a religious message, highlighting just how wrong courts have been on this issue.

The Supreme Court has consistently held that the government may not endorse religion in general, or particular religious messages. The authors of the Establishment Clause repeatedly urged caution regarding the government promoting religion, which was also precisely the concern that drew many early Americans to this country. The Founding Fathers understood that religious liberty requires a secular government.There is no doubt that HB 965 is intended to promote a religious message. Attempted justifications about the bill’s patriotic goals are merely a smokescreen for its true religious purpose.

This bill is part of a national fundamentalist campaign to post “In God We Trust” in every public school classroom. Congress adopted the “In God We Trust” slogan in 1956 at the behest of the Knights of Columbus, which undertook a national lobbying campaign during the height of 1950s zealotry. The original U.S. motto, chosen by a distinguished committee of Jefferson, Franklin and Adams, is the Latin E Pluribus Unum (From Many, [Come] One). A direct challenge of the religious motto has never been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, assisted by Colorado attorney Robert R. Tiernan, filed a federal lawsuit in 1994 challenging both the law adopting the religious slogan (1956), and the law requiring it to appear on all U.S. currency (1955). The Foundation lawsuit was dismissed by a 10th Circuit federal judge on the grounds that "In God We Trust" is not a religious phrase. The Foundation appealed the dismissal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which did not take the case in 1996.

As Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says, the religious motto isn’t even accurate: “To be accurate it would have to read ‘In God Some of us Trust,’ and wouldn’t that be silly?”

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Learn More About South Carolina H4950

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H4950 is a 500-plus-page appropriations bill, and lawmakers have hitched language from otherwise unsuccessful bills onto this giant bill. Six lawmakers are in conference to hammer out a final version of this bill and have the power to remove these provisions.

Section 11.21 of H4950 would give all public universities in South Carolina a specific, 12-pronged definition of anti-Semitism. About half of these points are reasonable, but the other half would raise serious constitutional concerns. Here is the language of the problematic new definitions for anti-Semitism:

...
(6) accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations;
...
(8) drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis;
(9) blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions;
(10) applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation;
(11) multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations; and
(12) denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist, provided, however, that criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

In addition to silencing valid points in a crucial and timely debate, expanding the definition of anti-Semitism in this way conflates anti-Semitic bigotry against people with political opposition to a state, which will harm universities’ efforts to combat legitimate anti-Semitism. Please take action to help oppose these provisions in H4950.

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More Information About S.C. H4950

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As it’s currently written, H4950 would permit faith-based child welfare organizations contracting with the state of South Carolina to discriminate against LGBTQ families, single mothers, atheists and others when making foster care and adoption decisions.

This bill would permit the religious ideologies of child welfare agencies to take priority over an obligation to care for the state's most in-need children. This provision serves no purpose other than allowing faith-based organizations to “decline to provide any service that conflicts with, or provide any service under circumstances that conflict with, a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction of the faith-based child placing agency,” plainly targeting LGBTQ families and individuals in particular.

As we have seen in several other states, this would be done by flipping the script and purporting to prohibit the state from discriminating against these organizations for their religious belief. South Carolina’s provision is actually even worse than these other bills, since it lacks language stating that faith-based child welfare organizations still must follow all other state or federal laws.

Not only is this provision unconstitutional, it is deeply unethical. Passing H4950 with this discriminatory language would be a moral failure on the part of the South Carolina legislature.

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More Information About HR 5199

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HR 5199 will hurt the very students it claims to help. The program will drain Impact Aid funding, which is designed to support the public schools that serve military-connected students, in order to pay for vouchers at private and religious schools. This will undermine the public schools that will continue to serve the majority of military-connected students. And that is why groups like the National Military Family Association and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) oppose this proposal.

There are many other reasons to oppose vouchers: They threaten religious freedom, lack accountability, deprive students of rights and protections and don’t adequately serve students with disabilities. Our service members’ children deserve better.

Please take a moment to contact representatives in the House Committee on Rules today and tell them you want them to oppose any proposal that would create a private school voucher plan for military students. The men and women who serve our country deserve excellent public schools for their children – not private school vouchers.

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More Information about Louisiana SB 512

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SB 512 states that teachers may pray with their students provided that the students bring written permission from their parent. There are several disastrous problems with this bill. First, parents cannot sign away their child’s right of conscience to a secular public school system. Students have a religious liberty right not to be proselytized to by their teachers or coaches.

Second, imagine a teacher calling for students to turn in their permission slips to participate in Christian prayer, and the one Jewish student in the class who has to explain that their parents refused to sign such a permission slip. The student would be forced to declare that he or she is a religious outsider, a stigma that would be reinforced every time the child is asked to leave the room while the rest of the class prays with the teacher. This is precisely the type of alienation in our public schools the First Amendment is meant to protect against.

Even far-right Christian “religious liberty” law firms, who stand opposed to FFRF and state-church separation on so many issues, have openly warned that this bill “directly contradicts U.S. Supreme Court and lower court precedent on the issue” and that “there is zero chance SB 512 would survive an inevitable court challenge.” This rare show of candor underscores just how outrageous this bill is, but it may not be enough to defeat the bill. This is why we’re asking for your help.

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More Information About California's AB 2943

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In 2012, California banned conversion therapy of minors. However, the practice is surprisingly common among LGBTQ adults, and current California law also allows churches or businesses to promote or advertise conversion therapy.

California’s AB 2943 would change that by extending the prohibition to all ages and adding conversion therapy to a list of “false and deceptive practices” that cannot be publicly advertised. While FFRF supports the freedom of speech, we do not support the right of religion to lie to LGBTQ Americans and cause them psychological damage in the name of God.

California would be right to treat advertisements of conversion therapy as akin to selling fake medicine. It is demonstrably ineffective and harmful, and the state is obliged to protect its consumers from anyone saying otherwise.

While the bible — a problematic book in general — does condemn homosexuality, it does not mention conversion therapy. Reports that this bill would ban bible sales across the state are lies.

As AB 2943 also points out, many national health organizations have condemned conversion therapy. Nevertheless, the practice continues to be promoted by anti-gay churches across the country.

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More Information about Louisiana SB 253

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SB 253 tries to give public school employees the ability to endorse religion to their students, but the Supreme Court has consistently held that this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In other words, SB 253 is simply unconstitutional.

SB 253 is a direct reaction to a federal court case that will confirm this point. Earlier this year, Kaylee Cole filed a lawsuit against her Louisiana public school to object to school-sponsored prayers at her school. If SB 253 passes, it will fool teachers and coaches into thinking that they are allowed to participate in student prayers during the school day. They are not.

The Supreme Court has continually struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools because it constitutes a government advancement and endorsement of religion, which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It is unconstitutional for public school employees to participate in the religious activities of their students. Federal courts have held that even a public school coach’s silent participation in student prayer circles is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has recognized that “[f]amilies entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.” Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 584 (1987).

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