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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

Broward County

A blatantly unconstitutional display of religiosity has been removed from a Florida public school due to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A concerned parent reported to the state/church watchdog that a teacher at Bair Middle School was exhibiting multiple religious displays in the classroom. One of these displays taught students how to pray, showing a praying child along with messages like, “Praise God,” “Confess Your Sins” and “Thank God.” Another display was a large cross and the bible verse, “For GOD so LOVED the world that He gave His one and only SON, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have ETERNAL LIFE. John 3:16.” Yet other displays included the Lord’s Prayer, a list of books from the Old and New Testaments, and a list of “God’s Promises For Kids,” including: “God will love you forever! God will never leave you! God will comfort you! God will help you! God is always faithful! God will keep you safe! God keeps his promises!”

Public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion, FFRF reminded the school district

“Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to the legal counsel for Broward County Public Schools. “Furthermore, the district has an obligation under the law to make certain that ‘subsidized teachers do not inculcate religion,’” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.

The school district must make certain that none of its employees is unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters by filling classrooms with religious displays, FFRF emphasized. It asked that the school district get rid of these religious endorsements from its property and make certain that the teacher who put these up wouldn’t proselytize to students in other ways. And it advised that all district staff members be given additional training regarding the Establishment Clause to ensure this kind of blatant and egregious violation not occur again.

School officials seem to have paid careful attention to FFRF’s words.

“After reviewing the matters raised in your letter dated Nov. 5, 2021 , SBBC [School Board of Broward County] immediately investigated the claims and took action to remove the religious displays from the classroom and instruct the subject personnel to immediately cease from displaying religious content in the classroom,” the school district’s legal counsel recently wrote back. “In addition to immediately addressing the claims raised in your Nov. 5, 2021, correspondence, SBBC has scheduled a training at its next principal’s meeting to reinforce to its school administrators and their staff that it is inappropriate, unlawful and a violation of SBBC policy to allow religious displays, give religious assignments or promote personal religious beliefs in schools.”

FFRF is always happy to nudge school districts into doing the right thing.

“Nothing delights us more than when schools correct themselves because of our intervention,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We commend Broward County Public Schools for its alacrity in addressing the matter.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with approximately 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including roughly 1,800 members and a chapter in Florida. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Michael Nugent

Watch the teaser here. 

The interviewee this Sunday on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s TV show is a person who is doing his utmost to move Ireland away from the shackles of Catholicism.

When you think of the Republic of Ireland, you probably think of a nation of pious Catholics. The guest on FFRF’s “Freethought Matters” TV show this week will then surprise you about the growing secularism in the Emerald Isle. Michael Nugent is a writer of both serious and comedy material who lives in Dublin. He’s a founder and chairperson of the advocacy group Atheist Ireland, which promotes atheism, reason and ethical secularism in Ireland and around the world. Nugent’s motto is: “You have rights — your beliefs do not.”

“We’re now at a stage where what used to be a Catholic country is now effectively a pluralist country,” Nugent explains the paradox of his native nation to “Freethought Matters” co-hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But still, Catholic law that was put in place when the Catholic Church did have control over the population makes the Constitution a very Catholic one. That’s part of the reason for the delays in changing things: We have to kind of grudgingly have a series of referendums to enable the laws to become more secular.”

If you don’t live in the quarter-plus of the nation where the show broadcasts on Sunday, you can already catch the interview on the “Freethought Matters” playlist on FFRF’s YouTube channel. New shows go up every Thursday. You can also receive notifications when we post new episodes of “Freethought Matters” by subscribing to FFRF’s YouTube channel.

Upcoming guests on the show include Gloria Steinem and joint interviewees Breaking Their Will author Janet Heimlich and nonreligious hospital chaplain Terri Daniel talking about the religious maltreatment of children.

“Freethought Matters” airs in:

  • Chicago, WPWR-CW (Ch. 50), Sundays at 9 a.m.
  • Denver, KWGN-CW (Ch. 2), Sundays at 7 a.m.
  • Houston, KIAH-CW (Ch. 39), Sundays at 11 a.m.
  • Los Angeles, KCOP-MY (Ch. 13), Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
  • Madison, Wis., WISC-TV (Ch. 3), Sundays at 11 p.m.
  • Minneapolis, KSTC-IND (Ch. 45, Digital Channel 5.5), Sundays at 9:30 a.m. (Digital channel 5.2 has been dropped.)
  • New York City, WPIX-IND (Ch. 11), Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
  • Phoenix, KASW-CW (Ch. 61, or 6 or 1006 for HD), Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
  • Portland, Ore., KRCW-CW (Ch. 32), Sundays at 9 a.m. Comcast channel 703 for High Def, or Channel 3.
  • Sacramento, KQCA-MY (Ch. 58), Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
  • San Francisco, KICU-IND (Ch. 36), Sundays at 10 a.m.
  • Seattle, KONG-IND (Ch. 16 or Ch. 106 on Comcast). Sundays at 8 a.m.
  • Washington, D.C., WDCW-CW (Ch. 50 or Ch. 23 or Ch. 3), Sundays at 8 a.m.

The show launched its fall season in early September with clips from the best past interviews on the program. Subsequently, it featured an interview with famed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. The program has focused on a landmark Supreme Court case against religious indoctrination in public schools, has offered answers on how nonreligious people should deal with death, has spotlighted the secular lobby in Washington, D.C and has argued for the expansion of the U.S. Supreme Court. A few weeks ago, the interview was with FFRF Honorary Director Katha Pollitt, the noted writer, freethinker and feminist. After that, the show interviewed distinguished evolutionary psychologist and renowned author Harvard Professor Steven Pinker. Recently, the show paid homage to the departed acting legend Ed “Lou Grant” Asner. And the only openly nonbelieving member of Congress, Rep. Jared Huffman, honored the show with a return visit two weeks ago. 

Please tune in to “Freethought Matters” . . . because freethought matters.

P.S. Please tune in or record according to the times given above regardless of what is listed in your TV guide (it may be listed simply as “paid programming” or even be misidentified). To set up an automatic weekly recording, try taping manually by time or channel. And spread the word to freethinking friends, family or colleagues about a TV show, finally, that is dedicated to providing programming for freethinkers!

Bill Of Rights

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s annual Winter Solstice exhibit is celebrating its (almost unbroken) silver jubilee at the Wisconsin Capitol.

The secular display is back in the state/church watchdog’s hometown legislative building for a breathtaking 25th time after a pandemic-forced hiatus last year. A gilt sign in the Madison-located Statehouse features FFRF’s traditional message from its principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor. It was created as an equal-time challenge to combat religious dogmatism at the heart of state government and reads:

At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.

There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

There is only our natural world.

Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

A major addition to the exhibit in the rotunda for more than half a decade now is FFRF’s whimsical Bill of Rights “nativity.” The irreverent cutout by artist Jacob Fortin depicts Founders Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington gazing in adoration at a “baby” Bill of Rights while the Statue of Liberty looks on.

A sign beside this tongue-in-cheek depiction reads:

“At this Season of the Winter Solstice, join us in honoring the Bill of Rights, adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, which reminds us that there can be no religious freedom without the freedom to dissent. Keep religion and government separate!”

Both exhibits are permitted to be up until the end of December to counter various religious displays and activities in the Capitol.

Occurring on Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice marks the shortest, darkest day of the year, heralding the symbolic rebirth of the sun. It has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with festivals of light, evergreens, gift exchanges and seasonal gatherings.

“We don’t mind sharing the Winter Solstice season with believers,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But we don’t like the notion that it’s about the birth of a Christian savior. This seasonal commemoration is observed by people of all faiths and of no faith at all.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., has approximately 35,000 nonreligious members and several chapters all over the country, including over 1,500 members and a chapter in Wisconsin. Photo by Chris Line. Thanks to Legal Assistant Stephanie Dyer, FFRF Director of Operations Lisa Strand and Freethought Today Editor PJ Slinger, who delivered the displays, along with FFRF Attorney Chris Line (photographer).