The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s “Freethought Matters” TV show launches its new season this Sunday with delightful clips from the best past interviews on the program.
You will watch engaging exchanges with an impressive array of names, including philosopher Daniel Dennett, entertainer John Davidson, women’s rights fighter Cecile Richards, atheist icon Ron Reagan, performer Julia Sweeney, U.S. Reps. Jared Huffman and Eleanor Holmes Norton and, above all, the late Ed “Lou Grant” Asner, who is seen serenading FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
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. The episode will be airing in over a dozen cities on Sunday, Sept. 5.
Coming shows this season include interviews with Richard Dawkins, The Nation’s Katha Pollitt, Professor Ryan Burge — a leading expert in the rise of the “Nones” — Jay Rosenstein, the maker of a Peabody Award-winning documentary on the Supreme Court’s first public school religion case, and Candace R.M. Gorham, author of the upcoming book, On Death, Dying, and Disbelief.
“Freethought Matters” airs in:
“Freethought Matters” had an array of impressive guests last season. These included: pundit Eleanor Clift, actor and FFRF After-Life Member John de Lancie of “Star Trek” “Q” fame, Professor Steven Pinker, one of the most eminent global public intellectuals, and A.C. Grayling, a prominent British philosopher and the author of about 30 books, who grappled on the show with philosophy and the pandemic.
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!
Millions of Texans woke up today in a state where abortion not only suddenly became illegal, but where they can be sued for performing an abortion or assisting a loved one in obtaining an abortion. This “Handmaid’s Tale” situation is due to the Supreme Court’s deliberate refusal to block an unconstitutional law.
What makes the court’s inaction all the more culpable and shocking is its recent record of privileging religion in shadow docket cases. The court in the past year has ruled in favor of every religious group suing under emergency motions seeking special treatment in the past year, while the vast majority of emergency applications were otherwise denied, according to a Reuters study.
The Texas law going in effect today bans abortion procedures after six weeks of gestation — before most women even know that they are pregnant. Alarmingly, as noted, the law deputizes private citizens to file civil suits against abortion providers or anyone who assists someone in obtaining an abortion. As a reward for “turning in” these offenders, such citizen deputies will receive $10,000 and attorneys’ fees for a successful lawsuit.
This Texas abortion ban is the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country and dismantles the foundation of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion until fetal viability (around 24-26 weeks of gestation). The Supreme Court has previously acknowledged that medical determination is different for each pregnancy even in cases of later term abortions.
Disquietingly and cavalierly, the Supreme Court opted not to respond to emergency motions filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Center of Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America to block this law, after the ultraconservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also refused to block enforcement of the law, thereby undoing nearly 50 years of precedent. The high court’s unconscionable inaction will embolden other hostile states to use this Texas anti-abortion bounty law as a blueprint.
The Texas abortion ban is rooted in religious faith that a human being begins with “ensoulment” at conception. Texas Right to Life, the Christian, anti-abortion group instrumental in the crafting of this legislation, describes itself as a group that “legally, peacefully and prayerfully protects the God-given Right to Life of innocent human beings from fertilization to natural death.” After this anti-abortion bill went into effect, the group tweeted “God Bless Texas.” When Gov. Greg Abbott signed the anti-abortion law, he commented, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.”
Because of this religious imposition, Texas women will have to travel lengthy distances at exhorbitant prices, exacerbating the already severe economic inequalities affecting low-income women seeking abortion care.
The Supreme Court is slated to soon hear a major anti-abortion challenge to Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which concerns a Mississippi statute that bans most abortion care after 15 weeks of gestation. Given the court’s cruel silence on this Texas abortion ban, as well as its ultraconservative composition — including the replacement of pro-choice Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Amy Coney Barrett, a staunch anti-abortion Catholic conservative — the bans in Mississippi and Texas appear to be only the beginning of the onslaught of anti-abortion legislation.
Abortion is a safe medical procedure with a complication rate of less than a quarter of 1 percent. (For context, this is safer than wisdom teeth removals.) Abortion restrictions like the Texas law imperil women’s physical and emotional safety by forcing them to carry unwanted pregnancies to term or delaying early abortion care when it is the safest and most affordable.
That is why it is crucial to ask Congress to pass the federal Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect the right to abortion care throughout the United States. Additionally, it would eliminate medically unnecessary and burdensome restrictions like this egregious abortion ban in Texas. Please contact your legislators today and ask them to stand up for science and reproductive rights.
Even more important, we must expand and reform our packed federal judiciary immediately. Donald Trump invited the right-wing Federalist Society to seize control of the nation’s courts during his presidency. Without court reform, the constitutional right of privacy encompassing the right to contraception and abortion care will fall. So will enforcement of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which so wisely and necessarily separates religious dogma from government.
Yet again, the country has been rocked by unwelcome news about the U.S. Supreme Court and abortion rights. FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel hammers the court’s abrogation of its sworn duty in a new op-ed.
Religion Dispatches has published Seidel’s latest piece, “Goodbye Roe, hello violence and an out-of-control judiciary,” in which he is pulling no punches:
The Supreme Court overturned a constitutional right to health care, and effectively overturned Roe v. Wade, by doing nothing. Using the shadow docket, Justice Samuel Alito allowed a draconian dystopian misogynistic law to rob Texans of a basic constitutional right: bodily autonomy. The Texas law bans abortion when a heartbeat is detected, after about six weeks, long before most people know they’re pregnant, and establishes a truly dangerous bounty system that allows private citizens to sue anybody involved in procuring an abortion and rewards them with $10,000 and attorneys fees. There are no exceptions for rape or incest and the law will have little impact on the wealthy, who can simply fly to freer places. As always, this law will not stop abortions, it will only stop safe abortions.
This bounty system will choke the courts and drown abortion providers in lawsuits, which is the real point. If you thought evangelical churches were good at getting out the vote, wait until you see what havoc they wreak with this (preview). The bounties are nothing short of dystopian, more reminiscent of the morality police in Iran or the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. When paired with our politically divided country and Texas’ new unlicensed open carry law that also took effect today, it’s a recipe for violence, which has already plagued abortion providers. Now their supporters feel like they have a license to hunt (which is not what the law says) and also happen to believe God is on their side. What could possibly go wrong? It’s tempting to say that they learned nothing from the violence on Jan. 6th, but that assumes that the lesson would be peaceful. They learned a different lesson.
The Constitution was subverted with judicial inaction. That’s how broken our courts are. This was only possible because the 5th Circuit is overrun with Trump judges. Captured, infested, overwhelmed — packed. The Supreme Court was only able to gut Roe by sitting on its hands because the 5th Circuit allowed a clearly unconstitutional law — a law that was deliberately unconstitutional — to go into effect. It overruled a lower court judge and cancelled judicial hearings on the law so that it could go into effect and rob Americans of their rights. This is what judicial activism looks like. It was a wanton disregard for the law and their sworn oath.
Seidel compares the court’s shadow docket dereliction here with its eagerness in religious freedom cases. He also cautions people about looking for solutions without addressing court reform. “This is existential,” he explains.
Please read the piece on Religion Dispatches and then share it on your social media so that people are aware of just how much is at stake and how we can solve the problem. Then start calling your senators.
It is vital that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito block a new Texas law going into effect tomorrow that bans most abortions and sets up a citizen “bounty” to incentivize individuals for enforcement.
The court should either block the law or allow the lower court to resume its hearing on the law, which was scheduled for Monday, Aug. 30, but was cancelled by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Access to safe, legal abortions in Texas is under immediate peril under the new law, which would effectively ban abortions by the sixth week of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant. Worse still, the law seeks to turn Texas residents against one another by “deputizing” citizens to enforce the law, offering them a $10,000 bounty for every offender they turn in. It is designed to intimidate abortion care providers by strapping them with ruinous financial penalties and legal costs.
The law not only denies pregnant people their constitutional right to an abortion, but also favors religious ideology over evidence-based medicine. The anti-abortion group, Texas Right to Life, which was instrumental in drafting the law, describes itself as one that “legally, peacefully and prayerfully protects the God-given Right to Life of innocent human beings from fertilization to natural death.”
Ordinarily, such an egregiously unconstitutional law would be swiftly enjoined by a federal court, since it flies in the face of Roe v. Wade and decades of precedent since. However, the 5th Circuit has refused to block the law, forcing reproductive rights advocates to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for emergency relief. A panel of conservative judges on the circuit court paused all proceedings in the lower court. The decision now lies with Alito, who handles such petitions in Texas.
Alito, unfortunately, is part of a majority of the Supreme Court that appears to be on course to dismantle reproductive health care. If Alito fails to accept this emergency petition, it will show that the personal, religiously motivated anti-abortion beliefs of judges are more important than upholding long-standing precedent. If the personal beliefs of justices take precedence over legal precedent, that will likely doom for Roe v. Wade, either by the court explicitly overturning Roe or by gutting it and allowing laws like the Texas “abortion bounty” to stand. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear in its upcoming term Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case out of Mississippi designed specifically for the purpose of gradually eviscerating Roe.
When Gov. Greg Abbott signed the anti-abortion law, he commented that “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” These comments are religious in nature and do not reflect science. Indeed, there is no scientific or medical reason to ban abortions. Major complications from abortions form less than a quarter of 1 percent of total procedures. Additionally, 99 percent of women do not regret their abortion. Instead, they feel relief.
Abortion restrictions and barriers cause harm and contribute to poor maternal health outcomes. In fact, maternal mortality in the United States grew by 136 percent between 1990 and 2013 after rampant abortion restrictions. Medical science shows that abortion is fundamental to comprehensive reproductive health care.
As other hostile abortion states will undoubtedly use the Texas law as a blueprint, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass the federal Women’s Health Protection Act. This would protect the right to abortion care in all 50 states and eliminate medically unnecessary and burdensome restrictions like the draconian ban passed in Texas.
It is a dismaying state of affairs that Samuel Alito is the last bastion of hope for reproductive rights in America right now. The U.S. Senate is to blame for allowing the right-wing Federalist Society, with its Christian nationalist and extremist litmus tests, to seize control of the nation’s top court over the past five years. The massively overworked and unbalanced federal courts must be immediately expanded and rebalanced. Otherwise, America will see the pillars of reproductive health care fall like dominos — precedent be damned.