Photos, cartoons (September 2020)

FFRF special report — Secret White House calls helped funnel taxpayer money to preachers, churches

The Freedom From Religion Foundation released evidence on July 15 of how the Trump administration secretly turned the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) into a bonanza of tax-paid handouts for churches and religious leaders.

FFRF has provided audio documentation, via a recording it made, of clandestine calls the White House set up with Trump-allied preachers and church leaders specifically to funnel taxpayer money to churches through the PPP. This giveaway to churches is the first time in U.S. history that tax funds have been directly used to pay the salaries of ministers and religious staff for religious purposes. Religious organizations received at least $7.3 billion in forgivable loans, with megachurches and thousands of Catholic dioceses amassing millions.

President Trump’s offering of public funds to religious ministers breaks with 250 years of constitutional precedent. As the Framers of the secular U.S. Constitution understood and discussed at length, religious liberty requires that citizens be free to decide which church to personally support, or to support none at all. Until very recently, even the fiercest opponents of the separation between state and church admitted that forcing taxpayers to pay the salaries of clergy was flagrantly unconstitutional.

The audio of two calls between religious leaders and the White House (which FFRF recorded) confirms that the White House secretly worked to give church leaders special access to PPP, ensuring they could receive top dollars from U.S. taxpayers.

The first such conference call took place on April 3, just as the PPP went into gear and a full two weeks before the Small Business Administration published its final rules on church eligibility — for the first time — for SBA funds. This secret announcement to clergy reveals that the SBA had no intention of listening to public comments on the proposed rule, and had already decided to extend these loans to churches, in spite of the Constitution and any public outcry. At the time of this call, SBA had only awarded about 10,000 of the 661,218 PPP loans.

Trump-allied faith leaders were assured by the federal government that even a discriminatory fly-by-night “church” that provides absolutely no secular social services, and of which the owner is the sole employee, could have its wages covered by taxpayers during the PPP time period.

The second call, 100 minutes on June 22, was even more explicit, with churches urged to apply for PPP funds before the June 30 deadline. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, a member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council, explained that the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, which took between $350,000–$1 million, “has literally been kept solvent . . . by the Paycheck Protection Plan (sic).” Dobson explained that in 43 years of leading two faith-based ministries, he has “never asked for, nor received, one cent from the federal government,” expressing his surprise that taxpayer funds could now flow to his ministry.

At that meeting, evangelist Paula White, a White House employee, touted the Trump administration’s blending of state and church, such as inserting “faith directors” into every executive agency and securing grants for religious purposes. She praised Trump for “put[ting] ‘merry’ back in Christmas.”

The calls came in addition to regular White House conference calls specifically hosted for church leaders regarding the pandemic. Trump and Vice President Pence personally participated in at least one such call, which was described as “more like a time for Trump’s faith surrogates to praise Trump rather than to truly reach out to faith communities.”

Under the PPP, which is administered by the Small Business Association, companies with fewer than 500 employees can receive taxpayer-financed loans that don’t need to be repaid so long as they are primarily spent on employee wages. In May, FFRF sounded the alarm that the shocking change in SBA’s rules allowing churches and other faith-based organizations to receive funding meant taxpayers would be forced to pay the salaries of ministers — a flagrant violation of the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

Trump and SBA, not the CARES Act passed by Congress, allocated these billions to churches. Although the CARES Act extended eligibility for loans from the SBA to nonprofits, which was new, the law does not give the SBA the power to extend this eligibility to houses of worship, nor could it. The Constitution prohibits government funding of religion.

Below are summaries and documentation of what took place during two of the White House’s conference calls with religious leaders:

The first call

On April 3, two SBA representatives joined the surgeon general, White House officials and more than 500 church-related participants to explain that the SBA would release guidelines on PPP loans specific to churches. (The call was led by Jenny Korn, deputy assistant to the president in the Office of Public Liaison.)

Paula White was introduced with her official White House title (“adviser to the White House Faith and Opportunities Initiative”) and began the call with a prayer asking people to “turn from their wicked ways” and convert to her brand of Christianity. The call also concluded with a sectarian Christian prayer, delivered by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus.

Before sharing reasonable information regarding the pandemic, Surgeon General Jerome Adams discussed his personal religious beliefs (“As was mentioned, I am a Christian”) and explained that prayers are part of the government’s response to the pandemic: “We’re here trying to empower and equip health care professionals, hospitals, public health departments, and especially faith leaders, to do what works to keep our citizens safe from harm. . . . By working together and by supporting our neighbors and each other, and through prayer, we will get through this.”

Deputy Assistant to the President Jenny Lichter reassured the clergy that there would be virtually no limits for churches qualifying for PPP funds. She emphasized that taxpayer funds would be available even to churches that did nothing other than proselytize:

“Faith-based organizations are eligible regardless of whether they provide secular social services.”

Lichter then assured faith leaders that they would still be able to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or anything else: “A faith-based organization that receives a loan will retain its independence, its autonomy, its right of expression, its religious character, its authority over its internal governance, and no faith-based organization will be excluded from receiving funding because of any limitations it might place on leadership, membership, or employment based on shared religious faith or practice.”

The June call

Paula White, this time introduced as Trump’s “spiritual adviser,” led a similar sectarian prayer to start the call. The prayer vilified non-Christians, contrasting “evil men” with those who are “attentive to godly counsel.”

Following the prayer, White discussed the White House’s role in the PPP program, confirming that she was on the call as a government representative, not as a private citizen. Two panelists then spoke about receiving PPP funds: Evangelical preacher Jentezen Franklin and Dobson, as reported above.

White appears to explicitly thank SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza for funneling PPP money to “so many houses of worship and faith,” something that was not envisioned in the CARES Act itself.

This boondoggle, this swamp filled with fetid holy water, this 10-figure transfer of wealth from the American taxpayer to churches, was thanks to the SBA, not Congress. Trump rewarded his most fervent supporters with billions of taxpayer dollars in clear violation of the Constitution.

Religion helps push pandemic

Religion has a lot to answer for when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.

There are many political and sociological reasons why the United States is leading the world in coronavirus deaths and new cases, but the finger must also be pointed at religion and the role it is playing in making the pandemic even more deadly. Deference to religion by federal, state and local public officials is literally killing Americans. As professor Juan Cole has put it, “In the U.S. and abroad, leaders are putting faith before good science.”

That bad faith in religion is exemplified in two ways. One is the favoritism religion expects and often gets, such as the exemption of church gatherings from safety mandates. The other, more insidious, is religion’s role in spreading another dangerous “virus”: science denial. As the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s bumper sticker puts it, religion is the original “alternative fact.” Religion sets the stage for denial of science by rewarding belief without evidence or even against the facts.

As countless studies and news articles have shown, church services are a hotbed for coronavirus infection, due to difficulty in social distancing, by the singing and chanting and extended indoor contact. Yet President Trump has used his authority to often deprecate scientific advice — and to pander to his religious base. In late May, he called churches “essential” operations — telling every governor to open up “essential places of faith . . . right now for this weekend” or he would override them. When he added, “In America, we need more prayer, not less,” he further signaled his devaluation of the role of science.

The Justice Department has thrown its support behind churches that have sought exemption from stay-at-home orders. Religion-based pressure was put on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, partly accounting for its less-than-stellar advice, delaying a guidebook on safety measures and tampering with CDC’s guidelines for churches.

Trump has muzzled the voice of reason that is Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who, by the way, is not a “man of faith” but a humanist. Notes Fauci: “One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are — for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable — they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority. . . . Science is truth.”

A number of evangelical governors likewise refused to issue stay-at-home orders until it was too late, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Even after seeing the light, both have given dispensations to religious gatherings from safety mandates. DeSantis, in a state with growing cases, still refuses to order mask-wearing in public. Church-going Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp even tried to sue Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her responsible actions, such as a city requirement to wear masks.

Many governmental officials either blinded by faith or seeking to propitiate the Religious Right, have perpetuated attacks on the scientific method and scientific knowledge. Polls are showing that, thanks to irrational anti-science views, only half to two-thirds of Americans say they would even get the vaccine once it is developed. This anti-science attitude has encouraged QAnon, the fringe conspiracy theorists who are spreading dangerous misinformation.

The base that many public officials are pandering to includes umpteen churches and worshippers who’ve filed lawsuits clogging the courts demanding to be considered above the law and to be exempted from stay-at-home and, now, masking orders. Behind many of these lawsuits are Christian Nationalist outfits, working to destroy the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

Church officials who ignore stay-at-home orders (and the biblical admonitions to “Love thy neighbor” and “do unto others”) and public officials who politicize or flout medical science are enabling the coronavirus curve to keep rising. The religion-inspired anti-science backlash is increasing infections and deaths, sowing ignorance about the potential of a future vaccine and jeopardizing the economic and educational recovery of our nation.

Billboard urges ‘social distancing between church and state’

This FFRF billboard has been placed in Denver, thanks to FFRF Member Monty C. Cleworth and FFRF’s Denver chapter.

A new Denver public message couldn’t be more timely: “Practice social distancing between church and state.”

The dictum on a backlit 10-foot-by-23-foot billboard situated on Broadway south of 10th Avenue is brought to city residents by FFRF, thanks to a local donor and FFRF’s Denver chapter.

“Practicing distancing is extremely important these days,” notes FFRF benefactor Monty C. Cleworth. “Not just distancing for COVID reasons, but also distancing between church and state. We wouldn’t want to transmit anything that is unhealthy and dangerous.”

Adds Claudette StPierre, Denver chapter president, “We social distance to prevent the spread of infectious agents like COVID-19. Distancing between state and church is just as important to prevent the spread of religious dogma and doctrine into our government.”

Among local state/church issues is the taxpayer bailout money received by Denver-area churches.

The Catholic Church received up to $3.4 billion of the pandemic relief Paycheck Protection Program, with reports that the Denver Archdiocese’s share was at least $1.9 million.

Linda Greenhouse — Roberts’ court shows its religious colors

This article first appeared in The New York Times on July 16 and is reprinted with permission.

By Linda Greenhouse

For once, the conventional wisdom was right: The Supreme Court term that ended in July was a triumph for Chief Justice John Roberts. But, as usual, the conventional wisdom skims the surface, focusing on the obvious: his steering of the court toward a center comfortably aligned with public opinion, and protecting it from an institutionally destructive alliance with a president who assumed the court would do his bidding.

I’m among those who celebrate these outcomes, and I don’t in any way mean to diminish them. Rather, I want to suggest that the 2019-20 Supreme Court term looks even more consequential, for the country and the chief justice, when his triumph is seen in full, in its multiple dimensions.

To do that requires looking closely at the three religion cases decided at the end of the term.

In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the court held that a state that offers a subsidy to private schools can’t exclude religious schools from the benefit. In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the court ruled that the federal laws that protect workers from discrimination don’t apply to the lay employees of religious schools who have a role in “educating and forming students in the faith.” And in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, the court excused employers, including corporations, with a “sincerely held” religious or “moral” objection to birth control from having to take even a modest arm’s-length step that results in an employee receiving coverage for contraception, to which the Affordable Care Act entitles her.

Roberts wrote the majority opinion in only the first of these cases; he assigned the opinion in the second to Justice Samuel Alito and the third to Justice Clarence Thomas. While the first two involve the First Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise” of religion, the third, concerning a rule put in place by the Trump administration, is not based on the Constitution but rather on administrative law and a federal statute.

But the decisions’ commonalities are more important than their differences. All three elevate religion to a position of privilege, short-circuiting the statutory rights of employees or, in Montana’s case, overriding an explicit state constitutional barrier against public financial aid to parochial schools. And all three go to the heart of John Roberts’s project.

By “project” I don’t mean something nefarious. To the contrary, it’s not surprising that the ambitious and accomplished people who make it to the Supreme Court have some goal or goals in mind, some way they would like to move the law or, in the case of liberal justices in recent decades, to prevent it from moving in an unwanted direction. For Chief Justice Warren Burger, the project was rolling back the criminal procedure revolution over which his predecessor, Earl Warren, had presided. For Chief Justice William Rehnquist, an Arizonan who came to Washington in midlife, it was, among other things, elevating the role of the states in the federal system.

Federalism as such is not much of a motivator for his successor, Roberts, who has spent his entire career comfortably ensconced inside the Beltway. Nor does he, unlike Alito, appear driven to cut back on criminal defendants’ rights at every opportunity. After 15 years of watching John Roberts as chief justice, I’ve identified two main projects.

Two main projects

One concerns race: getting the government out of the business of counting by race by rejecting both affirmative action that increases opportunity for racial minorities and federally policed guardrails to prevent the suppression of minority votes. His early years on the job reflected this deep commitment, first with the Parents Involved case in 2006, overturning efforts by two school districts to maintain integration through race-conscious school assignment measures, and, six years later, with Shelby County v. Holder, which cut the heart out of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The other project is religion: giving religion a place at the public table long reserved for secular society; removing barriers to religious expression in the public square; insisting on organized religion’s entitlement to public benefits as a matter of equal treatment while at the same time according religion special treatment in the form of relief from the regulations that everyone else must live by. Benefits without burdens, equal treatment morphing into special treatment.

This term’s trio of religion decisions carried the project into new territory. The chief justice’s opinion in the Montana case, Espinoza, was particularly eyebrow raising, because when the case reached the court, there was no longer a tax credit program in place for any nonpublic school. That the program no longer existed for anyone would seem to make a claim of anti-religious discrimination implausible at best.

Not so, the chief justice wrote for the 5-to-4 majority. He said the program’s cancellation “cannot be defended as a neutral policy decision” because it resulted from a decision of the Montana Supreme Court that the state Constitution’s “no aid” provision meant that religious schools could not be included in the program. Because the state court said it couldn’t effectively rewrite the statute, it invalidated the entire program. But Roberts found this application of the “no aid” provision to be itself a violation of the federal Free Exercise Clause, amounting to “discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor observed in dissent that “it appears that the court has declared that once Montana created a tax subsidy, it forfeited the right to eliminate it if doing so would harm religion.” She continued, “This is a remarkable result, all the more so because the court strains to reach it.”

It seems to me that the religion cases represent a triumph for Roberts on a different, deeper level than do the cases that left many liberals cheering at the end of the term. Consider three of the most prominent of those cases: the decisions that brought LGBTQ individuals into the category of employees protected against workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; that blocked President Trump from ending the DACA program that enables young undocumented immigrants, the Dreamers, to work legally and protects them from deportation; and that struck down a Louisiana law aimed at driving abortion clinics out of business. Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the Dreamers case, joined Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion in the LGBTQ case and wrote a concurring opinion in the abortion case.

‘Yes, but’ vs. ‘Yes, and’

While hailing each of those decisions, I think it’s still possible to take a clear-eyed look at them and to put each in a category that I call “yes, but.”

Yes, employers now can’t fire someone for being gay or transgender, but we have yet to see the carve-outs that the religious right will demand and to which the court may well accede in subsequent cases. Yes, the president can’t end the DACA program in such a clumsy way, but the decision offers a road map for how to do it better. Yes, the Louisiana law replicated a Texas statute that the court had already rejected, but Roberts court was careful to leave the door open to continued attacks on the right to abortion.

The religion decisions, by contrast, consist of cases that I would call “yes, and.” While the other decisions went no further than necessary to achieve their result, the religion cases went considerably further than they needed to, each one taking and running with one of the court’s recent applicable precedents.

For example, the Montana schools decision built on a three-year-old opinion by Roberts in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, holding that Missouri could not exclude a church-run preschool from eligibility to apply for a state grant to resurface its playground. The church’s exclusion, under a provision of the Missouri Constitution, imposed “a penalty on the free exercise of religion,” the chief justice wrote then. In a footnote, he added that the court was addressing only “express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing.” It didn’t take long for the no-discrimination doctrine of Trinity Lutheran to migrate to the heartland of church-state controversy in America: public financing of religious education.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe School case, which stripped anti-discrimination protection from elementary teachers at two Catholic schools, also built on an earlier opinion by Roberts in which the court first endorsed a judicial doctrine called the ministerial exception (as in exception from federal civil rights laws.) In the earlier case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.O.C., the teacher who claimed discrimination, while not an ordained minister, had received extensive religious training and served in what the Lutheran church deemed a “called” capacity.

By contrast, the two elementary schoolteachers in the new case were ordinary classroom teachers with minimal training who taught the required religion classes out of a workbook. The court extended the ministerial exception to them and, by implication, to all parochial school teachers and perhaps other school employees as well. (One of the teachers was fired after she requested time off to be treated for breast cancer; she died while her Americans With Disabilities Act case was pending.)

In her dissenting opinion, Sotomayor objected that in contrast to the detailed analysis in the Hosanna-Tabor case, the court this time “all but abandons judicial review” and “has just traded legal analysis for a rubber stamp.”

The Little Sisters decision represents a blatant bait-and-switch. Six years ago, when the 5-to-4 majority in the Hobby Lobby case held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act required the Obama administration to offer an accommodation for religious employers that did not want to pay for insurance coverage for contraceptives, Alito’s opinion for the court was reassuring about the consequences. The effect “would be precisely zero,” he said, adding that female employees of the objecting companies “would still be entitled to all F.D.A.-approved contraceptives without cost-sharing.”

Of course, that assurance became the basis for the religious employers’ resistance to the accommodation on the ground of complicity. In any event, no such reassurance was forthcoming this time. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed that 580,000 women work for employers eligible for the exemption.

“Of cardinal significance,” she wrote, “the exemption contains no alternative mechanism to ensure affected women’s continued access to contraceptive coverage.” The government, Ginsburg said, “may not benefit religious adherents at the expense of the rights of third parties.”

Put that in the past tense. Label it the Roberts project and call it a triumph.

In June 2006, as his first term was nearing an end, I ran into Roberts at the court. There aren’t many questions a person can appropriately ask a Supreme Court justice, so I went with the obvious: “What are your summer plans?”

He had a pile of biographies of chief justices that he planned to read, he said. And then with a wry smile he added, “You know, most of them were failures.”

John Roberts doesn’t have to worry.

Linda Greenhouse, the winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, writes about the Supreme Court and the law and is the author of several books.

Official portrait of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts.

Legal interns help keep up the fight (from home)

FFRF’s legal interns for summer 2020 are the first to have never worked in Freethought Hall in Madison, Wis. Because of the pandemic, they (and most of the FFRF staff) have been working from home. Here is a look at FFRF’s legal interns.

Name: Sammi Babcock

Sammi Babcock


Where are you from?: I’m originally from Janesville, Wis., but I’ve been living in the Madison area for three years now.

Law school attending: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Undergraduate school: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Religious upbringing: Lutheran.

Post-graduate plans/dreams: After graduation, I hope to continue working in public interest, and I would love to come back and work for FFRF someday.

What has it been like working for FFRF during the pandemic? It’s been a wonderful time. Even though working remotely presents challenges, I have still enjoyed my time here immensely. It’s been an amazing experience being able to work with the attorneys and help FFRF in its mission to uphold the separation of state and church.

My favorite part of the job: The opportunity to research and write about a wide variety of issues, such as courtroom prayer and COVID-19 outbreaks linked to churches.

My legal interests are: Constitutional law (more specifically First Amendment issues), intellectual property, and victim’s rights.

These three words sum me up: Determined, thoughtful, deadpan.

Things I like: Sushi, Shakespeare, hiking, Dungeons & Dragons, water-color painting, sketching and poetry.

Things I smite: Olives, Evangelicals, misogyny and humidity.

A fun fact about yourself: I love to visit Renaissance Festivals. I dress in costume, drink mead when possible, and watch historical re-enactments and lectures about Historical European Martial Arts.

Kat Grant

Name: Kat Grant.

Where are you from?: Washington, Ind., originally, now living in Bloomington, Ind.!

Law school attending: Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Undergraduate school: Indiana University (B.A. in political science).

Religious upbringing: Roman Catholic.

Post-graduate plans/dreams: I decided to pursue a career in law because I’m incredibly passionate about advocating for the rights of marginalized and minority communities, and making the world a more equitable place. As long as the work I’m doing is related to that, I’ll be happy!

What has it been like working for FFRF during the pandemic? It’s definitely been a different experience than anyone was expecting for the summer, but the legal team has been great about making us feel welcome, helping us learn, and communicating with us about different projects!

My favorite part of the job: I’m a big nerd, so I’ve really enjoyed any time I’ve had to do any kind of deep dive looking for details and patterns! Also, just the satisfaction of knowing that I’m helping to uphold the principles of state-church separation.

My legal interests are: Constitutional law (specifically First Amendment issues), LGBTQ and disability rights, and the ways that changing cultural attitudes impact the law.

These three words sum me up: Enthusiastic, compassionate,  stubborn.

Things I like: Jazz music, gluten-free baking and Dungeons and Dragons.

Things I smite: Math, Mike Pence, and the fact that the color chartreuse is not pink, but yellow.

A fun fact about yourself: As an undergrad, I was a member of the Indiana University Marching Hundred and Big Red Basketball Band! If you watched an IU football or basketball game between fall 2015 and spring 2019, you just might have seen me playing clarinet!

Ryan Sendelbach

Name: Ryan Sendelbach.

Where are you from?: Rochester, Minn.

Law school attending: University of Wisconsin Law School.

Undergraduate school: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Religious upbringing: Pentecostal Christian.

Post-graduate plans/dreams: I want to serve in elected office at some point.

What has it been like working for FFRF during the pandemic? I strongly prefer in-person work over online, but FFRF has done everything possible to make the experience a success.

My favorite part of the job: The opportunity to work in such a unique area of law.

My legal interests are: Civil procedure, election law and taxation.

These three words sum me up: Bad at this.

Things I like: Efficiency, exploration and problem solving.

Things I smite: Pessimism, ignorance and closed-mindedness.

A fun fact about yourself: I triple majored in political science, economics and history as an undergrad.

They Said What? (September 2020)

He’s following the radical left agenda, take away your guns, destroy your 2nd Amendment, no religion, no anything, hurt the bible, hurt God. He’s against God.

President Trump, in an attack on Joe Biden, a lifelong Catholic, in a tweet.

Washington Post, 8-6-20

I’m going to call for three days of fasting and prayer for our state for July 20 through the 22. . . . This will be the spiritual diet and exercise that I, as a Catholic Christian, believe is very important anyway. So we’ll be doing lunch fasting for those three days and certainly praying as well, praying for the people of Louisiana, praying for those who are sick, praying for those who care for those who are sick, and certainly praying for the families of those who have passed on.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, in a press conference.

Newsweek, 7-16-20

I’m not going to argue with you. Jesus is King. . . . Trump is the closest president we’ve had in years to allowing God to still be part of the conversation.

Billionaire rap superstar Kanye West, in an interview conceding that he is running for president as a spoiler to siphon votes from the Democratic challenger and continues to have a relationship with the Trump White House.

Forbes, 8-6-20

It’s fine that we minister to everyone. It’s not OK to have an abortion. It’s not OK to marry the same sex.

Paula White, White House “spiritual adviser” and leader of the government’s “Faith and Opportunity Initiative” program, in a sermon.

Right Wing Watch, 7-20-20

As a country, I would hope that a part of what we’re learning right now is the destructive aspects of loveless, godless leadership. Do not elect people that don’t have God and love in their hearts.

Actor Will Smith, during an interview with CNN’s Angela Rye.

The Friendly Atheist, 7-17-20

The left is going to tell you there’s this separation of church and state, and that’s just nowhere in the Constitution, nowhere in American law. That’s nothing that our founding principles ever, uh, derived whatsoever.

Jenna Ellis, President Trump’s senior campaign legal adviser, during a Zoom event hosted by Asian Pacific Americans for Trump.

The Daily Beast, 7-28-20

Tyranny is built plank by plank. The Jews didn’t one day get called to the edge of the railroad and told to get onto the boxcars.

Pastor Matthew Trewhella of Mercy Seat Christian Church in West Allis, Wis., comparing a potential mask mandate in Brookfield, Wis., to the Holocaust.

Fox 6, 7-23-20

I really do believe that those who are trying to undo this president, those who are trying to destroy me, trying to destroy Michael Flynn, who’s a very good man and great American patriot war hero, I do believe they’re satanic. . . . I don’t believe that any of these people involved in my prosecution are really believers in God.

Roger Stone, political consultant and adviser to Donald Trump who was convicted of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress, in an interview with CBN’s David Brody.

Christian Broadcasting Network, 7-15-20

If aliens are real, salvation through Jesus Christ is the only way they enter heaven.

Texas state Rep. Jonathan Stickland.

Twitter, 7-24-20

FFRF welcomes 16 new Lifers

FFRF welcomes and warmly thanks its 16 new Lifetime Members.

The newest $1,000 Lifetime members are: Nelson Allison, Nik Blach, Charles Briggs, Ben Graf, Tom Hinkle, Laura Kass, Larry D. King, Eniko (Enci) Lajos  (gifted by Philip Lentz), David Lippes, Ed Livesay, J. Kent Miller, Leighton E. Moss, Gloria Ratner, Richard W. Royer, Ian Saeger (gifted by Ron Saeger) and Kelvin Sun (gifted by Chenni Hsiung).

States represented are Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

FFRF’s caption contest


Caption contest

o enter this month’s contest, please write a witty or humorous caption for this photo (taken outside a gun shop in El Paso, Texas). Email your response to by Sept. 16. The winner, chosen by FFRF staff, will receive an FFRF T-shirt! We will announce the winner and runners-up in the October issue. If you’ve taken any photos that you think would be good for this contest, send them to

Sign up for FFRF’s online membership meeting on Nov. 14!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation will be offering our first-ever online membership meeting, including legal and other highlights of the year, on Saturday, Nov. 14. The event will include some special greetings and surprises. While the meeting is only online, for the first time the gathering is available to all members, no matter where you live!

We can already reveal that legendary TV actor Ed Asner will appear during the event in a video accepting FFRF’s 2020 Clarence Darrow Award. Asner, who just joined FFRF’s Honorary Board (see page 8), is an Emmy Award-winning actor. Asner toured the country portraying William Jennings Bryan in a play about the Scopes trial and has been an outspoken progressive activist. The award includes a bronze statuette, a miniature of the 7-foot statue by renowned sculptor Zenos Frudakis that FFRF erected on the lawn of the “Scopes Trial” courthouse in Dayton, Tenn.

Our team of “watchdog” attorneys will present legal highlights at the online meeting, and FFRF’s many other actions and achievements over the year will be featured in the hour-long report preceding the short membership meeting.

Please be sure to register online no later than Monday, Nov. 2, or to mail your free registration so it is received by our office (FFRF, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701) no later than Monday, Nov. 2. See registration form below or register online at:

The “FFRF Highlights of the Year” will begin online at 1:30 p.m. CST on Nov. 14, followed by a short membership meeting, which includes the annual treasurer’s report and an election for the State Representatives. The agenda and other info will be published in your fall Private Line, FFRF’s biannual newsletter.

State Reps, who will be voting on a bylaws change and Executive Board elections, will have their annual meeting online on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 1:30 p.m. CST.

Look for additional details in the upcoming fall Private Line, the October Freethought Today and email reminders. (Members who have not shared their email address with FFRF are encouraged to do so. Send your preferred email address to and include your full name and mailing address.)

Any FFRF member in good standing (meaning your dues are up to date) is invited to attend the annual membership meeting. Participants will be emailed the agenda and written reports along with instructions to access the meeting and to vote. All registrants of the membership meeting will receive an email with a link to the online ballot to elect the state representatives. You must attend the meeting for your vote to count.

As previously reported, FFRF’s 2020 convention slated for the weekend of Nov. 13-14, 2020, in San Antonio, had to be postponed due to the coronavirus. Almost all scheduled speakers, including Gloria Steinem and Margaret Atwood, have agreed to appear at FFRF’s 2021 convention at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel on the weekend of Nov. 19-21, 2021.