‘Notorious RBG’ gains a home at FFRF

Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker pose with the bust of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is thrilled and honored to have been chosen as the  recipient of a sculpted bust of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, created and gifted by world-renowned sculptor and FFRF member Zenos Frudakis. The sculpture now adorns the Anne Nicol Gaylor Lobby and greets visitors to FFRF’s office, Freethought Hall, in downtown Madison, Wis.

The sculpture features RBG’s iconic dissent collar. Ginsburg, who prevailed in many cases, had increasingly become the voice of dissent on the high court. She noted: “Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.”

“It will encourage and inspire FFRF staff and members to double down in our work to protect constitutional rights for tomorrow,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is pictured above with FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

Zenos fashioned the bust out of clay to mourn Ginsburg’s death at 87 last fall. It was then completed in bronze. An official unveiling will take place in the future.

Andrew L. Seidel: Committee can’t ignore Christian nationalism

Andrew L. Seidel
Washington, D.C. | U.S.A. – Jan 6th, 2021: Trump Initiated Riots in at the Capitol

This column was first published on Religion Dispatches on July 28 and is reprinted with permission.

By Andrew L. Seidel

On July 27, for the first time, we heard about Christian nationalism in a government conversation about the Jan. 6 insurrection. The conversation some of us had been having about Christian nationalism may have entered the mainstream in the wake of that attack, but politicians — even those promising to get to the bottom of the attacks — ignored the role this political theology played in the attack. They can ignore it no longer. 

Christian nationalism is an identity based around the claim that America was founded as a Christian nation, that it’s based on Judeo-Christian principles, and, most importantly, that it has strayed from that foundation. It’s a political identity based on lies and myths. It’s a permission structure that uses the language of return, of getting back to our godly roots, to justify all manner of hateful public policy — and even attacks on our democracy.

On Jan. 6, I watched in horror as this wave of Christian nationalism broke over our Capitol, threatening the peaceful transfer of presidential power for the first time in American history. I’ve been deeply immersed in the insurrection investigation ever since, seeking to understand and write about the role Christian nationalism played on that horrible day. Some of that work will appear in a new epilogue for the paperback of my book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American, which focuses on the Jan. 6 terrorist attack. Every day I learn more about how the permission structures within Christian nationalism motivated the terrorists and how it cuts across the other motivations and identities we saw that day, including the absurd QAnon conspiracy. They believed that they were fighting for God’s chosen one. And if God was on their side, who could be against them? 

Trump’s second impeachment featured the first full airing of the Jan. 6 attacks. But, despite the conversation entering the mainstream, nothing was said about the Christian nationalist aspect of this assault. I feared — and still fear — that the Jan. 6 Select Committee would do the same.

When Rep. Liz Cheney trotted out in her opening statement the Christian nationalist war cry frequently heard in the lead up to Jan. 6, “One nation, under God,” I was worried all over again that they were going to ignore, or cover for, Christian nationalism. 

But then the politicians listened to testimony of four police officers who were on the front lines that day. They spoke of the violence inflicted upon them. The injuries they suffered. The number of times they were electrocuted. The fingers trying to gouge out their eyes and seize their guns. How they were dragged into the mob and beaten. The chemicals they were doused with. The surgeries they’ve endured. The many colleagues that have resigned. One of their fellow officers took his own life. 

They spoke about their anger with the cowardice and indifference of the politicians who deny the seriousness of the assault, many of whose lives were saved by these very officers. They spoke about the odious racial slurs and racism they faced that day. And finally, one of them, Officer Daniel Hodges, who was the officer trapped and nearly crushed to death between the doors as the mob surged through the Capitol, spoke about the Christian nationalist aspect of this assault, though not in those terms: 

“It was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians,” Hodges said. “I saw the Christian flag directly to my front. Another read ‘Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president.’ Another, ‘Jesus is King.’”

That Christian flag was carried into battle against America — carried alongside the Confederate flag. It was carried against the police officers protecting the beating heart of our democracy. The terrorists didn’t just parade the flag on the battle lines opposite Hodges, they carried that Christian flag onto the floor of the U.S. Senate. They attacked, they conquered, they paraded their flag on the vanquished ground . . . and then they said a prayer to Jesus in that Senate: 

“Thank you for allowing the United States of America to be reborn. Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists, and the traitors within our government. We love you and we thank you. In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.”

The idea that “the United States of America [should] be reborn” and reborn “in Christ’s holy name,” which is how the prayer concluded, is central to Christian nationalism. We cannot understand what happened on Jan. 6 without understanding Christian nationalism. 

The officers who testified demanded justice. They demanded accountability. They turned to this committee, made up of U.S. representatives whose lives they saved, who represent the democracy they saved, and they asked for justice and accountability. Our country needs it. 

But we will only get that reckoning if we grapple with the role that Christian nationalism played in violently assaulting our democracy. Let’s hope this select committee doesn’t ignore, or worse, cover for, Christian nationalism. Let’s hope this select committee listens to Officer Hodges. Because on Jan. 6, Christian nationalism proved that it is indeed un-American and that it will not go gently into the obsolescence for which it is bound. If we refuse to identify and confront this threat, it will strike again. The terrorists made that clear.

Andrew L. Seidel is FFRF‘s director of strategic response.

Erwin Chemerinsky: Religious objections to vaccine shouldn’t matter

Erwin Chemerinsky
Covid-19 vaccination record cards issued by CDC.

This column first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on July 23 and is reprinted with permission.

By Erwin Chemerinsky

Policies requiring vaccination against Covid-19 need not include, and should not include, exceptions for those who have religious objections to vaccinations.

Many universities, including the University of California, are requiring vaccination for all students, staff and faculty returning to campus. Many employers, public and private, are doing so as well. These policies are essential to protect public health. The virulent delta variant of the coronavirus has made it imperative to ensure vaccination of as many people as possible.

Unfortunately, though, many of these policies have an exception for those who have a religious objection to vaccination. These are neither required by the law nor are they desirable as a matter of policy because they make it possible for anyone to circumvent the vaccine mandate.

The University of California’s mandatory vaccination policy, for example, has an exception for those who object on religious grounds. It states that this is because the law requires such an exemption, declaring: “The University is required by law to offer reasonable accommodations to . . . employees who object to vaccination based on their sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.”

This is simply wrong as a matter of law. No law requires such a religious exemption. In terms of free exercise of religion under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago in Employment Division vs. Smith that the Constitution does not require exceptions to general laws for religious beliefs. In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court said that as long as a law is neutral, not motivated by a desire to interfere with religion and of general applicability to all individuals, it cannot be challenged based on free exercise of religion. In June, in Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia, the court reaffirmed this legal test.

Laws that require vaccination are the epitome of a neutral law of general applicability: a requirement that applies to everyone and that was not motivated by a desire to interfere with religion. Even if this were not so, the government can infringe on religious freedom if its action is necessary to achieve a compelling interest.

Stopping the spread of a deadly communicable disease is obviously a compelling interest and vaccinations are the best way to reach that goal. No one, in practicing his or her religion, has a constitutional right to endanger others.

Indeed, a number of states, before Covid-19, created mandates for children to be vaccinated against other communicable diseases without making exemptions for religious beliefs. Without exception, the lower courts have upheld these mandates as constitutional.

Nor do federal employment discrimination laws require a religious exception for employees. In the 1977 case Trans World Airlines vs. Hardison, the Supreme Court said that employers do not have to bear more than a “de minimus” cost in accommodating employees’ religious beliefs. Vaccine exemptions could impose a significant cost on employers in terms of illness and therefore clearly are not required.

Religious exemptions, like in the University of California policy, are for those with “sincerely held religious beliefs.” But how can this possibly be determined?

The Supreme Court has said that religious beliefs are personal, and it does not matter whether they are in accord with the teachings and dictates of a particular faith. Under this broad principle, any person could get a vaccination exemption merely by stating that he or she has a religious objection against it.

Such an easy opt-out could make the mandate illusory. That is why the only way to have a meaningful vaccination requirement is to apply it to everyone — except those for whom vaccination is not medically advisable.

As people return to the workplace and to campuses the spread of Covid-19 remains a great danger, especially with the highly transmissible delta variant circulating. The unvaccinated not only endanger themselves and other unvaccinated people, but also those who cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons. And now, there are growing reports of breakthrough infections of fully vaccinated individuals.

Universities and employers have the legal right to make sure that everyone is vaccinated. And they have the moral duty to protect health and lives.

Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the University of California – Berkeley School of Law. He is the author of a forthcoming book, Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights.

In memoriam: Steven Weinberg was FFRF’s first ‘Emperor’ award recipient

Steven Weinberg accepts FFRF’s Emperor Has No clothes Award from FFRF founder and President Anne Nicol Gaylor in 1999.

Nobel Prize laureate and theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg, 88, died in Austin, Texas, on July 24.

Weinberg was the first official recipient of FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, which he accepted in November 1999 at the annual convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Weinberg received the honor for a widely reprinted remark at a conference in April 1999 in Washington, D.C.: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

Weinberg was born May 3, 1933, in Bronx, N.Y., the only child of Frederick and Eva (Israel) Weinberg. He received his undergraduate degree in physics from Cornell University in 1954. There he met Louise Goldwasser, his future wife, who became a University of Texas law professor. They married in 1954 and had a daughter, Elizabeth.

Weinberg began his graduate study at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen (now the Niels Bohr Institute). He completed his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1957.

In 1979, Weinberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics along with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Lee Glashow “for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current.” This was one of the most significant scientific advances in the second half of the 20th century.

He has received many other awards, including the national Medal of Science in 1991. He was also a foreign member of the Royal Society of London. Known for his writing, Weinberg received the Lewis Thomas Prize, which is awarded to the researcher who best embodies “the scientist as poet.”

Weinberg has written hundreds of scholarly articles and textbooks such as The Quantum Theory of Fields and Cosmology; the more popular works The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe and Dreams of a Final Theory (which contains a chapter called “What About God?”). 

Weinberg was outspoken about his lack of religion and encouraged other scientists to be more vocal in their opposition to religious ideas. He said, “As you learn more and more about the universe, you find you can understand more and more without any reference to supernatural intervention, so you lose interest in that possibility. Most scientists I know don’t care enough about religion even to call themselves atheists. And that, I think, is one of the great things about science — that it has made it possible for people not to be religious.” 

He added, “The whole history of the last thousands of years has been a history of religious persecutions and wars, pogroms, jihads, crusades. I find it all very regrettable, to say the least.” He wrote in The First Three Minutes: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

In 1999 he became the first recipient of FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, reserved for public figures who make known their dissent from religion. He began his acceptance speech, “I enjoy being at a meeting that doesn’t start with an invocation!” He said, “Nothing has been more important in the history of science than the work of Darwin and Wallace pointing out that not only the planets, but even life can be understood in this naturalistic way.” 

In memoriam: Bobbie Vandegriff was social justice champion

Bobbie Vandegriff

Lifetime Member Roberta “Bobbie” C. Vandegriff, 78, of Tucson, Ariz., died May 21. Roberta was born in Los Angeles on Dec. 8, 1942. She attended public schools in L.A. County before going to La Verne College. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1964 and a master’s degree in teaching science in 1976. From college, she went into teaching physical education for 17 years and then became a financial planner, specializing in annuities. After 14 years in her annuity business, she moved to Tucson and retired from the corporate world to pursue her true passions. During last 27 years, she was a champion for social justice, equality for all genders and stewardship of the environment. 

When remembering Bobbie, family and friends say she was a special person who was always positive, cheerful and shined light into their lives.

She is survived her husband, Don; daughter, Cathy and granddaughter, Lauren and grandson-in-law, Will. She is also survived by sister, Nancy and close cousins, Terry, Lynn and Linda.

Speaker lineup features star-studded cast

Ann Druyan
Sasha Sagan
Katherine Stewart
Margaret Atwood
Steven Pinker (Photo by Ingrid Laas)

You aren’t going to want to miss this year’s incredible lineup of speakers at FFRF’s 44th annual convention happening Friday, Nov. 19–Sunday, Nov. 21 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. (The event is limited to those who are fully vaccinated for Covid-19. See page 24.)

The conference will open informally on Thursday night, Nov. 18, with early registration and a two-hour appetizer reception. Registration resumes at 7 a.m. Friday, Nov. 19. The full, two-day program formally opens at 9 a.m. Friday. The membership meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Sunday, followed by a short meeting of the State Representatives, ending by noon.

The convention will include a report on FFRF accomplishments by Annie Laurie Gaylor and Co-President Dan Barker, an hour-long legal report by FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert and FFRF’s attorneys, a little music at the piano by Barker, FFRF book and product tables, the traditional drawing for “clean,” pre-“In God We Trust” currency, and some complimentary food receptions. 

FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel will lead a workshop on Christian nationalism and its ties to Jan. 6. 

Speakers

To read more about each speaker, please go to ffrf.org/convention-2021.

Margaret Atwood is the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Edible Woman, The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake. Atwood will receive FFRF’s “Forward” Award. 

Randa Black of Florida has won FFRF’s Nothing Fails Like Prayer contest and will recite her secular invocation. Black is a professional actor, appearing in hundreds of commercials and TV shows. 

Christopher Cameron, associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is author of the new book, Black Freethinkers: A History of African American Secularism. 

Ann Druyan is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and director specializing in the communication of science. She was the creative director of NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message Project and program director of the first solar sail deep space mission. 

Sikivu Hutchinson, Ph.D. is an educator, author, playwright and director. She is the author of Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically Black, Feminist, and Heretical.  Hutchinson will receive FFRF’s “Freethought Heroine” Award.

Megan Phelps-Roper, author of Unfollow: On Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, was raised in the Topeka, Kan.-based church known for its protests. Phelps-Roper will receive the $10,000 “Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism” award.

Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist, experimental psychologist, linguist and popular science author. He is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. 

Sasha Sagan is author of the new book, For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World. She has worked as a television producer, filmmaker, writer and speaker. 

Sushant Singh is an Indian actor and presenter known for his work predominantly in Hindi cinema. Singh will be receiving the Avijit Roy Courage Award. 

Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer. Steinem, who’s been billed as “the world’s most famous feminist,” is a journalist who co-founded Ms. Magazine in 1972. Steinem will receive FFRF’s “Forward” Award. 

Katherine Stewart is the author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism. 

David Tamayo is cofounder and president of Hispanic American Freethinkers in 2010. 

Jay Wexler is a professor at Boston University School of Law. 

David Williamson is co-founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC). Williamson will accept FFRF’s Freethinker of the Year Award.

Phil Zuckerman is the associate dean and professor of sociology at Pitzer College, and the founding chair of the nation’s first Secular Studies Program. 

Receptions

There will also be two optional author receptions. After “An evening with Margaret Atwood” Friday night, a short private reception for Ms. Atwood will take place, limited to 100 individuals. Tickets to the reception are $500 and will include a copy of The Testaments, her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Friday evening will end with a complimentary dessert reception and hot beverages for all participants.

Gloria Steinem will be interviewed by FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor on Saturday afternoon, taking some audience questions, followed by a half-hour reception limited to 50 individuals. That $500 ticket will include a copy of Ms. Steinem’s newest book, The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off! Thoughts on Life, Love, and Rebellion. 

Mail in the handy registration on Page 24 or register online at ffrf.org/convention-2021.

Pre-registration deadline is Oct. 31, unless the convention sells out earlier. 

Meet a member: Journalist tries to keep politicians honest

Eric Carlson

Name: Eric Carlson.

Where I live: Leelanau County, Mich.

Where and when I was born: Detroit, 1954.

Family: My wife works as a registered nurse. Our daughter, 26, is a graduate of Michigan State University, now living and working in the United Arab Emirates. Our son, 24, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, now a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division. We are all atheists.

Education: I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Oklahoma.

Occupation: Since 1998, I have been working as a newspaper reporter for a community weekly newspaper that has been named Michigan Newspaper of the Year for the last four years. 

Military service: I retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998 after a 25-year career as a combat correspondent and a public affairs officer. I am a veteran of the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the Somali Civil War.

Where I’m headed: We intend to remain in our community here in Michigan. I will throttle down from being a full-time local newspaper reporter eventually.

Person in history I admire and why: I have always enjoyed fantasizing that I am having conversations with Benjamin Franklin. The archetypal American newspaperman, he was a smart guy who made a big difference.

A quotation I like: “Life is tough. But it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” In the Marines, you’d usually see this quotation emblazoned below a picture of John Wayne playing a Marine in the movie “The Sands of Iwo Jima.”

Things I like: Ice cream. Boats.  

Things I smite: Dishonest and unthinking politicians and public officials. I smite them in the newspaper I work for.

My doubts about religion started: When I was about 14 years old and was beginning a four-year stay at a Christian boarding school in Illinois. After four years of serious bible study, prayer and chapel services every day, I finally became ready to call myself an atheist. 

Before I die: I would like to have just a little more fun.

Ways I promote freethought: Lately, I’ve been shining our newspaper’s spotlight on how our county Board of Commissioners wants prayer to be on the agenda of every meeting. In my private life, I am an alcoholic who has remained sober for 38 years with help from an anonymous fellowship of men and women. I am a founding member of a local group known as the Secular Sobriety Group, which is part of a growing worldwide movement within the fellowship.

In the News (September 2021)

Ancient tablet seized from Hobby Lobby

A 3,600-year-old tablet showing part of the epic of Gilgamesh, which had been acquired by Christian retailer Hobby Lobby for display in its museum of biblical artifacts, was seized by the U.S. government.

Experts say the “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet” shows a portion of the Gilgamesh epic, one of the world’s oldest works of literature, in the Akkadian language.

Hobby Lobby bought it from a London auction house in 2014 and put it on display in the Museum of the Bible. The museum was conceived by evangelical Christian Steve Green, the billionaire president of Hobby Lobby.

The forfeiture is part of efforts to return thousands of smuggled ancient Iraqi artifacts that were purchased by Hobby Lobby. In 2017, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a $3 million fine and forfeit thousands of artifacts. 

High court’s emergency reviews favored religion

The Supreme Court agreed to and granted all 10 emergency reviews by religious groups challenging Covid-19 restrictions last year, a Reuters analysis found.

The analysis, reported on July 28 by Religion News Service, found the court’s “shadow docket” — in which emergency applications are decided quickly without oral arguments or lengthy written decisions — provided religious applicants a win in every case.

Shadow dockets do not reveal how the justices voted. 

Duke voucher report shows major problems 

A new report from Duke University’s Children’s Law Clinic shows how North Carolina’s largest school voucher program continues to suffer from major policy problems, including that voucher students are receiving an inferior education compared to their peers in public schools.

The report finds that the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program fails to provide the public or policymakers with information on whether voucher students are making academic progress. It also shows that nearly all voucher students (92 percent) are attending religious schools, more than three-quarters of which use a biblically based curriculum presenting concepts that directly contradict the state’s educational standards.

North Carolina places no requirements on voucher schools in terms of accreditation, curriculum, teacher licensure or accountability.

Atheists both positively, negatively stereotyped

Research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that people stereotype atheists as immoral — unconsciously believing a serial killer is more likely to be an atheist than a religious person — while simultaneously stereotyping atheists as more open-minded, scientific and fun at parties.

The study, “Is There Anything Good About Atheists? Exploring Positive and Negative Stereotypes of the Religious and Nonreligious,” was authored by Jordan W. Moon, Jaimie Krems, and Adam Cohen. 

Biden’s victory aided by the nonreligious

A new analysis of 2020 voters from Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel found that Joe Biden got more support among atheists and agnostics than Hillary Clinton did in 2016.

Biden drew strong support from religiously unaffiliated voters — atheists, agnostics, and those who say their religion is “nothing in particular.” Together, these voters made up 25 percent of voters, which is a larger share of the total electorate than white evangelicals (19 percent). But support for Biden among the unaffiliated was not quite as lopsided as Trump’s support among white evangelicals (a 45-point margin for Biden among the unaffiliated vs. a 69-point margin for Trump among white evangelicals). 

Without the religiously unaffiliated, Trump would have had a 9-point popular vote margin over Biden.

Dem, GOP confidence in science diverges

Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in science, compared with 70 percent when Gallup last measured it more than four decades ago. 

The decline overall obscures more significant changes among political partisans. Republicans today are much less likely than their predecessors in 1975 to have confidence in science. Meanwhile, Democrats now have more confidence than they did in the past.

Confidence in science is among the highest of the 17 institutions tested in the 2021 survey, behind small business (70 percent) and the military (69 percent).

Compared with that earlier survey, Republican confidence in science has fallen 27 percentage points, and independents have dropped eight points, while Democrats’ confidence has increased by 12 points.

Satanic Temple suit against city moves ahead

U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs allowed several of the complaints from The Satanic Temple to move forward after it was not allowed to give the opening “prayer” for a Boston City Council meeting.

The Satanic Temple initially tried to sue the city in January, arguing that since the council allows various mainstream religions to speak, it’s against the First Amendment to pick and choose who gets to give invocations.

The city said it’s not about discriminating against any religion, it just enabling council members to invite pastors, rabbis, priests or imams from Boston’s communities to address the body. 

The judge said the argument that this runs afoul of the Establishment Clause can continue.

3 Witnesses imprisoned in Russia for their faith

Three Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia on July 29 were convicted and sentenced to prison for practicing their faith. All three men have already spent more than two years in pretrial detention.

They were detained in May 2019 and accused of continuing the operations of a Jehovah’s Witness organization that had been liquidated. All three were charged with organizing extremist activities. 

“The sentences for the three men are considered particularly harsh in a country where rape is punishable by three years in prison and kidnapping by five,” writes Kathryn Post of the Religion News Service.  

Court won’t hear case on church restrictions

On Aug. 2, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit by a Maine church that sought to take a pre-emptive strike against future restrictions associated with the coronavirus, the Associated Press reports.

Calvary Chapel in Orrington asked the court to stop Gov. Janet Mills from enforcing or reinstating any pandemic-related restrictions due to the delta variant of the coronavirus.

The request was denied by Justice Stephen Breyer. The Maine attorney general’s office previously said that the governor’s civil emergency already expired, making the lawsuit unnecessary. But church officials were worried that restrictions could be reinstated, violating their religious liberties protected by the Constitution.

FFRF to Biden: Vaccine mandates are needed

FFRF is asking President Biden to wield the influence and authority of the federal government to incentivize vaccination mandates.

While praising the recent federal employee and military Covid-19 vaccination mandates, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor assert in a letter to the president  that “these steps are still not nearly enough.” 

Their letter lays out common-sense recommendations that the government can adopt to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus, including: require vaccinations for air travel; withhold federal funding for schools that do not require vaccinations for all eligible and refuse to award federal contracts with businesses that do not require Covid-19 vaccinations.

Additionally, FFRF suggests requiring that local and state governments, particularly police departments, be eligible to purchase decommissioned gear and materials only if they have mandated vaccinations for their staff.

“Urging, begging, bribing, and, sadly, reasoning with many unvaccinated Americans has had too little effect,” FFRF writes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has altered its advice to encourage indoor masking in areas of the country with low vaccination rates — and that’s, unfortunately, a majority of counties. While that’s good advice, the real answer is to require vaccinations.

Even Alabama’s famously evangelical and anti-abortion governor, Kay Ivey, has had enough. She recently commented that it’s “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks. . . . It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.” 

Two other pro-vaccine Republican governors, Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson and Ohio’s Mike DeWine, have called on the Food and Drug Administration to finalize approval of the Covid-19 vaccines in use in the United States. As Janet Woodcock, FDA’s acting commissioner, has noted, no corners were cut over development, testing and tracking of these vaccines. It’s time to approve!

Biden must take executive and large-scale action to help rid the United States of Covid-19, as even dollar incentivization has not worked. Under the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the federal government is entrusted to take care of its citizens and ensure the general welfare of the nation.

Social distance

FFRF website gets a new look

Check out FFRF’s updated and improved website at ffrf.org.   

Because it’s now built with a responsive, mobile first design, it works great on portable devices such as phones and tablets, as well as on desktop computers. 

You can now find recent (and archived) episodes of FFRF’s TV show “Freethought Matters” and its weekly Facebook Live show, “Ask an Atheist,” under the “News” category.

Looking for merch? Go to the new and improved “Shop” for your favorite freethinking gear, including apparel, books, music, cards and so much more.

If you find that a page isn’t working properly or any other site glitches, please send an email to ffrf.us/website-feedback letting us know of the issue.