Religious zealots in Congress side with seditionists

The Christian Nationalists, neo-Nazis, racists and anti-government militia who attacked the U.S. Capitol and our democracy on Jan. 6 have been roundly denounced. But the Freedom From Religion Foundation believes it is also important to call to account the Christian Nationalist views of most of the 147 disruptors inside Congress who voted later that night to deny the will of the voters.

More than a quarter of the members of Congress taking shelter for their lives while a seditious mob rampaged through the heart of our democracy ended up siding with the insurrectionists to try to deny Joe Biden his lawfully won presidency.

What do we know about these members of Congress, including eight senators? Besides being all Republican, mostly white and mostly male, what do they have in common?

Their religious identity. And more than that, the Christian Nationalist flavor of their religious views (145 of the 147 identify as Christian; the exceptions are Reps. David Kustoff and Lee Zeldin, both Jewish). Almost half of the 138 House members who objected to the Electoral College count were evangelical Christians.

A disproportionate number of members of Congress claim to be Christian (88 percent versus 65 percent of the general population), but fully 98 percent of the certification naysayers identify as Christian. Many who voted to overturn the presidential election fall into religiously extremist categories.

Christian Nationalists believe, by definition, that the United States is or should be a Christian nation, actively seek to pass laws to privilege religion and Christianity, and impose their religious views on all citizens. They want to turn the godless U.S. Constitution upside down, granting sovereign authority to their “King, the Lord Jesus,” rather than “We the People.” That would be a theocracy, not a democracy.

Although some of these Christian Nationalists who voted not to certify the election results are newcomers, the majority are previously seated members with standard resumés, but with declared zealous views. Almost all are stringently opposed to abortion and LGBTQ rights, typically bragging of perfect 100 percent scores from the National Right to Life Committee and Heritage Action For America. Most are dyed-in-the-wool archconservatives, also with high ratings from the NRA and a variety of other ultraconservative lobbying groups. Many proudly trumpet their Christian Nationalist beliefs, are publicly prayerful and evince hostility to the separation between state and church.

It is not unusual for these members of Congress to list church membership on their official bios, and to add that they’ve served as deacons or taught Sunday school. Many have made the news for controversial views.

“Our nation is properly examining the white supremacist, anti-government, Christian Nationalist ideologies of the insurrectionists who broke into the Capitol to steal the election,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “But many members of Congress share at least some of these extremist views and are essentially dedicated to overthrowing the secular principles of our government.”

Has the Capitol attack opened eyes to theocratic extremism?

Is America finally waking up to the threat Christian Nationalism poses? FFRF, which has been educating about the dangers of theocratic extremism for decades, is hopeful the attack on the Capitol has opened the nation’s eyes.

“Photos, videos and reportage illuminate the links between this attack and Christian Nationalism,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Bibles, shirts, flags, placards, patches, crucifixes, crosses and prayers were omnipresent during the attack.”

The New Yorker published striking video (bit.ly/2MAX3YG) of insurrectionists praying to Jesus on the floor of the Senate. (It comes at about the 8-minute mark of the video.) Luke Mogelson, a veteran war correspondent and a contributing writer at The New Yorker who has been reporting on the violent edges of the Trump movement and was at the Capitol, captured the moment.

Jacob Chansely, aka “Jacob Angel” and “QShaman,” who — bare-chested, face-painted, adorned in furs and a horned Viking hat — figures prominently in footage from the Capitol insurrection, led the Christian prayer. Following the prayer, he scratched out and left a threatening note on Vice President Mike Pence’s desk. Chansely removed his horned hat and started to pray as the

Insurrectionists carry a large wooden cross outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Shutterstock photo)

demonstrators in the chambers threw up their arms in supplication.

Chansely was indicted on Jan. 11 for his role in the putsch. A photo of Chansely shaking hands with Rudy Giuliani in November has since surfaced. (Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, called for “trial by combat” at the Save America rally preceding the raid on the Capitol.)

Peter Manseau, the curator of American Religious History at the National Museum of American History for the Smithsonian, has crowdsourced a project on social media with scholars, religion journalists, activists, writers and others, including FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel. They have been cataloging the connections with the hashtag #CapitolSiegeReligion.

Christian Nationalism is not going away even though its champion is no longer president. FFRF will continue to work to expose the insidious, anti-democratic nature of Christian Nationalism and its role in the attempted overthrow of our government.

FFRF, others sue Trump administration

FFRF is part of a coalition of service and advocacy organizations that have filed suit against the former Trump administration for rolling back civil rights protections for beneficiaries of federal programs.

The prior federal rules had required faith-based organizations providing critical, taxpayer-funded services (like food and shelter) to inform recipients of their legal rights to be free from discrimination, not to have to attend religious programming, and to have the opportunity to get a referral for an alternative provider.

The new rule, which went into effect Jan. 19, makes it harder for already marginalized populations to access essential social services as the United States continues to reel from a historic pandemic and economic collapse.

The Trump administration’s rollback is arbitrary and capricious. Among other things, it provided no reasonable explanation for the rule change, failed to account for its harms, and failed to consider obvious alternatives to the changes they finalized — all in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit was filed by a group of plaintiffs: Freedom From Religion Foundation, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, SAGE, the New York City Anti-Violence Project, Ark of Freedom Alliance, American Atheists and the Hindu American Foundation. Filed against the Trump-led Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Education, Homeland Security, Justice and Labor, the suit seeks to reverse the unlawful rollback of these important protections.

Democracy Forward, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Lambda Legal represent the plaintiffs.

“On its last day in power, the Trump administration shredded important religious freedom and nondiscrimination protections for many of America’s most vulnerable populations and made it harder for them to access taxpayer-funded services in the midst of a pandemic and severe economic downturn,” the groups say in a joint statement. “The outgoing administration’s new rule unlawfully curtails the religious freedom and nondiscriminatory access to services of people seeking to obtain food, shelter, and other essential, federally funded services from faith-based organizations.”

The organizations add, “We’re taking our fight against the Trump administration’s unlawful rollback to court so that those in need of help can continue to get it without fear of discrimination or unwanted proselytization.”

FFRF felt an urgent necessity to join in the lawsuit.

“The Trump administration’s perversion of religious freedom continued until, literally, its last day,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re determined to ensure that individuals not believing in the majority creed know their rights and are empowered to protect themselves against discrimination and marginalization while receiving vital social services.”

On Dec. 17, the Trump administration finalized its sweeping rule, which eliminates common-sense requirements that were put in place in 2016. Those requirements were the result of a historic effort to reach consensus on how religion and government should interact in the context of federally funded social services. The Trump administration’s rollback unlawfully puts the interests of religious organizations, which provide a significant slice of federally funded social services, ahead of the rights and needs of the vulnerable populations they serve.

As a result of the 2020 rule, FFRF plans to spend additional time and resources educating beneficiaries and providers who take part in social service programs about the rights of participants. One of the ways FFRF is doing that is by distributing “know-your-rights” material for program participants.

FFRF is also planning to conduct an education campaign directed at faith-based entities that receive federal financial assistance to remind them of the remaining nondiscrimination requirements under the new Trump rules. FFRF further plans to launch an education campaign aimed at secular organizations that serve vulnerable populations in order to enable those groups to support the people they serve in advocating for themselves when receiving services from faith-based organizations.

FFRF has in the past pursued complaints about faith-based organizations receiving federal financial assistance.

Bill Maher jokes about religion, QAnon overlap

On Bill Maher’s weekly HBO show “Real Time” on Feb. 5, the host and longtime religious skeptic pointed out how there’s tremendous overlap between religionists and the QAnon conspiracy theorists. 

During his “New Rules,” segment, he said:

“Magical religious thinking is a virus and QAnon is just its current mutation. That’s why megachurches play QAnon videos. We need to stop pretending there’s no way we’ll ever understand why the Trump mob believes in him. It’s because they’re religious . . . They’ve already made space in their heads for shit that doesn’t make sense.”

He went on:

“It’s fun to laugh at QAnon with the baby-eating lizard people and the pedophile pizza parlors, but have you ever read the Book of Revelation? That’s the bible. That’s your holy book, Christians, and they’ve got . . . stuff you only see after the guy in the park sells you bad mushrooms.”

And this:

“There’s a lot of talk now about how Republicans should tell their base who still believe the election was rigged that they need to grow up and move on and stop asking the rest of us to respect their mass delusion. Of course, it is a mass delusion. But the inconvenient truth here is that if you accord religious faith the kind of exalted respect we do here in America, you’ve already lost the argument that mass delusion is bad.

Bill Maher

FFRF welcomes Life members

FFRF welcomes and thanks its three newest After-Life members, 19 Lifetime members and two Immortals.

The new $1,000 Lifetime members are Mark Anton, Lawrence M. Axlerod, Richard Carl Brown, Christopher Erbland, Michael Fischer, Laurie Fresh, Rebecca Glenn (gifted by Jeff Glenn), Carolyn M. Jones, Gwen Jones, Keith Miller, Thomas E. Norris, Christopher R. Paul, James Rohrbaugh, John Rowe, George Saunders (gifted by George’s wife Linda Saunders for his 80th birthday), Ed Scharf, Richard C. Schwartz, Stephen Walrath and Robert M. Zellers.         

The three new After-Life members are Edward H. Kolner, Joan Lavier and John Wilson. After-Life is a very generous membership category of $5,000. 

The two new Immortals are George Pedraja and Nicole Andrea Porcaro. The Immortals category is for those who have made provisions in their estate for FFRF.

States represented are California, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

FFRF’s 2021 Boston convention in limbo

Dear Members:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s plans for its 2021 national convention — scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 19–21 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel in Boston — remain in limbo.

FFRF, like everyone else in our nation, is awaiting pandemic mitigation developments, and hopes to know by summer whether a national convention will be safe and practical. Please continue to hold the date. We’ll keep you posted as soon as we are able to rely on the science.

The amazing roster still includes Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, John Irving and a host of secular authors such as Katherine Stewart and Phil Zuckerman, activists such as Hispanic American Freethinkers’ founder David Tamayo and honorees such as Black Skeptics Los Angeles founder Sikivu Hutchinson. Newly announced speakers and honorees include New York Times court columnist Linda Greenhouse and singer/entertainer/actor John Davidson.

Look for updates and announcements in future issues of Freethought Today and on our website, ffrf.org/convo-2021.

We look forward to holding a post-pandemic celebratory bash with these powerhouse speakers and seeing you there, when it’s safe.

Dan Barker: Hermeneutic pretzel logic

Dan Barker

FFRF Co-President Dan Barker appeared on Seth Andrews’ “Thinking Atheist” podcast in January. The following is a transcript of a portion of his discussion.

By Dan Barker

I have done 137 formal public debates, and by now I have heard all the arguments many times over. But the most slippery disputes deal with how to understand the bible. When I quote a passage that makes believers uncomfortable, they often say I am not interpreting it properly.

For example, when I quote Psalm 137:9, which says, “Happy shall he be who takes and dashes your little children against the stones” as an example of biblical barbarity, some apologists will yell “context” or “metaphor.” But some will say that those are not actually God’s words.

The psalmist is really saying that “Here is what a human might say in the heat of the moment when confronted with the brutality of the Babylonians, that IF someone were to dash THEIR babies against the stones, THEY would be happy.” God is not telling Christians to kill babies.

Well, OK. Then that means that verse is not part of God’s word. It’s just a human hyperbole. But if that is true, why is it in the bible?

And how are we to know where to draw the line? Using that logic, shouldn’t we dismiss the entire bible? The Old and New Testaments were written, after all — by humans. When Moses told the Israelites that “God gave me these Ten Commandments,” wasn’t that just Moses speaking — perhaps metaphorically? Hyperbolically? Maybe Yahweh himself is just one huge figure of speech.

It’s interesting that believers only invoke their interpretive defenses when confronted with passages they don’t like. I could play the same game.

When John wrote that “God is love,” couldn’t I say that that is a metaphor? If you take that verse in the entire context of God’s atrocious actions and cruel commands, it can’t possibly mean that God is really love, as we modern people understand the word. That is just John speaking, after all, and should not be considered the word of God.

Well, I do understand. If you are committed, a priori, to the requirement — to the dogma — that God is perfect and good, then you will never see a contradiction or inconsistency, even if it is right there before your eyes.

You have no choice but to twist yourself into a hermeneutic pretzel to keep that baby alive.

Dan Barker is co-president of the FFRF and author of the books Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists and GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.

Meet a Member: FFRF State Reps push for secular Kentucky

Mikel and Ed Hensley active in freethought community

Name: Mikel Hensley

Mikel and Ed Hensley with their daughter Cosima.

Where I live: Louisville.

Where and when I was born: I was born in Louisville in 1980 and grew up to the south of Louisville in Shepherdsville.

Education: Public schools from K–8, then homeschooled grades 9–12. Went to Trevecca Nazarene University for two years before getting out of there and going back home to attend the University of Louisville. Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and about 10 years later went to Jefferson Community and Technical College to get an associate’s degree in electrical technology.

Occupation: Electrical technician for a manufacturing organization.

How I got where I am today: One day at a time.

Where I’m headed: I don’t know.

Person in history I admire and why: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for challenging the patriarchy all the way to the Supreme Court.

A quotation I like: “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” — Carl Sagan, from “Cosmos.”

Things I like: Walks in the woods, looking at the stars, well done sci-fi shows like “The Expanse” and “Star Trek” and “The Mandalorian,” and spending time with Ed and Cosi.

Things I smite: Frickin’ conspiracy theories and pseudoscience and patriarchy.

My doubts about religion started: There are so many ways I could answer this. But I think one of the more major things was learning the actual history of Christianity while I was attending Trevecca Nazarene University and how the bible was compiled basically by councils of men who voted on what the “true” belief should be, and how the Christian sect that got to determine the “orthodox” views suppressed and demonized those who had different views. It was such a different history than what I was taught in Sunday school.

Learning about the history of the cosmos and about evolution and realizing religious authors I had trusted had given me misinformation about scientific fact also drove a nail into the coffin of my Christian belief.

Ways I promote freethought: I’m a State Representative for FFRF, edit and post the “Blasphemy in the Bluegrass” podcast, manage the website for Kentucky Secular Society, and help with organizing and promoting local events for atheists and freethinkers.

• • •

Name: Ed Hensley

Where I live: Louisville.

Where and when I was born: Dallas.

Family: I am divorced, widowed and married. Wife: Mikel; sons Jody, Scott and Braden; and daughters Taylor and Cosima.

Education: B.S. and M.S. degrees in computer science from Texas A&M University. I was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, but stopped work on my dissertation after my wife became ill and died.

Occupation: Software engineer.

Military service: I served seven years in Germany as a civilian with the Department of Defense.

How I got where I am today: I met my wife at a Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers meeting. Our dates included going to conventions and other events together, such as Jane Goodall or Richard Dawkins events.

Where I’m headed: Retirement from UPS to spend more time with family and more time on activism.

Person in history I admire and why: Charles Darwin and Werner Von Braun for their contributions to biology and space travel.

A quotation I like: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Mark Twain, from Following the Equator, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar.

Things I like: “Star Trek,” “Doctor Who” and other science fiction, national and state parks, travel.

Things I smite: Ark Encounter, violations of church-state separation, most TV sitcoms.

My doubts about religion started: I was brought up as a biblical literalist Southern Baptist in Texas. I left religion slowly from ages 18–24 as I read the bible and studied the early Christian churches and the formulation of the New Testament.

Before I die: I hope the church-state situation in the United States improves.

Ways I promote freethought: I’m a State Representative for FFRF, president of FFRF Kentucky, help organize the Kentucky Freethought Convention, and host the “Blasphemy in the Bluegrass” podcast.

They Said What? (March 2021)

It has been obvious for a while that Christians are under suppression. . . . All of the things the country was founded on are under attack. They are trying to get the name of God out of everything, especially the name of Jesus.

Adam Phillips, who attended the Stop the Steal march and Million MAGA March.

The New York Times, 1-1-21


A Tennessee county mayor said he wouldn’t order residents and visitors to wear masks until “the Holy Spirit” moves him to do so.

Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman, who tested positive with COVID-19 less than a month after his statement.

AL.com, 12-21-20 


There is not one square inch of all creation over which Jesus Christ is not Lord. . . . We are called to take that message into every sphere of life that we touch, including the political realm. That is our charge. To take the Lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm, and to seek the obedience of the nations. Of our nation!”

Sen. Josh Hawley, in a 2017 speech to the American Renewal Project.

The New York Times, 1-11-21


As White House press secretary, I never had to worry about the far left and their allies at CNN or The New York Times defining me, because I have a creator who’s already done that. I’m a Christian. A wife. A mom. A proud Arkansan. My opponents will do everything in their power to destroy me.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a video launching her run for Arkansas governor.

YouTube.com, 1-25-21


[Philip Esformes spent his time in prison] devoted to prayer and repentance.

Donald Trump, citing reasons why he pardoned the former nursing home executive who orchestrated one of the biggest Medicare frauds in U.S. history.

The New York Times, 1-22-21


I must point out that our new president has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Joe Biden, a lifelong Catholic.

Washington Post, 1-28-21


You just ruled against God. Get ready for the judgment of God.

Pastor Tony Spell of Louisiana’s Life Tabernacle Church, after a judge denied his motion to dismiss the six criminal counts he faces.

The Friendly Atheist, 1-26-21


Why is it our people are so vulnerable to this stuff?

Lance Wallnau, the grandaddy of Christian Nationalism and 7 Mountain Dominionism, wondering why his followers are susceptible to “false prophecies” and conspiracy theories.

Washington Post, 1-14-21

In the News (March 2021)

Court: Boston can reject Christian flag

Three flags fly outside the Boston City Hall. One is always the American flag, the second is always the Massachusetts state flag and the third flag varies, based on private groups who submit their flag to be flown. A court ruled that the city may bar the Christian flag from being the third flag. (Photo courtesy of city of Boston)

The city of Boston can refuse a citizen’s request to fly a Christian flag over City Hall, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Jan. 22, according to Courthouse News.

This doesn’t violate the plaintiff’s right to free speech nor does it discriminate against religion, the court said.

Boston is “entitled to select the views that it wants to express,” U.S. Circuit Judge Bruce Selya wrote for a three-judge panel. And the refusal to fly the flag “simply cannot be construed to suggest the disparagement of the plaintiffs’ religion.”

The court said the flagpoles represent the government’s speech, not the public’s speech, because a casual observer seeing the flags would assume that the city intended whatever message they convey. 

FFRF had originally joined the amicus brief supporting the city.

Ex-state Rep. Saccone resigns after comments

Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone, who was the target of an FFRF lawsuit in 2012, resigned from his teaching position at St. Vincent College after comments he made on social media.

Saccone tweeted a selfie from the Capitol on Jan. 6, saying: “We are storming the Capitol . . .  We will save this nation. Are u with me?”

A pro-Trump violent demonstration at the U.S. Capitol left five dead. Saccone, 62, resigned as an adjunct instructor the following day, Jan. 7.

In March 2012, FFRF sued against a declaration by the Pennsylvania House that 2012 is “The Year of the Bible,” which was authored by Saccone. U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner on Oct. 1, 2012, dismissed the case, ruling House officials had legislative immunity, but chastised House officials for “premeditated pandering.”

Abortion ban takes effect in Poland

A near-total ban on abortion in Poland went into effect on Jan. 27, despite protests from hundreds of thousands of residents.

The law halts the termination of pregnancies for fetal abnormalities, basically the only kind of abortion performed in Poland.

The decision had been made in October by the Constitutional Tribunal, but its implementation was delayed after it prompted a month of protests. On Jan. 27,  the government abruptly announced that the ruling was being published in the government’s journal, meaning it came into effect.

“We are dealing with incompetence, corruption, a total decay of the state, so these men are doing what they know best — taking away rights and freedoms from the citizens,” Marta Lempart, a protest organizer, told a television station.

8-year-old expelled for having crush on girl

Chloe Shelton, an 8-year-old second-grader, was expelled from Rejoice Christian Schools in Owasso, Okla., because she told another girl she had a crush on her.

“[Chloe] said the vice principal sat her down and said the bible says you can only marry a man and have children with a man,” said Delanie Shelton, Chloe’s mother. “My daughter was crying, saying, ‘Does God still love me?’”

Rejoice Christian Schools told Shelton they don’t condone boyfriend/girlfriend relationships on campus.

“The vice principal asked me ‘How do I feel about girls liking girls?’ And I said, ‘If we’re being honest, I think it’s OK for girls to like girls’ and she looked shocked and appalled,” Delanie Shelton said.

Ark. House OKs bill to let churches stay open

A bill passed the Arkansas House 75–10 on Jan. 28 that would prohibit the state from closing churches or prohibiting religious gatherings during emergencies, including a pandemic.

The bill would allow houses of worship to ignore reasonable public health restrictions, increasing the likelihood that in-person church services will become Covid-19 superspreader events.

The bill now moves to the Republican-heavy state Senate, which is also likely to approve it.

Iowa bill would ‘out’ LGBTQ+ students

A bill introduced in the Iowa Senate has critics saying that it’s a blatant attempt to “out” LGBTQ+ students.

Senate File 80 states that if a school chooses to ask a student or give them a survey which asks them to identify their gender, that information would be required to be provided to the parent or guardian of the student.

One Iowa, whose mission is to improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community in Iowa, has criticized the bill because not all students who consider themselves LGBTQ+ are comfortable “outing” themselves to their parents.

Survey: Covid-19 in U.S. has strengthened faith

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in the summer of 2020 reveals that more Americans than people in other economically developed countries say the outbreak has bolstered their religious faith and the faith of their compatriots.

Nearly three in 10 Americans (28 percent) report stronger personal faith because of the pandemic, and the same share think the religious faith of Americans overall has strengthened, according to the survey of 14 economically developed countries.

Far smaller shares in other parts of the world say religious faith has been affected by the coronavirus. For example, just 10 percent of British adults report that their own faith is stronger as a result of the pandemic. In Japan, 5 percent of people say religion now plays a stronger role in both their own lives and the lives of their fellow citizens.

Majorities or pluralities in all the countries surveyed do not feel that religious faith has been strengthened by the pandemic, including 68 percent of U.S. adults who say their own faith has not changed much.

Judge: Church’s beach parking is religious act

A federal judge in Florida ruled on Jan. 29 that the community of St. Pete Beach couldn’t stop a church from allowing beachgoers to use its parking lot, calling the practice a legitimate ministry.

The United Church of Christ parking lot, which has 70 spaces, is about a block from a metered lot run by the city. In June 2016, the city fined the church twice for violating a law governing commercial parking lots. The church filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court of Florida.

As Religion News Service writes, “The arguments in the case hinged, as they often do in religious freedom rulings, on whether the church’s insistence on keeping the parking lot available to the public was ‘a sincerely held belief’ of the church’s faith.”

Researcher: Definition of ‘evangelical’ changing

Ryan Burge, assistant professor of political science and a researcher from Eastern Illinois University, says that the term “evangelical” is morphing into something more political.   

In his Jan. 26 op-ed on the Religion News Service site, “Think U.S. evangelicals are dying out? Well, define evangelicalism,” Burge writes: “The assumption is that the term [evangelical] describes those who place high value on the teachings of the bible and strive to evangelize other people into their faith.

“However, that understanding of the term seems to be fading, replaced with a more amorphous concept that melds together religious doctrine and an affinity for conservative politics that experts are only beginning to understand now.”

Burge continues: “For instance, in her book From Politics to Pews, scholar Michele Margolis argues that people are choosing their religious affiliation based on their political partisanship with greater frequency now than in prior decades.”

Saudi women’s activist released from prison

Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released from custody on Feb 10, according to several news outlets.

She was best known for challenging the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, al-Hathloul, tried to drive her car across the border from the United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia and was detained for more than 70 days.

She was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to almost six years in prison last December under a broad counterterrorism law. She’s been in prison since then and her release after 1,001 days is due to time served and a partially suspended sentence

But al-Hathloul’s family has said she is not really free because she has been banned from leaving the country for five years and will not be allowed to speak with journalists.

Satanic Temple sues Boston over prayer policy

The Satanic Temple on Jan. 23 sued the city of Boston after the City Council declined to allow Satanists to deliver an invocation at the start of its meetings.

The Satanic Temple said the council’s policy for its opening prayer is discriminatory and unconstitutional because it does not permit prayer from every religious organization that wishes to deliver one.

Satanists have asked to give the opening invocation on at least three occasions, and each time they were informed the council doesn’t accept requests, the organization said.

The Satanic Temple, in its federal lawsuit, argued that the council policy violates the city’s public accommodations statute, which states that any place serving a public function is entitled to protection from discrimination. It also violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, which it argues guarantees all religions an equal opportunity to participate in free-speech forums.