WEEK IN REVIEW: Lawsuits galore and a fistful of saliva
After School Satan, religious bigotry, the shrinking of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, and more!
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These days, any Supreme Court story means there will soon be another crack in the wall between church and state. It’s important to know, though, where those cracks are and how large they will be.
SCOTUS said this week it would accept a case involving a high school football coach who got fired for his performative prayers on the 50-yard line after games when he was still theoretically on the clock and frequently surrounded by players. There’s no serious legal discrepancy here that needs to be resolved; it’s just a religious whiner who thinks he should be allowed to proselytize to students and a conservative legal group that knows they have the votes on the bench to make it happen.
Meanwhile, in a separate case involving the rejection of a Christian flag outside Boston’s City Hall, Justice Neil Gorsuch made a reference to “so-called” church/state separation. It’s never good when a bedrock principle of our Constitution is referred to as a hypothetical.
In Iowa, a Republican lawmaker who believes forced patriotism counts as the real thing wants to make it mandatory for teachers to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance — and prevent them from teaching kids about its history because being honest about how it originated could be deemed as “unpatriotic.”
Whether or not this is constitutional no longer matters because the Supreme Court isn’t interested in that question anymore. Whether the proposed bill will get support from conservatives is the question I’m worried about — because it’s not clear to me that other Republicans want to play this particular game. Then again, it’s never a good bet to count on conservatives doing the right thing, so what do I know.
Might as well get all the legal stuff out of the way with a little bit of good news. California’s attorney general is suing a major Christian “health care” ministry for defrauding its members. The complaint says they “preyed on consumers who, in many cases, thought their monthly payments were being used to help others who shared their faith and religious beliefs.” Instead, the company kept the vast majority of the cash it received. There are plenty of ethical reasons to condemn these kinds of ministries, but it’s important for conservative Christians to recognize the legal problems, too.
In perhaps the weirdest sermon illustration I’ve ever seen, Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma decided to show the love of Jesus… by smearing three huge wads of spit all over his younger brother’s face.
Spare a thought for all those atheist writers who spent their lives making arguments against God’s existence when they could’ve just played this video for everyone.
After that clip began making the rounds online, Todd issued an apology on TikTok, admitting that the stunt was “gross” and “disgusting” — but not walking back on the point he was trying to make, which was also a problem.
Whatever happens in the 2022 midterms, the Congressional Freethought Caucus will lose one of its 14 members after California Rep. Jerry McNerney announced his retirement.Today I am announcing that I will not seek reelection in California’s newly created 9th Congressional District.
Another member of the CFC, Rep. Sean Casten, also faces a tough primary in Illinois due to redistricting. Both of those seats are expected to stay in Democratic control, but the shrinking of the already small Caucus is disappointing. Let’s hope other members of the House join it in the future.
A handful of atheist groups are hoping to elevate the legacy of Thomas Paine — the less-celebrated Founder who wrote "Common Sense" and pushed for American Independence. Donations toward the effort will be tripled between now and Jan. 29.
How on earth is this Part 23?
And now for your weekly dose of fundie insanity:Fundamentalist Baptist preacher David Berzins just re-uploaded a sermon from 2019 paying homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It went just as you'd expect.Christian "prophet" Robin Bullock told his congregation yesterday that Kamala Harris isn't actually vice president, because if she were, she'd be on every magazine cover all the time. "Someone knows something," he insinuated.Baptist preacher Enrique Reyes says Bob Saget is in hell because "Full House" was about three single guys raising three girls and that's "gross." (On the show, Saget's character was widowed, so his brother-in-law and best friend moved in to help him raise his kids.)Christian "prophet" Nathan French attended the recent Trump rally. Naturally, he spent this interview spreading election lies and claiming that Trump will return to power "sooner than what people think."
I don’t know if radio host Jesse Lee Peterson fits in the previous section, but here he is repeating the same kind of nonsense:
A Christian, taxpayer-funded adoption agency in Tennessee is the subject of a new lawsuit from a Jewish couple that says the agency wouldn’t work with them. The lawsuit doesn’t target the agency, which has every right to set its own bigoted rules, but rather the state for funding the bigotry thanks to a 2020 law permitting funding for groups that discriminate on the basis of religion.
Last year, Josh Wesely directed a terribly acted film called “2025 - The World Enslaved by a Virus.” It’s all about young Christians who begin “an underground revolution” to obtain freedom “in a world transformed by the coronavirus.”
Somehow, that’s no longer the worst thing he’s done. In a picture that went viral this week, taken a few years ago when he was in his early 20s, he can be seen congratulating his long-term girlfriend for becoming a legal adult with the words “Finally 18.” Which are two words, in succession, that you never want to hear from someone whose career involves promoting religion.
Do prison ministries help inmates once they’re set free? According to new research, those doses of Jesus behind bars — in isolation — don’t have a serious impact on recidivism. Other factors (like family support, job opportunities, etc.) play a far more significant role in preventing people from returning to a life of crime. To be clear, “finding God” in prison can help people… but only if those other factors are also addressed.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday was a perfect time to remind everyone that before abortion became a right-wing cause for conservative Christians, defending segregation was their favorite pastime.
Here’s Tim LaHaye, co-author of the “Left Behind” series, condemning Wheaton College in 1968 for inviting MLK to speak because he was seen as a “heretic.”
This brief speech in favor of abortion rights from Devon Graham, the Florida Asst. State Director for American Atheists, packed a powerful punch:
I wasn’t expecting real-life art in an NBA game:
Which one of you air-dropped a picture to hate-preacher Greg Locke at an airport?
This week in Atheist Bible Study? Leviticus 12, a short section about two very important things: childbirth and circumcision.
Finally, after writing about an After School Satan Club last week, a very angry person emailed me, wrongly assuming I had something to do with the club, with ideas for additional ones:A Christian sent me this email, wrongly assuming I have something to do with the After School Satan Club at an Illinois elementary school. He has some ideas for other clubs...
Besides the sex shaming, the logical leaps, and the inability to understand what the ASS Club actually teaches, he doesn’t recognize that the Satanists only formed a group in response to a Christian “Good News Club” meeting at the same school. Want to stop the Satanists? Then tell the Christians to go away.
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