WEEK IN REVIEW: Roe-verturned
The Supreme Court’s continued assaults on church/state separation, Australia's Christian decline, A raid on three Southern churches, and more!
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Before all the awfulness of this past week, let me share some positive news: This week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation launched a nationwide campaign to remind politicians that atheists vote, that church/state separation needs defending and strengthening, and that they need our support.
I’m part of that campaign in Illinois, and this billboard went up earlier in the week:
That billboard and others like it, along with opinion pieces in local media outlets and paid newspaper ads over the Fourth of July weekend, are being rolled out in an effort to make sure Secular Americans have a voice in the upcoming elections.
I also shared my thoughts with a local paper (behind a paywall) about coaches and prayer following the Supreme Court's awful ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton.
As always, I appreciate your support through Patreon and Substack, which allows me to participate in efforts like the billboard campaign while working on articles and other projects.
Onto this week in our shared hellscape…
Just days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the conservatives gave another victory to football coach Joe Kennedy, who demanded an imaginary right to deliver performative Christian prayers at midfield after games. The Court siding with him, despite every other judge who’s looked at the case ruling against him, wasn’t a surprise. But it was appalling to see how Neil Gorsuch perpetuated lie after lie about what happened in order to justify the decision.This is what Gorsuch calls a "quiet personal prayer" at the 50-yard-line at the end of games. He uses the word "quiet" 14 times in his decision, as though the coach was merely whispering under his breath and not leading a religious service every player felt obligated to attend.
Writing for the 6-3 majority, Gorsuch wrote, “Joseph Kennedy lost his job as a high school football coach because he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet prayer of thanks.” He didn’t lose his job; he quit. And there was nothing “quiet” about a prayer he staged for maximal exposure. It only gets worse from there.
By the way kudos to Justice Sonia Sotomayor for including pictures of the not-quiet, not-private prayers in her dissent. Gorsuch didn’t include pictures in his ruling because he made everything up.And speaking of sketchy, the way the majority portrays the actual facts in this case (to try to downplay the coercion issue) is so problematic that Justice Sotomayor has to include pictures in her dissent to show readers what *really* happened here:
The irony is that this decision still doesn’t really tell us if what Kennedy did was legal!
Gorsuch whitewashed and downplayed reality so much that he issued a ruling about a "quiet prayer” that no reasonable person would ever have objected to. If someone else does in the future what Kennedy did in the past, it’s an open question as to whether a Court would declare it legal. Just chaos all around, because these justices will do anything they can to deliver victories to the Christian Right.
This is the Christian Nationalist game plan, by the way. It's always about shoving their religion (and only their religion) onto public school students in any way possible.
So is this:
Want some slightly better Supreme Court news? Last week, in Carson v. Makin, they ruled that Maine was obligated to include fundamentalist Christian schools in state’s voucher program. But Maine lawmakers, anticipating that decision, changed the law to exclude any school that discriminates against LGBTQ students/teachers. That means the Christian schools that just got a gift from the highest court will have to decide what matters more: taxpayer-funded tuition dollars or faith-based bigotry?
A group of Republicans claims that the Biden administration is trying to “promote atheism worldwide” by offering grants to groups working to help persecuted religious minorities (specifically atheists in this one instance). They’ve already gotten the headlines they want from right-wing propaganda outlets like FOX News:
The Republicans seem to be counting on the fact that virtually no one will dig into the details, though, because when you actually see what’s happening, there’s no promotion of atheism at all. Similar grant offers have been made to protect Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, and other religious minorities depending on the countries, and the State Department’s website specifically points out that this money isn’t meant to promote the beliefs themselves but rather give people more religious freedom overall. The GOP hates religious freedom when it’s not synonymous with Christian Nationalism.
Three Southern churches affiliated with the House of Prayer Christian Church were raided by the FBI for reasons unknown. But there have been allegations against those churches for supposedly running a giant fraud against the government, deceiving the Department of Veterans Affairs into giving them money they didn’t deserve. They also targeted soldiers specifically, including by using underage girls as recruitment tools. We’ll find out soon enough what the charges are against them.
Here’s a novel twist on a religious conflict. Two former Jehovah’s Witnesses are demanding access to the files their elders kept on them. What’s in those files? It could be mundane biographical information. It could also be secrets revealed to the elders via something like a confessional booth. Whatever the case, there’s an open question of who gets to control that data… and what data are we even talking about.
A Privacy Commissioner in British Columbia recently ruled that she would need to see the files in question in order to rule on what the ex-JWs should be allowed to see, but the ruling leans heavily in the favor of giving the former members access to their data as a matter of public policy. It’s a big loss for the religious leaders who want total control over the lives of their members, both current and former. Hallelujah!
You knew this was coming:
Coral Ridge Ministries is a Christian hate group that spreads harmful lies about LGBTQ people. They also really, really, really hate being called a “hate group.” Years ago, they filed a lawsuit to punish the Southern Poverty Law Center for putting that label on them, but the Supreme Court said this week it would not take up the case. That means the Christian hate group can’t do anything about its “hate group” status. (I mean… they could stop being a hate group, but that’s clearly not on their agenda.)
Also interesting and very troubling? Clarence Thomas (and he alone) wanted to take up this case specifically to lower the bar for defamation cases, in a way that could’ve punished mainstream news outlets for accurately reporting on conservative bullshit.
What he said.
Two workers, one atheist and one agnostic, sued their former North Carolina company for demanding they participate in the boss’ daily prayer meetings. In the atheist’s case, his pay was slashed in half before he was eventually fired. And yet, for some reason, I’ve heard no defense of the non-religious workers from the usual “religious freedom” crowd on the right.
This story by Emma Green about a gay professor at a Christian college deserves your time... but it’s also really damn depressing. Kathy Lee suppressed her identity for years while working as a professor, partly because she didn’t want to rock the boat and partly because she’s not any kind of activist. It was only when she finished teaching there that she could embrace her identity and finally be happy.
This line got to me: "Last year, her mother died at the age of ninety-six, never knowing about this part of her only daughter’s life."
When the mass shooting occurred in Uvalde, Texas last month, you may have seen one particular image online. It was a (since-deleted) tweet from Daniel Defense, the company that made the gun used to kill 19 children and two adults, not just showing a children playing with a weapon, but also invoking a biblical verse (Proverbs 22:6) in the process.
I was shocked to learn, however, that this company isn’t alone in mixing God and guns. In a must-read essay in the New York Times, historian Peter Manseau notes that Christian firearms are hardly a contradiction in practice. Evangelical Christians love guns like they love their god.
By the way, Republicans hate thoughts and prayers when it comes to their pet projects.
The percentage of Australians who have no religious affiliation has jumped from 30.1% in 2016 to an astonishing 38.9% in 2021, marking a rapid shift away from organized religion, according to 2021 Census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
This also marks the first time Christianity doesn’t represent the majority of Australians. Just remarkable results that will lead to a lot of discussion about why people are running the hell away from organized religion. I offered a few suggestions here.
Considering how, not that long ago, it was rare to see an openly atheist politician at any level of government, it’s truly amazing how Brian Sims, the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania, broadcasts it publicly:
Adam Kinzinger, one of the two less-insane Republicans in the House, is calling out Christian hypocrisy when it comes to extremism. It’s amazing how much courage people like him have when they’re no longer running for re-election.It’s interesting. When the Taliban rose, we kept saying the “moderate Muslims” need to speak out (im sure you did too) I believe normal Christians need to call out Christian nationalism and the Christian Taliban. I can’t find anywhere Jesus said that the Govt matters to him. https://t.co/zFY6GzPs1YCHUMLEY Adam Kinzinger stupidly calls out ‘Christian Taliban’ - https://t.co/P5q4rAw5NR - @washtimes This is a manufactured lie from the left and now, RINO-ey Kinzinger, that ultimately, egregiously and stupidly skews America’s history.The Washington Times @WashTimes
One way for people to fight back against Christian Nationalism? Come out publicly as an atheist, says Kate Cohen: "Make it clear that, to you, no legitimate public policy can be based on the supposed wishes of a supernatural being."
Pastor Greg Locke started his own show and it’s not very promising…
Don’t blame Islam for what American Christians are doing, Part 932432:White nationalist Nick Fuentes rejoices that in overturning Roe, the Supreme Court has laid out a blueprint for banning gay marriage, sodomy, and contraception and imposing "Catholic Taliban rule": "We're having something like Taliban rule in America, in a good way!"
This story by Jeremy Fugleberg has everything: A rural church taken over by right-wing extremists. A cemetery. Infighting. A weapon used in mass shootings. And no one seems to know who's in charge anymore.
Regarding the Roe ruling…
I whipped up a video about the Roe ruling and how the Christian Nationalists who dreamed about it have created a nightmare for everyone else.
I’m mad I didn’t think of this first...
An interesting tidbit of history:
This guy has (at least temporarily) deleted his Twitter account, but it’s wild how much control fundamentalist Christians imagine they have over their kids…
Kids are safer at a drag queen story hour than a Christian summer camp.
In case you’re wondering how conservative atheists are handling this week…Hey. I bet you need a pick me up. Please allow me to show you the funniest thing on planet Earth currently.
Speaking of right-wing atheist groups…
I’m gonna need you all to explain to me why people still go to church.
Christian “prophetess” Kat Kerr wants you to know what Heaven is like and it’s 100% accurate, according to everyone in her circles.
Fundamentalist Christian grandmother Lori Alexander, a.k.a. The Transformed Wife, told a Totally True Story™:
And now for your weekly dose of fundie insanity:Christian hate-preacher Tommy McMurtry thinks I'm multiple people, that you're all "ignoramuses," and that I unfairly edit his words (I do not).Christian hate-preacher Tommy McMurtry says gay people "should be the last people in the world" to be concerned about abortion rights because "What do they have to worry about?" His theory: "They're about promoting evil, and wickedness, and death."Christian hate-preacher Corbin Ressl unveiled his (hypothetical) campaign slogan. It's exactly what you think it is.Christian hate-preacher Corbin Ressl used his first sermon after the Supreme Court's Roe decision to argue about... its name.Christian hate-preacher Corbin Ressl wants you to know he'll never stop using anti-gay slurs from the pulpit.Christian hate-preacher David Berzins says he'll celebrate when God eventually takes vengeance on LGBTQ people. When that happens, "we're gonna walk over their ashes. And then we'll see who's 'proud.' As you're being stepped on. As your ashes are being stepped on."Christian hate-preacher Bruce Mejia says all doctors at abortion clinics "should be put to death by the government. That's what the Bible teaches."Christian hate-preacher Jared Pozarnsky says wives must obey their husbands... even for the pettiest of reasons. #SheShouldMakePancakes
This week in Atheist Bible Study? Numbers 8: It's time to set up some lamps and make the Levites feel very, very bad.
I spoke with my co-host Jessica Greiff about many of the stories in this newsletter during this week’s podcast:
I also made a video about lottery numbers because I needed an escape from All The Things:
Finally, If Jenny Nicholson’s deep dive into the Church Play Cinematic Universe doesn't make you an atheist, nothing will. Carve out some time and watch this glorious trainwreck.
That’s it for this week! Stay safe. Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Please become a full subscriber or share this with someone who may enjoy it. It would mean a lot to me :)