WEEK IN REVIEW: The attack on Salman Rushdie
Christians against “Wokeism,” a whoopsie Bible ban in Texas, Feds investigating Southern Baptists, and more!
Thank you for checking out this newsletter! Thank you even more if you become a full subscriber! Consider giving someone a gift subscription! Think of your friends! (Or your enemies.)
Last week, I posted a clip of a Fargo School Board meeting in North Dakota. The board was reconsidered their decision to say the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings, a “tradition” that only began in April after a former board member suggested it.
Board member Seth Holden delivered an excellent speech explaining why the religious ritual had no place in their meetings. And it worked. They voted 7-2 to stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings.
However, the backlash to that clip was fierce. Right-wing groups sent threatening messages to board members. On Thursday night, the board members held a special session to reconsider last week’s vote.
Despite some board members saying they still believed they had done the right thing, and despite one board member playing a profanity-laden voicemail she received, the board voted 8-1 to reinstate the Pledge ritual. It was a disappointing capitulation to conservative extremists.
If these board members can’t stand up against the Pledge ritual, how can students count on them to take a stand on other challenging issues that right-wing hate groups routinely mobilize against?
If nothing else, please listen to that clip from last night. Nyamal Dei, the Black woman who shared the voicemail, was the only person with the courage to vote against the reinstatement of the Pledge.
For anyone interested, I will be speaking at the following places in the coming weeks. Tickets for the conferences are still available!
August 26-28: BAHACon (Sarnia, Ontario)
September 3: Kentucky Freethought Convention (Louisville, KY). Use promo code “FRIENDLY” for a discount!
September 24-25: 3rd International Humanism Conference on Social Justice (Toronto, Ontario)
October 30: Houston Oasis (Houston, Texas)
On a personal note, if any of you enjoy the New York Times’ crosswords, Saturday’s puzzle (released late tonight!), is written by yours truly.
I hope you enjoy it… or that it breaks your streaks (because I’m evil like that).
As always, I appreciate your support through Patreon and Substack, which allows me to pursue these efforts while working on articles and other projects.
And now on with the news…
Last Friday, Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses and someone who has faced death threats for decades, was attacked during an event in New York. While he appears to be on the mend, the long-term physical damage appears to be serious. The incident also suggests that old fatwas never die in the minds of religious extremists… assuming that’s the motive.
The attack should remind all of us that blasphemy is a victimless crime and that free speech, especially when it challenges tradition, must be defended at all costs. There are plenty of outlets for criticism, too. Reacting with censorship or violence, however, should be condemned by all decent people.
The Keller Independent School District (ISD) in Texas banned the Bible in school… at least temporarily. And we have conservative Christians to thank for it.
Since last October, conservative parents have demanded that certain books be censored and kept away from students because they include content deemed too mature for their eyes. 33 books were challenged by parents and community members, including a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and “The Bible (All Versions).”
The district formed a special committee to review everything on the list, and over the course of months, they removed some books from circulation while others remained in place. But according to an email sent to all principals on Tuesday from an administrator, all challenged books were to be pulled from the library and classrooms by the end of the day… even the ones that previously passed the committee’s review.
That meant saying bye-bye to the Bible. (All Versions.)
To quote a former Texas governor, “Oops.”
On her new MSNBC show, host Alex Wagner did a deep dive into Florida's public school Christian Nationalist indoctrination program:
Remember the abortion referendum in Kansas, where Republicans framed reproductive rights in the most confusing possible way and scheduled the vote during a primary for the midterms, in the hopes that the chaos would benefit the anti-abortion side? And how, despite all that, the abortion rights side won by a large margin?
Well, an article in the Christian Post blames the pro-abortion side for all that.
I feel like I update this story in a significant way every newsletter…
Last month, I wrote about how the Hays USD 489 school district in Kansas was on the verge of changing its dress code which banned students from wearing clothes endorsing “Satanism.” It happened after a parent, who happened to be a member of The Satanic Temple, urged the school board to revise the student handbook. Great news!
But then, two weeks ago, when the board finally had a chance to adopt a revised dress code, it voted 5-2 against doing so. Horrible idea. I even made a video about it:
Enter the whiplash.
Earlier this week, after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the district vowing to take legal action, the school board voted 6-1 to repeal the Satanism ban.
Had the school board just listened to the Satanic mother, this drama could’ve been avoided. Instead, they fought for religious supremacy, got called out on it publicly, and caved when they realized how wrong they were.
Moral of the story: When a Satanist tells you to do something, just obey.
The state of Arkansas is $16,000 poorer after State Senator Jason Rapert agreed to a settlement in his legal battle to avoid online criticism from atheists. Rapert had previously blocked atheist constituents on social media on his personal account, but because that doubled as his public account, he’s not allowed to do that.
American Atheists explained all this to him, but Rapert’s ego refused to budge. And now, after losing the Republican gubernatorial primary, he’s taken another blow.
Please send him all your thoughts and prayers.
Carlton Funderburke, the pastor of Church at the Well in Kansas City, Missouri, told his congregation in a now-viral sermon from August 7 that he was disgusted with them because they weren’t giving him enough cash to let him buy everything he wanted… including a luxury watch.
He’s not even hiding the grift. He doesn’t want money to help the congregation, or to renovate the church, or to spread the Gospel, or to donate to charity. He wants money for purely selfish reasons.
He has since issued an apology… but if he really meant it, he would have explained in depth why he said those things and how he plans to rectify the situation.
Chris and Lindsay Kinman worked for a Christian ministry in jobs they absolutely loved… until people there found out they had a trans son. The Kinmans had to decide what meant more to them: their religious principles or their transgender child. They chose their child.
That’s the summary of what’s supposed to be a heartwarming story by Mark Wingfield in Baptist News Global. Earlier in the piece, we’re told, “This is a story about the power of parental love.” But after reading the whole thing, it’s hard to come away with a smile. I explained my concerns here.
You'll never hear Christian Nationalists say they want to spread the gospel by going on mission trips or running a church. They're only interested in using political power to block civil rights, ruin public education, and hurt the poor.
Take it from the Sage of Twitter, @dril:
The Department of Justice, which has had a surprisingly busy couple of weeks, is now investigating the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, for sexual abuse. That’s according to the SBC leaders themselves, who announced last Friday that an investigation was taking place and that they’d fully cooperate.
Why is DoJ interfering in a religious denomination? Simply put, there’s a lot of reporting that shows the SBC has overlooked or mishandled allegations of sexual abuse for decades. If they can’t police themselves, then their religious beliefs shouldn’t shield them from further scrutiny.
It’ll take a while to see where this investigation leads, but more power to the DoJ for not shying away from this issue just because it involves a powerful Christian group.
Naturally, hate-group leader Tony Perkins is very upset about this development:
As someone who posts a lot of videos of Pastors Behaving Badly, I frequently hear criticism that I am focusing too much on the fringes of evangelical Christianity.
Well, you can’t really get more mainstream than Ed Young, the senior pastor of Fellowship Church in Texas. It’s one of the largest churches in the country and Young fits the profile of every stereotypical white evangelical pastor.
On Sunday, Young delivered an entire sermon denouncing “wokeism.” Or at least his version of it.
He took a right-wing exaggeration of the term, spread that lie to the congregation, and completely ignored the basis of why people are concerned about racial injustice.
This is what mainstream Christianity is doing. Is it any wonder that Christian Nationalists keep accumulating power?
I made you a video about conservative Christian furries. You’re welcome, America.
Remember the Associated Press story about the Mormon Church’s “Help Line” that allows child sexual abuse to go unreported to authorities?
Not only has the Mormon Church responded in the weakest possible way, a judge has rejected the LDS Church’s claim that they should be exempt from mandated reporting by virtue of their faith.
South Dakota’s Gov. Kristi Noem, a conservative Republican who’s leaned hard into right-wing rhetoric, released a new set of social studies standards for public schools that promotes Christian Nationalism without ever saying it outright. The standards treat Jesus as a real-life historical figure, say the Founding Fathers believed in “an eternal God” who created a standard of justice in nature, and downplay the nation’s embrace of slavery and systemic racism.
What else would you expect when the standards were put together by her GOP allies, the director of the South Dakota Catholic Conference, and shepherded by William Morrisey, a former Hillsdale College professor. (Hillsdale College has become a clearhouse for conservative propaganda and David Barton-esque misinformation.)
Over a decade ago, a Christian preacher named Harold Camping predicted the End Times would occur… on May 21, 2011. He was wrong. (It was actually Election Day, 2016.) Camping died a couple years later, but his ministry is still going strong, apparently.
An independent review of abuse and misconduct by New Zealand’s ARISE Church has finally been leaked online after repeated attempts by church leaders to formally suppress the material. The report, which was put together after speaking with 545 people connected to the evangelical megachurch, details numerous instances of sexual and physical abuse, financial shenanigans, and straight-up racism. It also calls on the church’s entire board to resign.
Maybe the most damning fact is that the investigation only occurred after an independent journalist, David Farrier, began sharing stories of former church members.
That led to hearing more stories… which led to mainstream attention… which led to the church promising to undertake a real investigation. Only now are we starting to see the fallout. And it never would’ve happened if the church was left to police itself.
I can only think of two religious controversies involving grapes.
One is the debate over what radical Islamic terrorists believe they will receive in Heaven.
The other is what evangelist Beth Moore tweeted weeks ago, about how she planted grapes that looked so good, she was crushing on God. That turn of phrase infuriated some Southern Baptist leaders so much, it became a huge thing.
American Atheists has released the latest analysis from its massive U.S. Secular Survey, this time on LGBTQ atheists specifically. They found “LGBTQ nonreligious people face more stigma and discrimination in various areas of their lives simply for being nonreligious than their non-LGBTQ peers.” If you appreciate data, and you know you do, give this a read.
The Christian grifters trying to launch a “pro-life” bank are still pretending it’s gonna happen.
Creationist Kent Hovind thinks this is helping.
One Million Moms, which is really just one mom, is very upset about a commercial for trimming your balls.
I cannot believe it’s the Year of Our Lord 2022 and Andy Wood, the guy taking over Rick Warren’s megachurch, still has no idea that Mark Driscoll is an emotionally abusive preacher whose Bible is covered up with red flags.
But at least the people commenting on this tweet let him know it.
On Twitter, Carlos A. Rodriguez asked people to share stories of the worst church service they’d ever attended. Thousands of people responded. I compiled their stories here. Based on the responses, it seems like a lot of the horror stories aren’t unique at all.
Fundamentalist Christian grandmother Lori Alexander, a.k.a. The Transformed Wife,
The people who think The Flintstones is a documentary have a new toy:
Speaking of Creationists, attendance at Ark Encounter sharply dropped this past July compared to the same time period a year ago. The numbers are significantly lower than before the pandemic.
And now for your weekly dose of fundie insanity:
This week in Atheist Bible Study? Numbers 15: We're down to two scouts, Caleb and Joshua. You would think it's finally time to invade. But nope! God needs to remind us of all the rules. Again.
I spoke with my co-host Jessica Greiff about many of the stories in this newsletter during this week’s podcast:
Finally, we have a new nickname for them:
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 :)