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Letterbox (June/July 2022)

Right-wing Catholics dominate Supreme Court

The leaked draft of the 5-4 Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is the direct result of four ultraconservative Roman Catholics on the court who were nominated and confirmed in the knowledge that they would never vote against the “sacred teachings” of “Holy Mother, the Church” and would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and vote against LGBTQ rights. The fifth vote to overturn will come from Neil Gorsuch, a former Catholic conservative who is now a Protestant conservative. 

Six of the last seven Republican Supreme Court nominees have been right-wing Catholics, even though that group comprises a small percentage of the U.S. population. These appointments and confirmations were made in direct violation of the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause.

This will be the first time in U.S. history that a constitutional right has been taken away from citizens, and not conferred on them, by the Supreme Court. There needs to be a backlash. We will no longer be a secular democracy if there are no consequences for our theocratic foes, who are just getting started.

D.M.
New York


Canadian doc led the way for legal abortions

When I was in college, my girlfriend became pregnant and had a scary and illegal abortion that was successful. In the aftermath, we wanted to be sure nothing like this ever happened again (without abstention)! 

We found Dr. Henry Morgentaler in Montreal, who discovered a way to modify a stomach pump so that is could effectively remove a fetus from the uterus. He started a clinic and, before long, had 20 clinics. Abortions were inexpensive and I never heard of any complications.

He was eventually arrested for performing abortions. Finally, in 1988, the Canadian Supreme Court overturned his criminal conviction in a precedent-making decision legalizing abortion. 

He later was the first president of the Humanist Association of Canada. Has FFRF paid tribute to this brilliant and good man? 

R.R.
California

Editor’s note: Yes, he is included in FFRF’s Freethought of the Day series. Go to ffrf.org/news/day.


Roe v. Wade decision is a religious conceit

Why is that the pending decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Roe v. Wade is characterized by the media only as a ruling by conservative justices? Let’s insert the adjective that most aptly applies — religious and in particular, Catholic and evangelical. This is the truly appalling nature of the draft Roe ruling. These justices are seeking to impose their personal religious beliefs on the country via legal rulings which will have a profound impact on certain laws and the civil rights those laws protect and uphold.

The conservative attorney general of Louisiana was recently interviewed on a PBS news program, and she could barely contain her glee over the likely Roe decision’s “protection of unborn babies.” This is an entirely religious conceit, since the medical and scientific facts have established that a fetus is not viable outside the womb prior to 24 weeks, and its removal does not constitute taking a human life.

The chilling aspect of the interview was that the attorney general made it quite obvious in her refusal to answer a direct question on the subject, that Christian nationalists like her would use the high court’s basis for overturning Roe to proceed with the removal of existing rights in other areas, such as gay marriage. And she has a lot of company. Red states are filled with many office holders on the local and national level who would like nothing better than to replace our democratic republic with a theocracy, and to hell with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

If all of this is not sufficient to fully galvanize the pro-choice voters throughout the country, it will be very surprising. Hope springs eternal.

M.C.
California


Candidate’s slogan could be read differently   

Looking at Georgia governor candidate Kandis Taylor’s campaign slogan, I think some people might not notice that “Jesus Guns Babies” is actually a well-formed sentence. I wonder if she is going to make a drawing of him using an AR-15 in a delivery room. 

R.B.
South Carolina


Hutchinson speech was off-putting to this member

It takes a lot to get me to sit down and write a letter to the editor of my oldest and favorite charity. But the proverbial straw finally broke this camel’s back.

I found the March 2022 convention speech article, “Check your white privilege, freethinkers,” by Sikivu Hutchinson to be disturbing, distasteful, condescending and needlessly accusatory.

The irony was absolutely surrealistic:  A preacher of the new religion of woke racism and identity politics preaching dogma, original sin and hellfire to an audience of mostly liberal, mature white atheists. 

While I do recognize the good works and intentions of Hutchinson, was the language of blame and excoriation necessary or advisable? 

A.Z.
Florida


We have to prepare for post-Roe response

An errand unavoidably led me past a Crisis Pregnancy Center located a block from where I live. A scene playing out in the parking lot gave the impression of a patient who fled the clinic moments before and was pursued by a clinic worker. Neither woman had a coat on in the freezing February weather. A wild-eyed expression of shock and panic was on the young woman’s face.  

I wondered what medical lie, conversion tactic or heavy-handed adoption ultimatum by the Crisis Pregnancy Center had compelled her fight-or-flight reaction. In a microsecond, I silently cheered the young woman’s instinct to flee, and considered some sort of intervention. My decision, derived from reading Robin Marty’s Handbook for a Post-Roe America, was to step back and live to fight another day. The instant I got home I made another donation to Women’s Medical Fund.

Not long afterward, I read Barbara Alvarez’s article about Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The implications of that article reinforced my decision to disengage.  

It is obvious that we will all need to cultivate canniness and caution in action and speech. We will need a clear understanding of if, when and how much private or public advocacy is a match for individual levels of jeopardy. 

As a pragmatic optimist, I wonder how to respond in favor of abortion access in an environment of post-Roe criminalization. It would gall me to miss a single opportunity to speak up! I am counting on FFRF to frame the discussion in its customary ethical and legal contexts. Thank you for keeping the discussion alive.

I think about the young woman frequently, and hope that everything ended well for her.

S.P.
Wisconsin


‘Godly’ school board member should resign

I am appalled that Miami-Dade School Board member Lubby Navarro not only proposes school prayer, but proclaims that “Jesus is the only God”! Apparently, Navarro is unfamiliar with American history and democracy. She should read the writings of the Founding Fathers (who were largely deist), which clearly opposed government mandates of religion and advocated separation of church and state. The United States was founded as, and is, constitutionally a secular nation.

Freedom of religion allows Navarro to practice her religion as she sees fit, but it does not sanction imposing her beliefs on others who do not share them. Freedom from religion is equally important as freedom of religion. It is not just question of minority religions being affected, but also a large number of Americans who are nonbelievers. 

The only decent thing for the school board to do is to ask for her resignation.

R.G.
Florida


A simpler explanation for Mary’s pregnancy 

Although Gary Larson’s “Quick summary of a current belief system” [in the April issue] is very good, I have had some thoughts, perhaps inspired by God, but probably just my reaction considering Occam’s razor: The simplest explanation is usually correct. 

I don’t think Joseph would have accepted Mary’s explanation. She was a young girl who was being taken care of by a Jewish facility and a powerful religious official in the facility had impregnated her. In order to keep his position and avoid stoning, the official concocted a story which claimed God impregnated Mary. Coming from him, that would be acceptable to Joseph (and everyone else). Then Mary and Joseph married and traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem so his friends would be none the wiser.

Another item useful to developing Christianity is the idea that Mary actually had twins — two identical boys (see the Acts of Thomas). Although the details were not released to me, I could easily devise a story where no one knew there were two of Jesus, where the second Jesus still lived in Bethlehem, and only showed up in Jerusalem three days after hearing about the crucifixion of his brother. Now there’s no need for miracles.

J.D.  
Florida


Religious demonstrations are always Christian

In all the debate over separation of church and state, and over school prayers, crosses on government land, slabs of commandments in court rooms and the like, it strikes me it may be easier to win the cases by pointing out that these public demonstrations of religion are particular for one religion, namely Christianity. It should be blindingly obvious to any pro-democracy Christian politician or judge that government favoritism to one religion can never be condoned as we are not a Christian theocracy. What people do in private is different, of course. That is apart from that small matter of the Constitution.

R.G.V.D.H.
Pennsylvania


Let’s push back against religious intrusion 

I was thinking about all the different ways communities or schools are trying to push religion onto unsuspecting citizens. What if, when they send out a flyer or bible verse, another one is sent that is the antithesis to the one being sent?

I am currently in the middle of FFRF’s book, The Not So Good Book. After reading in Freethought Today of all these efforts to foist religion on the community and reading what’s stated in the book, why not show how bad the bible actually is? I understand that some areas may be off limits, especially with certain ages of kids, but I believe these fundamentalists should be battled and stood up against with their very own words. Their hypocrisy would get them into fits after people start asking questions, which would hopefully accelerate the church exodus. This would be especially emphasized with abortion. The bible states in certain verses that women and children should be killed. That’s the antithesis of their current stance on abortion. What other books reference murder and genocide in the way the bible does and are allowed on public school bookshelves?

I am getting tired and a bit jaded with all these religious fanatics getting a pulpit and not being squared up against, or, at least, some sort of national PR campaign pointing out how bad the bible is. 

My feelings are that our current state of affairs will only get worse before it gets better, but since religion has been around for this long, my thoughts turn dim on the prospect of a more positive outcome in the future.

N.B.
Oregon


FFRF at the vanguard of necessary change

I wish to thank FFRF and its new legal fellows. We, FFRF, and these law school grads are at the vanguard of the change that is so desperately needed. One day, there will be no distinctions such as LGBTQ and binary, etc. The world will come to realize that we are all people in one group and FFRF will have helped bring that about. 

L.J.
Kentucky


Column on Satan was a devilishly good read

I thoroughly enjoyed PJ Slinger’s essay about the devil in the May issue, though its many twists and turns made my head spin. You’re right, PJ, the devil’s in the humorous details. Great fun! 

G.T.
Arizona


The need for FFRF’s work is increasing

I am 82 and decided to make a legacy gift to FFRF now as the need for protection of our freedoms from theocrats in increasing. I had the good fortune to be raised by parents who did not attend church. A couple of brushes with Christianity — once in my teens and again in my mid-30s — only made me more aware of the church’s bizarre myths and extreme atrocities.

S.M.
Rhode Island 


April issue was filled with interesting info 

Once again, I found much in the April issue of Freethought Today that struck a chord with me. 

In the Letterbox, Michael Brandt suggested that those who trust in divine intervention “pay in cash and go to the back of the line” because of their effects on our health care systems. Perhaps a better solution would be simply to suggest that they be consistent in their beliefs. If they get Covid, they should continue to trust in divine intervention and stay home. Throughout the pandemic, my heart has gone out to the poor health care workers overwhelmed by caseloads of the unvaccinated and devastated by losing patients who trusted in divine intervention only until it didn’t work.

I appreciated the speech by Megan Phelps-Roper in that it gave a good example of how you “catch more flies with sugar . . .”  A respectful discussion is much more likely to cause people to question their traditions than making fun of them will.   

There was also much of interest in “In the News.” The bill allowing people to sue teachers if they offer religious views opposing those of their students might not be such a bad idea. It would only take one atheist student per classroom. Seriously, it might finally result in true separation of church and state.  Assuming that teachers have the usual mix of religions in their classrooms (even if they’re all Christian), they wouldn’t be able to say anything religious, for fear of offering a view opposed to the view of some student.

It was also interesting to learn that atheists are underrepresented in U.S. federal prisons.  Such data would be useful when speaking to those who worry about the ethics of atheists.  

Thanks for another interesting issue.  I just got my May issue today, so I will begin wending my way through it as time allows. It’s so nice to have a community of people who think the way I do.   

W.K.
Colorado


Our protests helped move prayer events

Small victories are always welcome. Last year the Warren, Mich., National Day of Prayer event was celebrated at Ascension Macomb Hospital, a Catholic hospital. This year, the National Day of Prayer in Warren will be celebrated at De La Salle High School, a Catholic high school. This is where the celebration belongs.

I think our having 25 people protest the event at the City Hall in 2019 was successful in getting this event moved to an appropriate location. Thank you for all of you who participated in the 2019 protest.

D.M.
Michigan


Don Addis cartoon book was enjoyable

We enjoyed Cartoons for the Irreverent very much. I wish Don Addis had lived to witness the Trump presidency. Endless material would have been presented for him and his pen.

S.T.
California