Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Overheard (August 2019)

Vol. 36 No. 06 August 2019

The Catholic Conference hired 39 lobbyists to work 50 senators and made sure our bill failed. They’re spending millions and millions, shutting down victims who they have damaged, they have destroyed.

Democratic Pennsylvania state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a survivor of priest abuse, talking about how the state Senate was inundated by lobbyists after the House voted to abolish the statute of limitations for child-sex-abuse crimes and expand the legal window for victims to file lawsuits against their abusers.

Pennsylvania Post, 6-8-19


Now, our party doesn’t talk about that as much, largely for a good reason which was, we are committed to the separation of church and state and stand for people for any religion and people of no religion.

But we should call out hypocrisy when we see it. And for a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that it is okay to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg during the first Democratic debate.

CNN, 6-27-19


The term “heartbeat bill” and all that it conjures — the image of a baby with a beating heart — is misleading and unscientific, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Which is why the pick up feels so insidious — we use the language because it’s what’s in front of us, and no number of “so-called”s in front of the term “heartbeat bill” can distract from the fact that it’s still a narrative shorthand meant to weaken abortion rights. But it’s time to take the narrative back, to stop describing these bans as “heartbeat bills” and describe them as what they are — arbitrary and punitive six-week abortion bans.

Writer Esther Wang, in her article “Anti-abortion extremists are controlling the narrative on ‘heartbeat bills.’”

Jezebel, 6-5-19


The death penalty has been applied to at least 222 crimes in the Anglo-American legal system, including marrying a Jew and stealing a rabbit. For a time in America, stealing grapes was punishable by death. So was witchcraft, as we know from the Salem trials . . .  Some day, I believe, Americans will look back to today’s executions just as we now look back at witch burnings and public hangings, and they will ask, What were they thinking?

Columnist Nicholas Kristof in his column, “When we kill.”

The New York Times, 6-16-19


The language of wellness isn’t just coded diet culture. It’s also encoded with religious promise.

Wellness culture may not have an established creed, but it has an implicit metaphysic. Energy — nebulously defined — runs through all things. This energy can be good or bad, depending on a variety of factors, but it’s definitely more than a little supernatural.

Tara Isabella Burton, in her column, “There’s more to wellness than looking pretty.”

Religion News Service, 6-14-19


The science is clear and conclusive: sex is not binary, transgender people are real. It is time that we acknowledge this. Defining a person’s sex identity using decontextualized “facts” is unscientific and dehumanizing. The trans experience provides essential insights into the science of sex and scientifically demonstrates that uncommon and atypical phenomena are vital for a successful living system.

Simón(e) D Sun, in the column, “Stop using phony science to justify transphobia.”

Scientific American, 6-13-19


Unfortunately, because conservatives have politicized the highest courts and turned them into rubber stamps for the GOP, the biggest factor when filing major lawsuits has to be the political makeup of the courts, not the legitimacy of your arguments. It’s too bad. . . . The government is actively discriminating against atheist groups with this law even if lawmakers never intended for that to be the case.

Hemant Mehta, on FFRF’s decision  not to challenge the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision regarding the parsonage exemption (see Page 9). 

The Friendly Atheist blog, 6-15-19


I would think Christians would rebel at the characterization of this deeply religious symbol as “secular.” Certainly, as a Jew, I do not see the cross ever as a secular symbol. It is the quintessential symbol of Christianity.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean and professor of law at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, in his column on the Supreme Court’s Bladensburg decision, calling out Justice Samuel Alito’s comment about the cross where “there are instances in which its message is now almost entirely secular.”

Sacramento Bee, 6-30-19


Most of them admitted what they did wrong, [however] there were a couple of innocents that actually died. But the public don’t care. The public’s mentality in the South is, “Kill ’em all and God will sort ’em out.”

Gary Drinkard, a member of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, which is the only anti-death-penalty organization run by death-row prisoners. Drinkard won his freedom in 2001.

The Nation, 4-4-19


If someone is not a believer, this is not helping their needs.

U.S. Circuit Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, in response to a comment by attorney Karl Myers that “This policy is intended to accommodate the spiritual needs of legislatures.” The policy in question, in front of the 3rd Circuit Court, would reverse a ruling from a year ago when a federal judge found that guest chaplains and opening invocations for the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives violated the Establishment Clause.

Courthouse News, 6-17-19