Fighting for Equality: Religious Freedom and LGBTQ Advocacy with Alison Gill

We talk to Alison Gill from American Atheists about religious freedom and the attacks on the LGBTQ community by Christian Nationalists

Episode 59: Fighting for Equality: Religious Freedom and LGBTQ Advocacy with Alison Gill

Join us for a riveting discussion with Allison Gill, Vice President of Legal and Policy for American Atheists. Listen in as we discuss the mission of American Atheists and their ongoing fight for religious equality. We also touch on the case of an incarcerated person in West Virginia being forced to undergo religious substance abuse treatment in order to qualify for parole, as well as a Fifth Circuit case in Mississippi on the state’s license plate motto reading “In God We Trust”.

We also discuss American Atheists’ state scorecards, which provide benchmarks across states and show how many states have or don’t have certain protections in place. We explore how these scorecards differ from a voter’s guide and how they are used for advocacy purposes. Additionally, we touch on the tactic of filing a First Amendment lawsuit against abortion bans and why it is not always ideal.

Finally we examine the idea of Third Party Harm and how granting religious exemptions can be destructive and favor some religions over others. We highlight the importance of seeking help from organizations such as the National Suicide Helpline and the Trevor Project in light of the coordinated attack on the trans community happening in Ohio.

01:00 Episode Note
02:45 American Atheists mission to defend religious freedom
11:46 State Score Cards
17:43 Using the 1st amendment to protect abortion rights
20:30 Third party harm and religious freedom
26:12 Religious Extremism Targeting the LGBTQ Community
36:30 How to contact American Atheists if you believe your rights were violated

Our Guest

Alison Gill – Vice President, Legal and Policy at American Atheists

Alison Gill manages American Atheists’ federal and state advocacy for religious equality and litigation activities to protect the separation of religion and government. Alison is a nationally recognized expert on civil rights law and state advocacy.

Prior to her work with American Atheists, Alison worked as a consultant to nonprofits focusing on advocacy strategy and systemic change and as Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, where she managed state-level advocacy on issues such as conversion therapy, bullying prevention, education discrimination, health and wellness, youth homelessness, and data collection.


American Atheists

American Atheists Sues West Virginia for Forcing Religion on Incarcerated People

American Atheists Claims Victory for Removal of “In God We Trust” from Mississippi’s Standard License Plate

New Report Forecasts Christian Nationalist Movement’s State-Level Strategy in 2023

Ohio’s 2022 Religious Freedom Scorecard

Groff v. DeJoy (2023)


Read full transcript here


[0:00] This is Glass City Humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values, by a humanist.

[0:10] Here is your host, Douglas Berger. We talked to Allison Gill of American Atheists about her group’s mission to fight for equality for the non-religious, how states are doing with laws that affect religious freedom, and, then we discussed the coordinated attack on the LGBTQ community by Christian nationalists in state legislatures. Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow.

[0:40] Music.

[1:00] Before we get started with the interview that I did with Allison Gill of American Atheist, I just wanted to give a brief update on a couple of items that she talks about. This interview was recorded couple of court cases. One is Miller versus Marshall in West Virginia and that is the prisoner who was being required to participate in religious services in order to be considered for parole. That particular case is still being adjudicated and I checked on it just the other day and it is due to be in court in the later part of June for the first court case in federal court.

[1:50] The other court case that she talked about was the license plate case in Mississippi, where their standard plate had, in God we trust, and in order to get a plate that did not say that, they would charge you extra money for it. And so they had filed a lawsuit back in 2021, and the state of Mississippi recently in May decided to change their standard plate to a blank plate so it will no longer say in God we trust. So they won that case without actually going to trial. So I just wanted to kind of point that out before the interview. And, you know, that’s the that’s one of the problems with having interviews with people, with, you know, current current events, talking about current events, because the current events can change. And I just wanted to point that out.

[2:45] Our guest today is Alison Gill. She is the vice president, legal and policy for American atheists. She manages American Atheists Federal and State Advocacy for Religious Equality and Litigation Activities to Protect the Separation of Religion and Government.

[3:02] And she is a nationally recognized expert on civil rights law and state advocacy. So thank you for joining us today. Thank you so much for having me.

[3:11] How I want to get started is comic book fans love a good origin story. How did you come to work for American Atheists? What’s your origin story? Sure. Well, I spent several years, uh working on civil rights issues as part of the lgbtq movement, Um, I first started working for example at glisten the gay lesbian straight education network on education issues, And then I worked at the trevor project which focuses on lgbtq suicide and also at the human rights campaign For a while, which is a larger lgbtq organization focused on on civil rights issues. And so, you know, there’s a lot of overlap between secular issues and LGBTQ issues because frankly, a lot of the animus against LGBTQ people is driven by religion. And a lot of the attacks on their equality are rooted in the same sort of religious oppression that we see attacking church-state separation. So it really is the same fight from a different angle. And it’s one of the reasons I feel like it’s so important that we work with and build coalitions with other movements, including the reproductive justice movement, including LGBTQ organizations, and even moderate religious groups that are willing to support religious equality and sure state separation. We really do need to build those bridges if we’re gonna be successful.

[4:31] And what is the mission of American Atheists? Sure, so American Atheists is a national civil rights organization, and through a variety of methods, including advocacy, education, organizing, and supporting local communities, strive to sort of get rid of the stigma against atheists in America, and also to make sure that there is appropriate separation of religion and government, and religious equality for everybody. And you handle the federal and state advocacy and litigation activities. What kind of things does that entail? What do you do for American atheists?

[5:13] Sure, so I oversee our litigation and also our advocacy and, you know. It’s quite a bit, so it’s hard to encapsulate succinctly, but feel free to delve in further. But we’re tracking, we engage in advocacy all across the country in state legislatures. There’s so many bad bills right now that we’re tracking, almost 1,500 across the country. And so we engage advocates on the ground to go testify against them. We submit our own written testimony. We send action alerts out to our constituents to get them to reach out to lawmakers. And we try to push back against the negative bills and support the positive bills. And as part of those efforts, we actually work with lawmakers to introduce good legislation as well.

[5:56] That’s at the state level. At the national level, we also engage in advocacy around different rules that come out. Previously, we opposed a lot coming out from the Trump administration, and now we’re supporting some of the rules coming out from the Biden administration. So that involves like legal analysis of the rules, giving the agencies feedback on them and engaging constituents to give what they think about the rules to the different agencies. And also we of course do litigation. And so we have several different cases. Our most recent one we brought in West Virginia, we just filed it just this month actually, was on behalf of an incarcerated person who was being forced by the state to undergo religious substance abuse treatment in order to qualify for parole.

[6:47] So basically he’s not able to get parole at all unless he agrees to the sort of state enforced indoctrination which is completely unconstitutional. And we think we have a very strong case there. And we’re also appealing another case based out of Mississippi to the fifth circuit. And so we’re just getting ready. The brief on that appeal is due next month. And that’s a case where Mississippi basically has one license plate. And it says, in God we trust on it, on the state seal. And if you’re an atheist or a non-religious person, you might not want in God we trust on your license plate. And you don’t have a choice. You have to pay money to get a different license plate, like a specialty license plate. And that’s only certain people can do that. If you have a motorcycle, for example, that’s not even an option. So basically, they’re forcing everybody to have in God we trust on their license plate, which there’s good Supreme Court case law saying, the state can’t force you to use your car as a moving billboard for their message, which is exactly what’s going on here. So at the district court level, the court agreed with us, but they said, well, you can just cover it up with tape or something. And we don’t think that’s good enough. We don’t think that’s good enough because then people still know you’re taking a stance, because you have tape on your license plate. I mean, it’s still saying something. The state is still forcing you to say something. So we’re appealing that and we think we have a good shot.

[8:16] Yeah, and also what they do is then they try to get a court the court agrees that the religious phrase is just Generic, it’s just right aspirational. Of course, you know, it’s not forcing you to pray or anything because they did that with Ohio’s motto.

[8:33] Ten years was it 20 years ago something like that. Yeah. Yeah, it’s just like as long as you don’t say it’s from the Bible It’s just generic. Well part of the problem is it’s been challenging for for atheists and non-religious people to get into court to even challenges in God We Trust laws because you have to show when you go to court how this is hurting you. And if it’s just on the money or if it’s on the motto but it’s not affecting you directly, it’s sometimes hard to show that in order to get into court. But here we have the court saying, you have to have on your car this message or else you have to pay money. So there’s a substantial financial cost involved. So it’s easier for us to show harm here because the state is only giving you one option. And we have a really good, there’s a great Supreme Court case right on topic called Maynard v. Woolley, which is out of New Hampshire, which required all the license plates to have live free or die. And there was a religious plaintiff who said, well, it’s not acceptable to me. I don’t agree with that message. And they won. And that’s basically the Supreme Court said you can’t force the message on somebody. So, you know, we have very similar, very similar case.

[9:46] Yeah, I’ve just been used to secular people taking it on the chin with those kinds of cases where, they don’t believe that something could be harmful to us, but a religious person says, well, that’ll make me support gay marriage. And they’re like, oh, yeah, you’re right. Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, here it’s not really an issue about the phrase or what people think about it. I mean, the issue is that they’re making us say it regardless of what they think it means. We think it’s objectionable, right? So that’s what the issue is. So regardless of whether it’s a religious phrase or not, it’s not really the issue. So you mentioned that there’s over 1,500, bills in state legislatures, and we’ve had some really terrible cases being decided into the Supreme Court recently. Yeah. And so in your opinion, do you think that separation of church and state is imperiled? It’s gone beyond imperiled. I wish I could say it was imperiled. It’s been eradicated. It’s been destroyed. We have to rebuild the wall of separation between church and state at this stage because this Supreme Court, especially in the last term, has made it.

[10:59] Unfeasible to enforce almost all types of church-state separation law in court. So it’s, you know, they’ve really gone past the deep end. It’s into the extreme. And things that a decade ago were forbidden, such as, you know, for example, the state giving money for, I don’t know, for a school to rebuild their playground, right, a religious school, are now required. They sort, of flip this, the First Amendment on its head and said, you know, instead of saying, well, this protects against church-state entanglement, now it requires it. So it’s pretty outrageous, and I think there’s a lot of work to be done and it has to start with, frankly, court reform.

[11:46] Now, back in January, American Atheists released their state scorecards for 2022, listing many issues of concern about church and state, and how each state fares or how they’re matching up. Right. Can you tell us what the scorecards mean and how they were created? What was the process that you went through to create these? Sure. So this is, I believe, the fifth iteration of this report. And each year we, well, we basically looked at a whole host of different varieties of laws that impact church-state separation and religious equality. And we’ve refined this every year in each report and look at like what’s prominent that year, new developments in the law and what’s coming up and modify it. And you know, we try to do a balance between how many issues we can fit in the scorecards versus, you know, how and also try to identify the issues that are of most importance and relevance.

[12:45] To the things we’re concerned about. So, you know, we break it up into four categories, education and youth, health care, special privileges for religion, and constitutional non-discrimination protections. So, we break it up in those different categories and we we sort of create, we need to dichotomize the laws. Like it’s sometimes difficult because laws can be sort of vague or nebulous sometimes. So we try to create standards where you would say, okay does this law qualify or not? How do we say yes or no on this issue? Do these protections exist to us enough to call it yes or is it too ambiguous? And so that’s the challenging part when designing a scorecard like this. Like how do we take this complex set of laws all across the states, every state plus DC and Puerto Rico and make it into a system where we can say yes or no consistently for every state. And it’s challenging. I think we’ve reached a good place over the years and I’m really pleased with how this has turned out. Yeah, I printed out the one for Ohio and I’ll put it in the show notes and put a link to the website. Terrific. Yeah, that’s what they look like when you print them out.

[13:58] It’s at slash states if anybody else wants to take a look. Right, and I was interested in it because you not only mark the bad ones and you mark the good ones, but you mark the ones that are bad, that maybe don’t exist yet, and you mark the good ones that don’t exist yet. So, for example, in Ohio, we don’t have recognition for secular celebrants, even though we’ve been trying to do that for 10-20 years. Right. And so, on the printed-out card, it’s a green triangle that’s open. Right. So, we’re trying to provide a benchmark across states and show, okay, how many states have each of these things or don’t have them. And that way we can compare how the states, what their laws look like across different issues and also categorize them. And this is a little bit subjective, but we group them based into three major categories. You know, those who have the most protections for church-state separation, those who have moderate protections, and those who have a lot of religious exemptions and very few protections for church-state separation. And I’m sorry to say, Ohio does fall into the last category, as you probably know, living there. Right, yes, it’s definitely in the bad, majority bad spot, for sure. And I did have a question about that.

[15:27] The color scheme, and I’m sorry, it wasn’t green, it was blue, you know, the blue was the good stuff, red was the bad stuff. Was that a conscious decision, like signal, you know, virtual signaling that? It’s just, not particularly, it’s just that red is usually associated with danger and that sort of thing. So we thought blue is usually associated with health and safety. So I think it’s just sort of a… If you’re asking if it’s political, the answer is no. Okay. Even though it talks about politics, that’s not the decision. Sure, but America is a non-profit, so we take no stance on political, electoral issues. Although we talk about issues, so this is an issue-based brief, and we are not making any comments on political races or anything like that. All right, so that leads me into my next question. Sure. We are aware that some religious groups released voter guides.

[16:21] How is this, how are these scorecards different than a voter’s guide? Sure, these are different from a voter guide in that this is purely issue-based. We’re educating about issues in every state and existing laws. This has nothing to do with who’s supporting laws, who’s against laws. It has nothing to do, we don’t call out any, you know, any particular candidates who are for or against different issues. This is about education on what the state of the law is. And it’s really meant not for political purposes, it’s meant for advocacy purposes. Because an advocacy, like a group in Ohio that wants to really engage and work on secular issues could pick up this scorecard and say, okay, this is what we need to work against that already exists. And this is what we need to work to pass because we’ve laid it all out, like these are the major issues. So it’s helpful to provide some guidance about how the state compares to other states and maybe a road map for the future.

[17:18] And have you gotten any feedback from state legislators or anybody like that about these scorecards? Not usually state legislators, but sometimes advocates in the states and also partner organizations that we work with sometimes give us feedback. But I know a lot of advocates are very pleased with it and it’s a helpful resource and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback over it.

[17:43] Now, Americans United for Separation of Church and State recently partnered with some faith groups in Missouri to file a First Amendment lawsuit against their abortion ban there in that state. Do you agree with that tactic? And do you believe that that is, I mean, you mentioned it before that a lot of these extremist laws are rooted in religious belief, but do you believe that that’s a good tactic to make a First Amendment case out of abortion bans? Sure, so it’s a little bit more complicated than that. So I’m just gonna differentiate it because there’s some cases, like for example, there’s some cases in Florida where they’ve passed onerous abortion bans. And those cases we have religious leaders saying, okay, well, I deserve an exemption from this law, and the people I’m serving, our religion, because it violates our beliefs. So they’re using free exercise arguments. This violates our beliefs, so we deserve an exemption from it, right?

[18:46] And we don’t support that position because frankly, we don’t think people should be exempt from the law based on their beliefs. And also, if that succeeds, and it’s good if it gets somebody access to reproductive care, right? But even if that succeeds, that means only religious people have access to reproductive care and not non-religious people. So we don’t like that tactic very much.

[19:10] That’s not to say it’s never a good tactic, but it’s not ideal, certainly. This case in Missouri is not the same tactic. They are looking at the Missouri Constitution, which has an establishment clause like provision, just like the federal constitution and the First Amendment. It establishes separation of church and state. They’re basically saying, listen, when they passed this bill, they made it very, very clear this was a religious bill. They talked about God being the author of life. They had all these religious statements that are in the bill’s record. They made it very clear. This is all about religion. They’re taking their religion and codifying in the law. And like they have separation of church and state and they have this constitutional protection. So basically the lawsuit is saying, it’s not a free exercise argument. It’s saying you are establishing Christianity as the law through passing this bill. And so that is, it’s a different argument. And I think it’s a strong argument in Missouri. I’m not sure it worked at the national level because of rulings that Supreme Court has previously made, which I can go into if you’d like. But in Missouri, relying on their state constitution, I think it’s a stronger case. So yeah, I do think it’s a good avenue and I think it’s definitely worth pursuing.

[20:30] Okay, I’m gonna throw a curve ball at you here. My fiance and I were discussing this the other night And we were talking about laws that have been made or policies that have been made.

[20:44] Because of somebody’s religious beliefs. Yes. And one of the things we were talking about is polygamy in Utah. Yep. Obviously, polygamy was outlawed because they were Mormons. Right at the time. That’s that was their impetus. I mean, I’m not sure you could make arguments Okay, right. Yeah, and so and so we were trying to think you know, how how we could.

[21:14] Tell people or explain to people why that is still a good thing to do To not allow it, In such that it harms other people So when you have somebody wanting a vaccine exemption, because of their religious beliefs, and they come back with, well, you’re preventing me from practicing my religion, what they fail to acknowledge is that their religious belief could potentially harm another person. Absolutely. So do you think that that would be, because you get that a lot, at least I’m sure you’ve experienced it, where, you know, like the Blaine Amendments were obviously passed because they didn’t want Catholics to get tax money. Well, that’s debatable. That was the argument. It’s already debatable. Right. That was the argument. But we learned, though, that it still was good for everybody else to have church and state separation.

[22:19] So am I, like, totally out of it? Sure, I wouldn’t frame the no-aid clauses in state constitutions, what you’re talking about, as, you know, meant to attack Catholics. I think that they were meant to sort of ensure that public schools are not sort of sectarian. But I think, you know, that’s sort of a framing that the right has used in cases such as the Espinoza case, which I think it’s wrong historically and also destructive because many of these proceed that whole debate in our politics. But I’m sorry, so you’re basically, I think you’re talking about what we often call third-party harm, which is when the state grants exemptions from the law, religious exemptions, that then have a blowback, have an impact on third parties. And like, is that appropriate? And we would say no.

[23:14] Now, there’s some Supreme Court guidance saying that, you know, the state has to sort of take account of that, that they can’t just grant broad-ranging religious exemptions that impact other people because that’s favoring some religions over others, right, and favoring some people over others and some beliefs over others. And we think that’s good law. Under this Supreme Court, how does that fare? I can’t say. I’m not sure that they would agree that’s still good law because it stops them from upholding Christian supremacy, which they clearly want to do. So, I guess that’s a short answer to your question.

[23:51] Yeah, and we kind of have we kind of see a little bit of that in that current case that’s been that was heard this the session, as the postal worker, wanting to have Sundays off, and how that would potentially harm his co workers, because they would have to cover for him. And what if they all wanted Sunday off? Well, they can’t all get Sunday off. Right? And so it’s just, it’s not just an accommodation issue, you know, you’re talking about, you know, affecting the lives of more than just one person.

[24:28] That’s exactly right. Yeah, that’s the Groff v. DeJoy case, where there was just oral arguments before the Supreme Court. We did submit an amicus brief in that, along with the Center for Inquiry. And so, you know, you’re right. I mean, this has an impact on other people. It has an impact not only on the business that the religious folks are trying to get exemptions or accommodations from the business. It has an impact on the business. It also has an impact on coworkers. And so that’s why previously there was good law saying, OK, well, you have to consider accommodations when requests come in based on the Title VII, which has to do with employment discrimination.

[25:12] You have to consider accommodations for religion. But if they are a burden, if they are more than what they call a de minimis expense, which means more than a little, like a significant expense, then basically they don’t have to be granted. They can work out a different accommodation or no accommodation if there’s nothing possible. So that seems to us like a reasonable standard, but now it’s under threat. And in its place, we could end up with a rule where there’s heightened protections for religious people. But of course, there’s no checking on that. So you might end up in a place where, OK, well, anybody can say that their religion is they don’t get to work on Saturdays or Sundays. And how does a business function? Or you might end up in a place where, guess what? Secular people don’t say these things. They’re the only people that are required to work, which is completely unfair. And we made that point. But it’s no way to run a pluralistic society for the government to favor some religions over others, to say these people must get accommodation, And it doesn’t matter if those people suffer for it. For several years now, American atheists have kept us informed about a religious lobby effort called Project Blitz.

[26:20] And where a shadowy group wrote the laws that members of that group then introduced into state houses across the country. And it was just happenstance that somebody found out about it because they released their playbook or something on the internet. Right, right.

[26:36] I know that there’s at least another religious group that’s similar to that that’s working against transgender community. They’re called Promise to America’s Children. Yeah. How can we root out these extremists and expose them and uncover their Christian nationalist pals in the legislature at the same time? Is there an easy way of doing it or things that we could be doing to try to work that out? I think that was done for Project Blitz, and I don’t know if I’d qualify it as easy. It requires enough interest from the media and exposure for it to just catch in the in the media and that doesn’t always happen. It did for Project Blitz because this was significant. And if you wanna learn more about Project Blitz, by the way, please go to where we have a website with numerous other organizations basically opposing Project Blitz, so which talks more about it. And so there was just, I guess, really good timing on that. We found out about this effort, able to highlight it in the media and there was all enough interest in it. These laws were sweeping the country, mostly In God We Trust in schools laws, Bible class laws.

[27:53] And numerous others like ones that undermine non-discrimination provisions, ones that allow religious adoption organizations to discriminate, and several others. And because they were all happening at once, they were seeing so many bills, and there was attention being paid to this clear connection between them, I think there was enough exposure that it caught the media’s notice. Now, is that always going to be the case? I don’t think so. I mean, it’s hard to say, for example, the anti-trans panic we’re seeing across the country is driven by this one organization. There’s so much of it happening, and it’s hard to all piece back to this one group. So in the same way, it’s not as easy to point fingers, I think, in that case, because it’s just like it seems to be well-funded and all over certain media, and seems to be the thing that one of our major political parties is running on. So it’s not really as self-contained as into some of these other issues. All right. Well, here in Ohio, we’ve been witnessing a coordinated attack on the trans community. Yeah. Led by people like Representative Jenna Powell and Gary Glick, who is from our neck of the woods in Fremont. I see. These extremist bills that would attempt to ban gender-affirming care and trans women from playing in women’s sports do real harm. Absolutely. And a friend of mine actually commented that she thought that it would lead us to a road of fascism.

[29:21] Can you talk me back from that ledge and tell me that’s just some wild conspiracy theory or that I’m being hysterical? I don’t think either of those is true. You’re not being hysterical and it’s not a conspiracy theory. I mean, this is a core component of fascism is finding a vulnerable minority to scapegoat in order to distract from real issues, including poverty, including social.

[29:47] Issues that affect people’s real lives. Instead of dealing with actual issues, they’re able to do this sort of blame circus. And we’ve seen it before when you have a small, disempowered minority. That is the focus. There’s over 800 bills targeting LGBTQ people across the country right now in different states. And over 500 of them, 500 of them are targeting trans people specifically. And what percentage of the population is trans? Maybe 1% at most? It’s a small percentage. So you have… Yeah, very small. Yes, that huge number of bills targeting this small group, which frankly, is politically not very powerful. And, you know, and we’re ending up in a situation where they are the thing anybody ever talks about, which is harmful. I mean, frankly, when the situation, you know, it’s very harmful for young people. There’s been a spike in, you know, young people being more suicidal behavior, including, you know, thinking about suicide, that sort of thing. And if, by the way, if anyone does hear about this and you are thinking about suicide, please contract the National Suicide Helpline or the Trevor Project. They all have ways that you can reach out to for help. But you know, that sort of concentration and focused hatred and stigma is a core component of fascism, and it is something that we are seeing across the country. So it’s very scary to me, especially as a trans person. It’s very scary. And I just, I don’t know.

[31:14] I can’t imagine how it must be for some of these people in some of these states, especially where they’re passing these laws and let’s say you’re a, parent of a trans child and you have to choose between what do we do? Do we force the child not to receive care they need? Do we flee the state? Do we risk arrest? Like what do you do in these circumstances? It’s horrible. Yeah and that’s the thing I try to explain to some people when I participate in some general commentary online is that these bills and these laws are preventing other parents from supporting their child in what they want to do and want to be. And it’s like how arrogant is that? Is that you want to ban it completely so you’re preventing other parents from doing what they want to do?

[32:08] Right, and what the child medically needs, right? This is not… I mean there’s so much misinformation out there about both trans people and also care that trans youth receive. For the most part, it’s non-medical. Unless they are, for example, getting older into puberty, it’s completely non-medical when they’re younger. So we’re not talking about genital surgery on minors. We are not talking about genital surgery on minors. Regardless of what you hear, that is not a thing. So this is the problem. There’s so much misinformation out there. Yeah, and they’re using that hysteria in the anti-abortion amendment, advertising here in Ohio.

[32:46] Right. It’s like, it doesn’t say anything about gender-affirming care or parental rights or anything like that. And it’s just like a boogeyman that they just, oh, look at that. Like, I like it that they think that there’s a van driving around looking for unaccompanied minors to give them sex changes. You know, and that’s, that’s a good example, it’s ridiculous, it is, and it, and, but like you said, that harms people, you know, especially if they’re, if they’re not in a good place mentally. Right. You know, it may push them over the edge or something, and people just need to be aware that when they start attacking a group that can’t fight back, that’s what you do, is you hurt people. Absolutely. Yeah, it absolutely hurts people. You know, this is, these are leaders in many of the states, the entire society focusing hatred upon one group. You can’t imagine what kind of impact that must have.

[33:49] Now, and I haven’t even mentioned the public school, they passed, they sent it, did it pass yet? I think they sent it to the Senate here in Ohio that would give public school students three days off for religious reasons, extra. Three days extra off, and universal vouchers, and a law to force schools to out LGBT students. Yeah. The parents. And…

[34:19] It’s just, a lot of times I’m just like, it’s just almost too much. It really is. It just seems like

[34:27] it’s just too much to handle. I hear you. I mean, we’re seeing stuff like this all over the country and it’s just the latest moral panics, which are used to attack schools, frankly. I mean, it’s been a focus of the religious right for decades to undermine schools. And they do it first by cutting school budgets and not paying teachers adequately and making their jobs impossible, and they gin up these ridiculous moral panics about teaching, I don’t know, what was it before? CRT. Yeah, critical race theory in schools, scary. And now it’s gender ideology. They’re going to secretly make your kid trans in schools. I mean, come on, it’s ridiculous. And then basically, they’re trying to, I mean, the reason this is done is that public schools are one of the few institutions in our culture that people still trust, right? That parents still respect, that that people still feel is valuable. And if you can erode that trust through this nonsense, then there’s a whole bunch of money that private organizations, private schools, religious schools can then get access to through vouchers. So we just have this sort of two or even more prong attack on public schools to undermine the trust, to take away the money and put it where they want it to go, which is there are cronies and to religious organizations. So it’s really destructive.

[35:46] Yeah, and I try to tell friends of mine when they’re getting upset about all of it, that I tell them it’s just a small minority of people that are doing these attacks. Yeah. Not everybody believes like they do, but they don’t do anything unless they can vote on it or take a personal action about it. Well, we need to support our schools. That’s what we need to do. I mean, we need to show support our teachers, our unions, and basically, rebuild public trust and support for them and including adequate funding. And that means winning elections and it means, you know, at the local level.

[36:26] Building, you know, showing strong support for schools.

[36:30] All right. And if somebody is listening to this broadcast and podcast and they believe that they’ve had their First Amendment violated.

[36:40] What exactly should they do to have that addressed? Sure. You should visit our website. We have a form to take in complaints, or you can email a legal at America. I think it’s legal. Well, just go to the website. I think it’s probably easier. They have a form to take in complaints, and then we can receive them. Them. And any sort of violation of your rights as a non-religious person, for example, or if you see blatant improper behavior by the government, like maybe they’re funding a church to host an event that’s going to be a public event, things like that, we would be really interested in seeing and helping to stop. Yeah, we had a run-in with some of those fake school assemblies where they come in and talk about character building, and they say, come back tonight for church service. And so, they get the school to pay them to come in to do this character building assembly, and then they ask them to come back for church service. And so, we had one up in Michigan, up at Bedford, which is just across the border from Toledo, and they were supposed to do it for two nights.

[37:59] And a parent who happened to be a part of our group raised the alarm bells about it, and the superintendent ended up cutting it short by one day. Great. Because he saw what they were doing as they were trying to funnel these kids into a church service. Even though it was technically legal, it wasn’t ethical at all. Right. Now, we see that sort of thing happen all the time. And I think that’s what’s necessary, people to identify it when it happens and call it out. There’s too many schools for anybody to watch all of them. So when that happens, to call it out, and also to catalog it. Because that same group is going around trying to get in other schools in your area, I’m sure. But now you have evidence at what they’re doing. So if you see something else, it’s easier to sort of raise it to the attention of the school and saying this is improper. So I mean that’s that’s fantastic that you were able to stop that. All right. And as we wrap up our time today was there Is there anything that you wanted to let us know that’s coming up for American atheists?

[39:02] Well, we just had our convention in Phoenix this year, which was fantastic. That was earlier in April, but I’m pleased to say that our next year’s convention is actually going to be in Philadelphia, which is not terribly far from Ohio, so I hope you will all attend. It would be wonderful to have you. We had a great time this year. I think about 550 people attended. I would love to make the Philly one even larger. It’s always a fun event. I also say sign up for action alerts on our website. It’s at You can sign up for alerts and that way when stuff is happening in Ohio or nationally that impacts church-state separation and religious equality, we’ll send you an alert. We make it very easy to take action because we direct who is supposed to go to and give a message, which you can of course edit, but like we give you the talking points already built in and that way we can funnel our community’s, you know, interest and talk to lawmakers directly about what’s important. And it can make a real difference. We’ve seen it definitely have an impact on bills across the country.

[40:04] And I do also want to note too, that if there are atheists that are listening to this program, our group, the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, we accept atheists and agnostics and everybody. If they are looking to get together with other people that think like them, that’s where you can show up. You’ve pointed to the third thing I always talk about, which is join groups. We have much more power if we join together. And frankly, given where we are in this country, in Ohio and elsewhere, we need the power and we need to work together. So please, if you’re able to join groups like Glass City Humanists, and we can make a real difference.

[40:47] Okay, well, thank you, Allison, for your time and I really appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you for listening. For more information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at, GlassCityHumanist is an outreach of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie. Surely can be reached at Humanist is hosted, written, and produced by Douglas Berger, and he’s solely responsible for the content. Our theme music is Glass City Jam, composed using the Amplify Studio. See you next time!

[41:36] Music.

Transcript is machine generated, lightly edited, and approximate to what was recorded. If you would like perfect transcripts, please donate to the show.


Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley

The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio

This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.