31st Edition                                                                                             May 2017

2017 is shaping up to be another great year for the CFFC. Plus, this summer, we will celebrate our 5th anniversary!

There are lots of new fans, followers, and volunteers, in 2017! So far, we've done some gr assroots lobbying and even a few people traveled to Tallahassee to speak to lawmakers. We have many CFFC activities in the works and we're already embroiled in the unavoidable media controversies that break out when we seek to keep local government neutral regarding religion.

On May 4th, this year, the National Day of Reason, CFFC Director, Joseph Richardson, offered a  very "reasonable" invocation at the City of Eustis' Commission Meeting. However, the day is also known as the National Day of (Christian) Prayer. Apparently , our invocation wasn't good enough for one local lawmaker who had to " cover " the event by directing everyone in the meeting to stand and bow their heads in prayer to his god. By the way, government officials have no right or authority to conduct invocations at local government meetings. The local Daily Commercial covered the story as did The Friendly Atheist blog.

Earlier that day, the same commissioner attended a National Day of Prayer event in Tavares ; an event promoted  legally by Chick-fil-A and illegally by the Lake County Sheriff and his office . There, Sheriff, Peyton Grinnell participated in uniform and even broadcast a video of the event on Facebook in the hope that "it would go viral for the Kingdom of God."

So, there is a lot going on that we need to unpack. Fortunately, much of it is summarized in a letter from the FFRF to the City of Eustis on our behalf. Here is the FFRF news release if you want just a brief summary. A letter to the Sheriff regarding his promotion and in-uniform participation of the event in Tavares should be forthcoming.

To be clear, "the people" can gather in prayer as they wish. Even our local elected officials can join in if they wish. However, when government officials do this in uniform or on behalf of their office and as a representative of their constituents, it tramples the Establishment Clause and diminishes the rights of the very people they represent. This is why we vehemently oppose this behavior and why, in many cases, the courts have found it to be a violation of the Establishment Clause.

The answer to the question:
"Why does  government promotion of religion continue?"
"Why should anyone stop voluntarily?"

Ask yourself, why should the people doing it consider stopping? When so many people support the promotion of religion in government and too few oppose it, there is no reason for them to stop. It's really that simple.  Until each of us takes every opportunity to publicly or, at least, privately, deal with these incidents, why should we expect it to stop? In fact, we should expect it to accelerate if we ignore it and assume someone else will fix it.

We must let the people who represent us, and those who work for us in local government, know how we feel about them promoting religion on our tax dollars and with the presumed support of their constituents. And we  don't have to know the law to tell them what we think about it or how it makes us feel. 

When you see something, let us know so we can ask FFRF to send them the legalese. That's actually the easiest part of the process. You need to get involved in the solution or there won't be an end to this.

One final reminder: the CFFC has an ongoing campaign in cooperation with  BE Orlando to  collect science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) books for use in this summer's reading programs. Bring your books to any event through June 3.
Upcoming Events
Mark your calendar and set a reminder!

STEM Book Drive with BE. Orlando
Bring your STEM-themed books to any upcoming CFFC event, look for the red bin, and we'll be sure they are delivered to the Heart of Florida United Way summer reading initiatives. Thanks for helping out!

Sun, May 28, 1 PM
CFFC May Event: Rep. Carlos Smith
Join us as we get to know a local activist from the LGBT community that became a lawmaker and who champions state/church separation.

Sat, Jun 3, 10 AM - 3 PM
Pulse Anniversary Blood Drive and STEM Book Drop-Off
Join us in support of LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities at a blood drive honoring the victims and survivors of the Pulse tragedy and celebrating the connection we have to one another.  Don't forget to bring a STEM book or pick one up at Target while you are there.

Sun, Jun 4, 9 AM
Adopt-A-Park Cleanup 
This is our regular monthly park cleanup event. We bring doughnuts and you bring the family!

Tuesday, Jun 13, 7 PM
CFFC Discussion Group - Death & Non-Belief
This month the group talks about how religion affects issues surrounding death and dying and how non-believers cope with their own mortality and that of their friends and loved ones.

Sun, Jun 18, 1 PM
CFFC June Event: Orbits and Ice Ages: The History of Climate
Climate change has become a major political issue, but few understand how climate has changed in the past and the forces that drive climate. The history of climate provides context of our current climate debate and fundamental insight how the climate works.

Fri, Oct 20 thru Sun, Oct 22
The venue is booked, the speakers are confirmed, the date is set, and FREEFLO will be here before you know it.  Tickets are on sale including the "All-Inclusive" 3-day event package for just $199.
  • The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Eugenie Scott, former Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education.
  • This year, Camp Quest Southeast is hosting a Kids Program at FREEFLO, but there is limited availability so sign up today!

Freethought Cruise with Annie Laurie Gaylor & Dan Barker
Sat, Mar 3 thru Wed, Mar 7, 2018
Port Canaveral to the Bahamas!
Booking is underway for another awesome Freethought Cruise! This time we travel to Stirrup Cay & Nassau, Bahamas on a 4-night cruise with co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation who will  both give talks while on board.
Most of our events are on  Facebook,  but t o be sure you also get into exclusive, CFFC events, join our  Meetup group .
Coalition of Reason - Orlando Events
Check out all the local community events in one place

News You Can Use
Local or regional news that matters to you!

Legislative News - Putting Prayer Back in Schools

After two excruciating months, the Florida Legislature has finally headed home. There are always bills passed which restrict the rights of others based on the religion of lawmakers. Fortunately, we were not alone this year in opposing one bill in particular which, after amendments, negotiations with lobbyists from allied organizations, and complete reversals, has passed in its original form. 

The bill will go to Governor Rick Scott for signature and he is expected to sign it into law. If he does that, he will be mandating that school boards pay a price in court. There will be litigation on both sides of the religious spectrum, as explained by David Barkey of the Anti-Defamation League in his excellent summary here.

If you haven't called or emailed Governor Scott yet, you can use the automated form of the Anti-Defamation League or American United for Separation of Church and State. However, we suggest a personal phone call to the Governor's office to explain to a real, live person how you feel about it. Be sure to jot down the few biggest issues for you to raise before you call. 

The Governor's office number is 850-488-7146.

Florida Constitutional Revision

In other Florida bad news, House Speaker, Richard Corcoran has appointed John Stemberger, president of the right wing activist organization, Florida Family Policy Council to the vicennial (every 20 years) Florida Constitutional Revision Commission

Here's the news story and you can read more about Stemberger at Right Wing Watch. According to  recent news reportsthe process isn't going smoothly.

Trump Watch - Religious "Freedom"

The President's long-awaited Executive Order on Religious Freedom seems to do a lot less harm than expected. The lawsuit count on this one is only at one case so far.

However, our parent organization, the FFRF, has filed suit and provided some testimony on the Johnson Amendment, the apparent target of this very brief Executive Order. The President cannot change the law, but if the IRS chooses not to pursue religious organizations, this is discrimination and it opens up some very serious concerns for politics in the pulpit.

In the most recent episode of Dogma Debate, David Smalley speaks with representatives from the Secular Coalition for America and the FFRF. They do a great job discussing the specific issues beginning at the 7 minute mark.
Before the order was released, CFFC Director, David Williamson faced off against Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver in the Orlando Sentinel's Front Burner series as guest columnists. They based their columns on an earlier draft order which was leaked to The Nation Magazine. David writes against such an order while Staver writes in favor.

2017 CFFC Survey Still Open

We weren't kidding about the need to complete the CFFC survey last month. We turned in our numbers to the FFRF and had more than a hundred FFRF members. That's amazing and will ensure that we have another $500 with which to keep the lights on at CFFC! It's only part of what it takes to keep things going, but it helps.

If you didn't complete the survey, it's not too late. Since we turned in our FFRF member list, now, it's all about you and the CFFC. Let us know what you think of how we're doing and what you can do to help. We will leave the survey open for the next few weeks.

The Onion for Some Much-Needed Comic Relief

For some lighter news, we've learned that Hell is just off the coast of the Florida Panhandle. There is no report of this being linked to the Florida Legislative session, but it should also be noted no one has denied the correlation yet.
Stay tuned to the CFFC's Facebook page for all the news and events we share. Be sure to click "Like" and "Share" those which you think your Facebook friends would appreciate.
Friends of Ours. Friends of Yours.
Allied organizations which deserve your attention

The ADL Florida office serves as the primary resource for victims of anti-Semitism, but they also safeguard civil rights and the separation of church and state. 

Check them out at www.florida.adl.org/about
Secular Quotable

"Not only is there no god. 
Try finding a plumber on Sunday."

Woody Allen

CFFC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on the separation of state and church
and  building a thriving secular community in the Greater Orlando area.