Ala. lawmaker takes on out-of-state atheist group

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Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) defended Reeltown High School in Notasulga

An Alabama congressman who hit back at the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which describes itself as the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics, is now under fire from the group.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News published Dec. 26, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) defended Reeltown High School in Notasulga and head football coach Matt Johnson from the Wisconsin-based FFRF.

The defense did not sit well with the FFRF. The same day that the article was posted, FFRF co-presidents Gaylor and Dan Barker wrote Byrne an official letter addressed to his congressional office in Washington, D.C.

That letter, which can be read in its entirety here, stated, “The reality is that when you refer to the ‘core values that made our country great,’ you are not referring to religious freedom, which is a crowning achievement of America’s founding. Rather, you are referring to the promotion of your personal religion, which happens to be the same religion that was being promoted by Coach Johnson.”

The dispute started when 26 football players at Reeltown were voluntarily baptized at the school’s stadium. Weeks later the FFRF put out a press release titled, “FFRF exposes Ala. public school team baptism.”

The FFRF asked the school to cease and desist from similar religion-related activities, under threat of a lawsuit by the foundation against one of the state’s poorest rural school districts.

Coach Johnson resisted the pressure from FFRF, however, and Byrne came to his aid, telling

Yellowhammer News at the time: “The Freedom from Religion Foundation needs to pack it up and stop forcing their ungodly, un-American views down our throats. The foundation says they want separation of church and state, but what they really want to is to rip God out of our nation altogether.”

Yet, FFRF did not leave the issue there. Apparently wanting public recognition for their letter, the foundation on Jan. 6 published another release attacking Byrne that was titled, “FFRF says U.S. Rep. Byrne all wet in defending school baptisms.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Monday responding to the organization’s letter and the press release, Byrne doubled down — again.

“This radical atheist group wants to hide behind their version of the Constitution to strip God from every facet of our lives,” he declared.

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