SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: “How Atheist Campaigner Madalyn Murray O’Hair Became America’s Most-hated Woman” / The Guardian ☮

This week, the film The Most Hated Woman in America comes to Netflix, with Melissa Leo playing Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the atheist who campaigned against the church’s influence in public and political life (the title comes from the headline on a 1964 interview with her in Life magazine). While Murray O’Hair is not widely known outside of the US, she had an extraordinary life. Long before the likes of Richard Dawkins, she gained notoriety for helping to push bible readings out of schools, and in 1963 she founded American Atheists. It’s a group that is still going today, campaigning against Donald Trump’s plan to abolish the rule that forbids religious institutions, among other charitable organisations, from getting involved in political activity and funding). For the next few decades, Murray O’Hair devoted her life to campaigning against the church’s power. She was a contentious figure, and when she disappeared in 1995, along with her son and granddaughter from their home in Austin, Texas, that too was controversial.

h/t: Continue reading . . .

A true-crime biopic about the disappearance of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, founder of the “American Atheists” and pioneering firebrand in the political culture war, The Most Hated Woman in America captures the rise and fall of a complex character who was a controversial villain to some and an unlikely hero to others.

The film stars Academy Award® winner Melissa Leo, Josh Lucas, Adam Scott, Vincent Kartheiser and Juno Temple, and was directed by Tommy O’Haver from a script by O’Haver and Irene Turner. Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman and Laura Rister produced.

The Most Hated Woman in America premieres on Netflix on March 24, 2017.

PROGRESSIVE INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM: “The Leader of the Free World Meets Donald Trump” / Politico Magazine / James P. Rubin ☮

Angela Merkel, whether she wants the job or not, is the West’s last, best hope.

This time the media hype surrounding a White House meeting is no wild exaggeration. When President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel finally get together on Friday, the leaders of the West’s two most powerful countries are sure to come off more like an odd couple than two close allies chewing over plans for some joint enterprise. And for good reason. Merkel and Trump are not only polar opposites as people, but they share little in terms of international outlook.

Their styles reflect their vastly different backgrounds. Merkel, Germany’s first and only female chancellor, was raised by a pastor in communist East Germany, where she earned a doctorate in physical chemistry. Although she is the longest-serving and most powerful leader in Europe, she is unfailingly modest, competent and consensus-oriented. Trump’s all-about-me mentality, Queens upbringing and brash, tabloid-and-reality-TV personality couldn’t be more different.

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PROGRESSIVE INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM: “Truthdigger of the Week: Angela Davis, an Activist for the Ages” / truthdig / Natasha Hakimi ☮

Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.

When legendary civil rights activist and feminist intellectual Angela Davis took the stage in a packed auditorium at London’s Women of the World festival last week, she was greeted with a raucous standing ovation reminiscent of a rock concert.