A picture of Charity Weeden with the title secularist of the week

NASA official praised for rejecting dogma, N.D. rep condemned for theocratic tantrum


FFRF Action Fund is focusing on two distinctly opposite acts this week. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legislative arm is naming NASA official Charity Weeden as our  “Secularist of the Week” for taking her oath of office on Carl Sagan’s Contact instead of a bible. Meanwhile, North Dakota state Rep. Brandon Prichard has earned the “Theocrat of the Week” title for recent outrageous social media comments.

In September, NASA named Weeden to be its new associate administrator leading the agency’s Office of Technology, Policy and Strategy. During the swearing-in ceremony, Weeden chose to take her oath of office not on a religious text, as so many who assume office do, but on Contact, a novel written by the late legendary planetary scientist Carl Sagan. The book, which features an atheist heroine, addresses the theme of contact between humanity and a more technologically advanced, extraterrestrial life form — quite a fitting text to swear in on for a NASA administrator. 

Contrary to what some Christian nationalists want to believe, swearing into any office does not require the involvement of a bible or any religious text. (Remember this exchange?) Weeden’s act was not some publicity stunt; in fact there has been no mention of the book she chose in any of the major articles that covered her appointment. She simply stood for what she believed in — seemingly the quest for scientific inquiry and a really good novel.   

This week’s “Theocrat of the Week” is making waves for all of the wrong reasons. A little-known North Dakota state representative named Brandon Prichard, who is in his first term, took to Twitter (now known as X) to unleash ignorant, un-American Christian nationalist views. In a series of homophobic, theocratic and outright hateful tweets, Prichard called on “conservative states” to “put into code that Jesus Christ is king” and that they should “dedicate their state to him.” He created a laundry list of other tweets that make his desires for a Christian nation evident. That’s why a few days ago FFRF Action Fund called on him to apologize for his remarks or resign.

Instead of doing either, Prichard dug in his heels, calling the Action Fund “a godless out-of-state interest group” and repeating: “I’ll say it again. Christ is King and Lord. Let’s dedicate our government to Him, His Moral teachings, and His mercy.”  Prichard belongs nowhere near public office and is a danger to everything that this nation stands for.

“Prichard’s series of tweets show just how narrow-minded and hateful the Christian nationalist brand is,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Action Fund president. “When we find ourselves dismayed by the likes of Prichard, we must remember those who make small, yet powerful gestures to promote secularism and reason, like Charity Weeden.”

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues. FFRF Action Fund serves as the advocacy arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has more than 40,000 members and works to keep religion out of government and educate the public about nontheism.