By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
The theocratic blogosphere is a-twitter with "shocked" blogs condemning FFRF's nontract, "An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity In The Bible." Setting the blogosphere off was a story in CNS News ("The right news, right now") warning readers: "This story includes a lewd image . . . some readers may find disturbing." The article reports that FFRF plans to distribute our pamphlet, along with several other books and materials critical of religion, in January to public high schools in Orange County, Fla.
In classic "slay the messenger, not the message" hype, Christian news sites and bloggers claim to be greatly offended by the sketch on our nontract of a sexist bible grabbing a woman. None apparently is offended at the sexually violent and pro-rape content in the book they worship and seek to distribute to public high school students.
Last year we decided to "fight fire with fire" by seeking to distribute freethinking materials to counter so-called "passive distribution" of bibles by a Christian ministry at 11 high schools in the Orlando, Fla. area. We carefully chose a variety of materials to test the school's so-called "public forum," including several of our nontracts outlining problems with the bible. When Orange County Public Schools censored most of FFRF's proffered materials, while permitting the bible distribution to carry on, we were forced to file a federal suit. (By the way, when this bible distribution took place, CNS News failed to warn: "This book contains many lewd images some readers may find disturbing.")
During our litigation in Orange County schools, we pointed out the irony of the schools allowing distribution of a book containing violence, graphic and often depraved sexual descriptions, among many other objectionable passages, while censoring freethinking points of view factually reporting about what's in this so-called "good book."
In June 2014, the school district entered a motion to dismiss our lawsuit "unconditionally," agreeing we may distribute these materials on Freedom of Religion Day (Jan. 16), the same day World Changers of Florida will be back in the schools with their X-rated bibles. And we'll be there too. We're happy to see the controversy. We don't think bibles, or literature critical of bibles, should be distributed by outside interest groups in our public schools and we hope the controversy will ultimately shut down this inappropriate forum. But if it doesn't, at least students will be offered both sides of the story.
This controversy provides an opportunity to tell the story behind the cartoon depicting a sexually assaulting "holy book." I had been genuinely shocked and horrified by the degrading treatment of women in the bible when I read it for myself in my early 20s as a college student. For instance, examine this sick passage in Isaiah 3:16:
Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
Therefore the LORD will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
As editorial editor of The Daily Cardinal student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I loved working with a talented young artist on staff named Alma Cuebas, who specialized in depicting egalitarian "ugly women." For a column about biblical misogyny, Alma fashioned a memorable drawing of a lascivious bible starting to assault a woman. Alma's iconic drawing appears with some others by her in a book on bible sexism, "Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So," which I was asked to write for FFRF.
In the 1990s, when FFRF added to our collection of "nontracts" one called "An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible," I naturally recalled Alma's sketch of the sexist bible grabbing a woman, and we put that on the cover. Our nontract begins: "Let us introduce you to parts of the Holy Bible which you have not heard about in sermons from the pulpit, that may shock and dismay you and should certainly convince you that the bible ought to be X-rated.
"Below you will find a pornographic view of sex and women, lewdness, depravity and sexual violence often ordered or countenanced by the biblical deity. Don't take our word for it — look it up for yourself." A long list of bible citations follows, some silly, some gross, others horrific, many woman-hating. The nontract concludes with a favorite quote by Thomas Paine from "The Age of Reason":
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize [hu]mankind."
While FFRF has appealed parts of the ruling over our freethought lit distribution to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, we have the OK to distribute all of our submitted literature, including previously censored literature. And we're inviting all comers to join us. The Satanic Temple has asked to distribute its coloring book. What do public schools expect when they open the door by permitting passive distribution of the Christian bible? They cannot engage in viewpoint distribution once they create such precedent.
It's FFRF's devout hope that our tactics will teach the schools not to set up irresponsible and unwise religion-based "forums" targeting a captive audience of students, making use of the machinery of tax-supported school buildings. Schools exist to educate, not to proselytize, or to act as conduits for recruiting evangelists (or atheists).
Will FFRF materials be there on Jan. 16? You betcha! We thank our hardworking local plaintiff and organizer David Williamson, director of FFRF's chapter, the Central Florida Freethought Community, for making the distribution possible. And FFRF will unapologetically distribute our nontract, "An X-Rated Book."
P.S. My mother Anne Nicol Gaylor, as FFRF's principal founder, was equally taken with Alma's "ugly women." She asked Alma to illustrate four short vignettes that open FFRF's first book, "The Born Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible" by Ruth Hurmence Green. Our favorite of these illustrations is Alma's depiction of Adam and Eve. A pudgy finger is pointing out of a cloud at the fully frontally naked and embarrassed looking Adam (sporting an angry scar over his rib), who in turn is pointing to Eve holding a half-bitten apple, who in turn points to the snake, wearing a Mafia-like hat with a cigarette falling out of his mouth. This charming ink sketch, used in some early ads for Ruth's book, inevitably was censored by a few squeamish publications, apparently for Alma's "sin of omission" for failing to include a deferential fig leaf for Adam.
Let's hear it for blasphemy!
FFRF sent a letter Sept. 2 to Joseph Olchefske, president of Calvert Education Services in Hunt Valley, Md., about inclusion of religious material in mandatory assignments used in public schools’ virtual (online) curricula. It was brought to FFRF’s attention by 8-year-old Florida student Emarie Wakefield and Rachel Spiller, her mother.
A complaint letter was also sent Sept. 2 to the superintendent of Lee County Schools in Fort Myers, Fla.. The school district supervises Emarie’s online instruction, which uses the Calvert curriculum, including an assignment called “Let’s Read a Poem.” One poem (actually a hymn) is titled “God be in my head” and starts “God be in my head, and in my understanding” and concludes with “God be at mine end, and at my departing.”
Other selections were misattributed and very age-inappropriate, FFRF noted, including passages from the Song of Solomon, the most notoriously erotic book of the bible with its thinly veiled allusions to oral sex such as “he feedeth among the lilies” and “his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
Superintendent Nancy Graham had told the family in correspondence that some school staff told her “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution and is not a legal standard. FFRF noted that the Supreme Court has used the phrase to interpret the First Amendment as far back as 1878. Graham also misinterpreted the Establishment Clause. In his response, Calvert CEO Richard Rasmus denied any intent to promote religion and claimed content was chosen for its “literary, cultural, historical or other educational value.” He closed with, “We appreciate the professional manner in which you have raised your concerns.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel rebutted the claim of nonreligious significance in a response to Rasmus and again decried the “shoddy scholarship,” writing, “In light of your response, we must contact the organizations that have accredited Calvert materials and provide them with copies of this letter and ask them to revisit your accreditation. Of course, if you wish to provide assurances that these four ‘poems’ will be removed, that will prove unnecessary.”
In his Sept. 25 response, Calvert CFO Todd Frager wrote, “We have removed the selections in question. We will remove the digital text immediately and we will no longer print the selections going forward. Feel free to call me with any additional comments or concerns.” FFRF is proud to announce a $1,000 student activist award to Emarie and to share what she wrote about her experience:
My Little Voice
By Emarie Wakefield
(with help from Mom)
When I was interviewed by the local news station about my objection to prayers (as well as bible passages and misauthored prayers being passed off as “poems”) in my public virtual school’s curriculum, many people had a lot to say against me. Many people said I wasn’t old enough to have a voice, an opinion or freedom. I’m little, so I’m just learning about history, but so far I haven’t found an age limit on freedoms.
Lincoln didn’t say “conceived in liberty for those who are over school-aged.” I know this. I had to recite the opening to the Gettysburg Address. The First Amendment isn’t only for grown-ups.
I live and grow in a humanist home. I’m taught every day that my little voice makes a big difference. I know that some people are told they are too little to speak up, but in my home I’m taught that when I see something wrong, it’s my job to speak out loud to change that.
I’m proud of my freedom as an American. Since I do not believe that there is some being in control of everything, I know that it’s going to be me that has to do the work to get things done. It’s the job of all of us. We have to work together as a big team to make this planet a better, kinder and happier place to live. No one is going to magically fix it for us.
If I had just stayed quiet and “did the homework I was told to do,” then what about the children that came after me that weren’t told that freedom belongs to them, too? Others can do as they are told when their freedoms are being taken from them, but as for me and my little voice, we’re off to big places.
When a lot of those little voices come together, it gets too loud to ignore. Humanity, come with me. Let’s do big, wonderful things, because even a little voice is equal under our laws. That’s a self-evident truth.
I have so much gratitude to the Freedom From Religion Foundation for this scholarship, because education makes little voices louder.
Rachel Spiller writes:
This is incredible news! We are elated! We did, however, eventually remove Emarie from the Lee County School system. It became more and more apparent every day that no one was actually reviewing the materials that were being passed on to our children in the Lee virtual program.
Every day there were serious “mistakes” in their online testing and otherwise that made us realize that to leave her in this curriculum would be disregarding our parental responsibilities. We are currently doing home education while we assess our options. You’d be surprised at what Emarie endured during the press coverage of this. Of course there were “trolls” that even went so far as to say that they hoped she died, but there were many amazing strangers that encouraged her. One such example was Jonathan Mann, a musician well-known for turning Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Hobby Lobby dissent into a song. He wrote a song called “Ignore the Trolls” for her, and the blog SheKnows also did a wonderful piece. Please feel free to point to a Facebook “public figure” page that we administer for Emarie: facebook.com/EmmieOutLoud/. We started the page because she hoped to encourage other young people to become involved in volunteerism. (Her nickname is Emmie, and she chose “OutLoud” after a Coco Chanel quote: “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”)
Emarie is also outspoken on LGBT rights and volunteers by my side at the LGBT community center in our area (pridecenterswfl.com/), where she sometimes leads anti-bullying youth rallies.
Emarie is also involved with a charity called “Pushing Daizies” that raises money to send low-income children to art and music camp. She also participated in the “No One Else Can Play Your Part” campaign for World Suicide Prevention Day.
Her first taste of activism was when she, by her own choice and will, decided to march with the Occupy movement in Birmingham, Ala., when she was 5. She woke me that morning and told me we had to go to the march or ”the people with all the money and resources will win.”
It was a long march on those tiny little legs, but she did not complain a single time. She can still lead the Occupy callback chant to this day and is proud to have taken a place in democracy.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation called on the superintendent of Gallia County Local Schools in Patriot, Ohio, to recall and replace a 2014 elementary school yearbook whose cover features a large Latin cross.
FFRF, which has 21,500 members nationwide, including 600 in Ohio, wrote Superintendent Jude Meyers on Sept. 26, asking him to investigate and take action over a state/church violation that is “beyond comprehension” at Addaville Elementary. The horizontal arms of the cross on the bible-like cover carry the word “Believe.”
“The inclusion of the Latin cross, which is the preeminent symbol of Christianity, on a public elementary school yearbook is illegal,” noted Rebecca Markert, FFRF senior staff attorney. “It is beyond comprehension that public school officials would have allowed this publication to be printed with sectarian religious imagery and then distributed to young schoolchildren.”
“Religion is a divisive force in public schools,” Markert reminded the district. More than a quarter of the U.S. population either identifies as nonreligious (20%) or practices a non-Christian religion (5%).
She noted that whether or not the yearbook was published by the district or a private entity is “legally immaterial.”
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor commented, “The cover of this yearbook would be appropriate at a Catholic or sectarian school, but it’s an egregious violation in our secular elementary public schools.”
The district contacted FFRF to indicate it would ensure that the Parent Teacher Organization would be told it could no longer use a religious cover for the yearbook. The district said the PTO was responsible for printing the book and that the cover did not have district approval.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s ad featuring Ron Reagan describing himself as “an unabashed atheist” was rejected for airing by CBS, not only by “60 Minutes” (the desired placement), but for any CBS show.
The ad debuted last May on both “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central.
A CBS agent indicated that the ad was rejected “for words and tone.” The celebrity endorsement features the son of President Ronald Reagan, self-described as “a lifelong atheist,” plugging FFRF:
Hi, I’m Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist, and I’m alarmed by the intrusion of religion into our secular government. That’s why I’m asking you to support the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest and most effective association of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate, just like our Founding Fathers intended. Please support the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”
The rejection was shocking, since FFRF aired a 30-second spot on national CBS in 2012, rebutting Rick Santorum’s remarks dissing candidate John F. Kennedy’s pro-state/church separation speech before Houston ministers in 1960. That ad was accepted to run on “The CBS Evening News” and “CBS Sunday Morning.”
“It appears that if a public figure makes a simple declarative statement in support of state/church separation, FFRF and atheism, it’s too hot to handle for CBS,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
“It seems that excess gas, erectile dysfunction and other intimate bodily functions, not to mention ads wherein political candidates viciously attack each other, are acceptable,” added Dan Barker, who co-directs FFRF. “But the plain-spoken, witty and slightly irreverent remarks of a well-known figure identifying as atheist are too much for the delicate sensibilities of CBS’ censors.”
“Why are atheism and freethought still treated as socially unacceptable, even though fully a fifth of the population has no religion today?” Gaylor asked. “If anything should be socially unacceptable, it ought to be blind deference to religion.”
Reagan is an FFRF honorary director who received the Emperor Has No Clothes Award from FFRF in 2004 and gave an acceptance speech at the 2009 national convention in Seattle. As liberal as his famous father was conservative, Reagan stopped going to church when he was 12 and has publicly stated he’s an atheist numerous times.
The New York Times asked him in 2004, in an interview that ran three weeks after his father died, if he’d like to be president. “I would be unelectable,” Reagan said. “I’m an atheist. As we all know, that is something people won’t accept.” View the 30-second spot at FFRF’s website, ffrf.org.
On Nov. 4 voters in Hawaii will decide whether the state should use public money to fund private preschool programs, including religious preschools. The proposed amendment—CON AMEND: Relating to Early Childhood Education—would amend Section 1 of Article X of the Constitution of Hawaii to allow the appropriation of public funds “for the support or benefit of private early childhood education programs,” including religious programs. The state constitution currently prohibits the use of public tax dollars to benefit private schools.
Many Hawaiian preschools are faith-based, housed in places of worship, and include sectarian curricula, teaching, and instruction. In funding these preschool programs, the state, in essence, would be paying private religious institutions to indoctrinate children far too young to decide religious issues for themselves.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) reportedly objects to the Early Childhood Education amendment because it views the change as a voucher program that will take money from public schools to benefit private schools. Nothing in the language of the proposed amendment limits the use of these funds. In other words, there are no safeguards in place to ensure that public funds are used only for secular purposes. “Such privatization also would allow public funds to be used for religious education and other religious purposes, weakening the wall between church and state,” said Alan Isbell, Waikuku Elementary School Teacher and HSTA representative.
To prevent your taxpayer money from funding private religious schools, spread the word that the Early Childhood Education amendment is bad for Hawaii’s public schools and undermines state/church separation. Please VOTE NO on Nov. 4.
DAN BARKER and ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR are co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and co-hosts of Freethought Radio. A former minister and evangelist, Dan became a freethinker in 1983. His books, Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children and Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher To Atheist (1992) are published by the Foundation. His newest book, The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God, was published by Ullysses Press in January, 2011. His previous book, the autobiographical Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, was published in 2008. A graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Religion, Dan now puts his knowledge of Christianity to effective freethought use. A professional pianist and composer, Dan performs freethought concerts and is featured in the Foundation's musical cassettes, "My Thoughts Are Free," "Reason's Greetings," "Dan Barker Salutes Freethought Then And Now," a 2-CD album "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist," and the CD "Beware of Dogma." He joined the Foundation staff in 1987 and served as public relations director. He was first elected co-president in November 2004.
Annie Laurie was also editor of Freethought Today from 1984 to 2009, when she became executive editor. The paper is published 10 times a year. Her book, Woe To The Women: The Bible Tells Me So, first published in 1981, is now in its 4th printing. In 1988, the Foundation published her book, Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, the first book documenting widespread sexual abuse by clergy. Her 1997 book, Women Without Superstition: 'No Gods, No Masters'is the first collection of the writings of historic and contemporary women freethinkers. A 1980 graduate of the UW-Madison Journalism School, she was an award-winning student reporter and recipient of the Ken Purdy scholarship. After graduation, she founded, edited and published the Feminist Connection,a monthly advocacy newspaper, from 1980-1985. She joined the Foundation staff in 1985. She has been co-president since 2004. She co-founded the original FFRF with Anne Gaylor (see below) as a college student. Photo: Timothy Hughes
FFRF President emerita
ANNE NICOL GAYLOR is a founder and president emerita of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She served as executive director from 1978 to 2005, and is now working as a consultant to the Foundation. Born in rural Wisconsin, she is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She owned and managed successful small businesses and was co-owner and editor of an award-winning suburban weekly newspaper. A feminist author, she has done substantial volunteer work for women's rights (including serving as volunteer director of the Women's Medical Fund). Under her leadership the Freedom From Religion Foundation has grown from its initial three Wisconsin members to a national group with representation in every state and Canada.
Director of Operations
LISA STRAND is director of operations of FFRF. She has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit (primarily association) management, including 15 years as executive director of the Wisconsin Library Association. She is married with a daughter, as well as three cats, a guinea pig and an untended garden that will someday be beautiful.
REBECCA S. MARKERT attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her B.A. in political science, international relations and German in 1998. After graduating from UW–Madison, Rebecca spent one year working as a legislative fellow at the German Parliament in Bonn, Germany. In the fall 1999, she returned to the United States and began working as a legislative correspondent and assistant to the chief of staff for United States Senator Russ Feingold in Washington, D.C. In 2002, she returned to Madison, Wisconsin, to work on Senator Feingold’s 2004 re-election campaign. After the campaign, Rebecca attended Roger Williams University School of Law and received her Juris Doctor in 2008. She joined the Foundation staff in October 2008.
Rebecca is the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s first staff attorney and primarily works on Establishment Clause cases. She is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin.
PATRICK ELLIOTT, the Foundation's second staff attorney, hails from St. Paul, Minn. Patrick received a degree in legal studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. He attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received his Juris Doctor in 2009. While in school, Patrick took an interest in the First Amendment and constitutional law. He joined FFRF as a staff attorney in July 2010, after working part-time for the Foundation since February. Patrick is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Western and Eastern Districts of Wisconsin.
ANDREW SEIDEL graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science and magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School, where he was awarded the Haber J. McCarthy Award for excellence in environmental law. He studied human rights and international law at the University of Amsterdam and traveled the world on Semester at Sea. In May of 2011, Andrew completed his Master of Laws at Denver University Sturm College of Law with a 4.0 GPA and was awarded the Outstanding L.L.M. Award. He has written a book on International Human Rights Law and his essay on the role of religion in government and the founding of our nation placed second in the FFRF's 2010 graduate student essay contest. Andrew is a former Grand Canyon tour guide and accomplished nature photographer; his work has been displayed in galleries in Colorado, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Maryland. He joined the FFRF staff as a constitutional consultant in November 2011.
ELIZABETH CAVELL received her B.A in English from the University of Florida in 2005. After college, Elizabeth spent a year as a full-time volunteer in AmeriCorps*NCCC. She attended Tulane University Law School and received her Juris Doctor in 2009. After law school, she worked as a deputy public defender in southern Colorado. She joined the Foundation as a staff attorney in January 2013, after working for the Foundation part-time since September 2012.
SAM GROVER received his B.A. in philosophy and government from Wesleyan University in 2008. He first worked for FFRF in 2010 as a legal intern while attending Boston University School of Law. In 2011, his article on the religious exemptions in the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate was published in the American Journal of Law and Medicine. After receiving his J.D. from Boston University in 2012, Sam worked as a law clerk for the Vermont Office of Legislative Council where he drafted legislation on health care, human services, and tax issues. He returned to work as a constitutional consultant for FFRF in the fall of 2013. Sam has written a paper on counterterrorism and the law that was published by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City and has traveled to southern Africa to work under Justice Unity Dow of Botswana’s High Court.
KATHERINE PAIGE graduated magna cum laude from Wichita State University in 2010 with a B.A. in History, Political Science, and French. She attended law school at the College of William & Mary where she received her Juris Doctor in 2014. Katherine became FFRF’s first Legal Fellow in September 2014, specializing in faith-based government funding.
MADELINE ZIEGLER graduated magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in 2011 with a B.A. in English Literature and Political Science. She attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received her Juris Doctor in 2014. She has worked at FFRF since May 2012, starting as a legal intern/extern, and currently works as a law clerk.
KATIE DANIEL is the bookkeeper/executive assistant/staff baker at FFRF. She was born in California and has lived in Pennsylvania, Alabama and Missouri. She moved to Madison in 2005 to attend UW-Madison and graduated in 2009 with a BA in Gender & Women's Studies and a Certificate in LGBT Studies. She joined the foundation staff as a student clerical employee in September 2008 and started as the full-time bookkeeper in 2009. Unlike many of the Foundation's staff members, Katie is religious and considers herself a practicing Wiivangelical.
BILL DUNN is the editor of Freethought Today. He has a degree in history and mass communications (journalism emphasis) from the University of South Dakota and has worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor in South Dakota and Wisconsin since 1980. Bill joined the Foundation staff in July 2009. He has two daughters, Kaitlin Marie and Jamie Lee.
LAURYN is the publicist & assistant editor at FFRF. She was born in Wausau, Wisconsin and has also lived in Nagasaki, Japan. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2012 with her B.S. in Professional Communications and Emerging Media, concentrating in Technical Communication and International Studies. She also received a double minor in Journalism and English. Lauryn moved to Madison in January 2013 and enjoys reading about astrophysics, basking in the sun like a turtle and creating art at coffee shops. Lauryn is a practicing Pastafarian.
DAYNA LONG is an administrative assistant at FFRF. Originally from Illinois, she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received a degree in English. She has been with FFRF since July 2013. She spends her free time volunteering for the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for Women. She also enjoys reading, cooking, and admiring her beautiful cats.
PHYLLIS ROSE is a retired library administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been volunteering 3 afternoons a week at the FFRF office since 2000. A Lifetime Member, Phyllis provides oversight, clerical and editorial support. Phyllis serves as an officer on the Foundation's governing body.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the formation of a new FFRF Honorary Board of distinguished achievers who have made known their dissent from religion.
The FFRF Honorary Board includes Jerry Coyne, Robin Morgan, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Ernie Harburg, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Christopher Hitchens, Susan Jacoby, Mike Newdow, Katha Pollitt, Steven Pinker, Ron Reagan, Oliver Sacks, M.D., Robert Sapolsky, Edward Sorel and Julia Sweeney.
“We are so pleased that these outstanding thinkers and freethinkers have agreed to publicly lend their endorsement to the Foundation, and its two purposes of promoting freethought and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause,” said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president.
- Jerry Coyne, Ph.D., professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, is author of the popular book 'Why Evolution is True' and the blog of the same name.
- Richard Dawkins, probably the world’s most famous contemporary atheist and a distinguished evolutionary biologist, is Oxford professor emeritus. In his blockbuster book, The God Delusion, Dawkins writes: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
- Daniel C. Dennett is Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts, and author of the bestselling book about religion, Breaking the Spell. In a newspaper article about his nonbelief, Dennett once wrote: “I’ve come to realize it’s time to sound the alarm.”
- Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments For the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction and a research associate in Harvard’s psychology department, is FFRF Freethought Heroine of 2011. Goldstein is a 1996 MacArthur Fellow (the “genius” award). She has taught at Barnard and in the Columbia MFA writing program and the Rutgers philosophy department. She’s been a visiting scholar at Brandeis and at Trinity College in Hartford.
- Ernie Harburg, a retired research scientist, is president of Yip Harburg Foundation and co-author of Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz? Ernie has dedicated his retirement to furthering the lyrics, music, memory and progressive views of his freethinking father, the lyricist Yip Harburg, author of classic songs such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and of Rhymes for the Irreverent, recently republished by FFRF.
- Jennifer Michael Hecht, poet, historian and author of the acclaimed Doubt: A History and The End of the Soul, told the FFRF 2009 convention audience: “If there is no god — and there isn't — then we [humans] made up morality. And I'm very impressed.”
- Susan Jacoby, bestselling author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, and program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, told FFRF convention-goers in 2004: "[President] Kennedy had to speak about his religion because he was suspected of insufficient dedication to the Constitution's separation of church and state. Today's candidates are suspect if they display too much dedication to secular government."
- Robin Morgan, feminist pioneer, global activist, author of the groundbreaking "Sisterhood is Powerful" and more than 20 books, was formerly Ms. Magazine editor and consulting editor. She is the co-founder of the Feminist Women's Health Network and Women's Media Center and currently hosts "Women's Media Center Live" the radio "talk-show with a brain."
- Mike Newdow is working pro bono to challenge such violations as the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. He told the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments: “I am an atheist. I don't believe in God. And every school morning my child is asked to stand up, face that flag, put her hand over her heart, and say that her father is wrong.”
- Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard, is author of The Blank Slate: “I never outgrew my conversion to atheist at 13.”
- Katha Pollitt, “Subject to Debate” columnist for The Nation, author and poet, has spoken out regularly and energetically as a freethinker, in such columns as “Freedom From Religion, Sí!”
- Ron Reagan, media commentator, describes himself in a radio ad he taped for FFRF as: “Unabashed atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”
- Oliver Sacks, M.D., the compassionate neurologist and bestselling author, describes himself as “an old Jewish atheist.”
- Robert Sapolsky, a neurologist, Stanford professor and bestselling author, once suggested FFRF put up a sign at its conventions: “Welcome, hellbound atheists.”
- Edward Sorel, satiric cartoonist and irreverent illustrator who is a regular contributor to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and whose caricatures have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, has been a Foundation member since the 1980s.
- Julia Sweeney, comedian and actress, is writer/performer of the play, “Letting Go of God”: “How dare the religious use the term 'born again.' That truly describes freethinkers who've thrown off the shackles of religion so much better!”
- Christopher Hitchens, the iconoclastic journalist, is author of the bestselling God Is Not Great: “Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”