“There are always, thank heaven, skeptics who challenge orthodox ideas. They are the great thinkers of all times.”
“Our aim is to appeal to reason, to lift our pens above the cringing demagogy of our times, and above the cheap peanut politics of the old reactionary negro [sic] leaders. Patriotism has no appeal to us; justice has. Party has no weight to us; principle has. Loyalty is meaningless; it depends on what one is loyal to. Prayer is not one of our remedies; it depends on what one is praying for. We consider prayer nothing more than a fervent wish; consequently the merit and worth of a prayer depend upon what the fervent wish is.”
A high school in Jacksboro, Tenn., will vet future assemblies to ensure no inappropriate religious programming, after being contacted by an attorney from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about a problem at a March school assembly. According to a student in the district, Campbell County Comprehensive High School hosted an assembly in its gymnasium during the school day regarding drug use that opened and closed with a prayer delivered by a student, and featured religious leaders.
In addition to a county sheriff, the speakers included Caleb Arnold of the Hill College Ministry, representatives of the Stanfield Church of God, and the Christian alternative rock band the Birdsongs. This band describes themselves on their website as being, “passionate about spreading the gospel and pointing people to Christ.”
The complainant reported that “references to god and Christianity” and “quotes from the bible” were prevalent throughout the assembly and that “some of the speakers spoke about how drugs affected them and how God helped them overcome their problems.” One speaker told students that “Jesus Christ delivered [them] from methamphetamine.”
The complainant reported that not only was this assembly mandatory but said, “some people I know didn’t want to go, given their beliefs, and were forced to attend the assembly.”
FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the director of schools on March 28 to inform the district that it is inappropriate and illegal to take away instructional time from the students to expose them to Christian proselytization:
“Though teaching students about the perils of drug abuse is a commendable goal, allowing church representatives and an evangelical Christian band access to your student body gives the appearance that CCPS endorses those speakers’ religious messages.”
On July 9, after receiving two follow-up queries from FFRF, the district responded: “It was the assumption of the principal at the school that this would be a program in which the primary emphasis would be on curbing potential drug use. As a result of your letter we have spoken with the principal and have asked that he do a better job scrutinizing the content of future assemblies.”
FFRF sent out a nation wide action alert on August 15 in response to the Navy appearing to renege on its decision to remove Christian bibles from Navy-run lodges following an FFRF complaint. The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) issued a quiet directive on June 19 in response to a complaint by FFRF, ordering removal of religious material from Navy-run lodges by Sept. 1. After receiving a flood of complaints from theocratic groups, the Navy told Stars and Stripes it had ordered bibles returned pending evaluation.
FFRF’s Action Alert urged members to voice their support for the Navy’s original decision to remain neutral toward religion.
FFRF had overwhelming responses, many by “atheists in foxholes” or former “atheist in foxholes.”
Here is a selection of some of the responses. Some names have been omitted and some responses excerpted.
Dear Director Bockleman,
I served in the active USNR in 1945-1946 and also in the Reserve from 1946 to 1950, with Honorable discharge. I wish to protest the Navy's support of placing bibles or any other religious material of any sort in any facility associated with the Navy. And also, to extend this further while I'm at it, to protest any religious proselytizing on any occasion by Navy personnel under color of uniform. Long-held readings of our Constitution clearly preclude the Navy from participating in such activity, it should cease immediately, and in fact it should nave not been countenanced at any time in my view. And by the way I have held such a view for the past 75-odd years.
Kennan C. Herrick (Jr.)
(Son of the late Kennan C. Herrick, also an Honorable Navy veteran.)
Dear Director Bockelman,
As a retired Master Chief Petty Officer with 24 plus years of active Naval service and as a retired Navy Civil Service employee with 18 years of service, I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms.
As an atheist/nonbeliever, I’m part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious — the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I’m deeply offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that I need to be converted or am somehow the “wrong” religion. Today nonbelievers make up about a quarter of active military personnel. So I know how “atheists in foxholes” would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. Military service is, in part, about defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive.
Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.
My dear Michael Bockelman,
As a Proud American atheist, and on behalf of my deceased atheist Husband, Capt. Maurice Franklin "Bo" Smith, a Naval/Marine fighter pilot, Corsairs, VMF223, South Pacific, WWII, I am asking you to honor the memories of the many atheist, agnostic, non-religious fighting men.
My dear Husband Bo was 6'4", 223 pounds. When he contracted Malaria in Bouganville, he weighed 120 pounds and kept on fighting. 86 combat missions.
Many of his buddies were atheists. It is so unfair to the myriad of more and more new younger recruits who are in this nonreligious category, that they (unconstitutionally) be subject to one of the most biased, evil, torturous, hedonist books ever written. The Christian bible.
Please honor my husband's memory and the many, many others who sacrificed for The United States of America and the FREEDOM she stands for.
Brigit Clarke-Smith, California
Dear Mr. Bockelman,
As a USCG Lt Jg. for 3 years I felt proud to help our great country protect itself and other worthy countries. As a non-believer it never occurred to me that any governmental agency would promote any religion whatsoever. Thus to find out the US Navy has been providing Christian bibles in its hotel rooms is a disgrace. Every person has a right to believe as they see fit and not be harassed by biased influence.
I expect to hear shortly that the US Navy has realized its error and has removed the bibles.
James B. Gordon
Dear Director Bockelman,
I am a disabled veteran of the U.S. military, and I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. As an atheist, I’m part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious — the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I’m offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that I need to be converted or am somehow the “wrong” religion. Today nonbelievers make up about a quarter of active military personnel. So I know how “atheists in foxholes” would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. Military service is, in part, about defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive. Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for demonstrating that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.
Marvin (Mark) Jabin
Dear Director Bockelman,
No doubt you're getting a shrill earful from the Christian majority concerning Bibles in the Navy Lodge. As a retired Navy F-14 pilot, I can tell you that not all Navy service members believe that the Bible is a truthful, or even righteous, text. Just think about the conduct of the Old Testament god with respect to the entire earth's inhabitants at the time of The Flood, or how he treated every Egyptian family because the Pharaoh refused to free the Israelites. In any case, our country is founded on the principle of religious freedom and that the government should remain neutral toward all religions. Clearly, distributing (thereby favoring) the Christian Bible violates this crucial constitutional tenet. Just because it's a tradition, does not make it right.
I hope you will stand your ground and do the right thing. History will reflect very well on you if you support the separation of church and state and refrain from religious favoritism. Thank you for your consideration to the opinion of one Navy veteran.
LCDR (Ret) USN
As an Atheist American veteran (Combat Command B, 2nd Armored Division, Mainz, Germany), I am offended by the placing of Christian bibles in Navy- run Lodges. The implication is more than obvious: The U.S. navy supports the belief that Christianity is better than other religions as well as being better than no religion. Both ideas are false and insulting to many of us in our very diverse society. Let’s stop equating patriotism with Christianity. Respect all of us and take a stand against religious intolerance by keeping Christian bibles out of Navy-run lodges. Thank you.
Mr. Madison Arnold
New York City
PS: Instead of bibles, how about putting copies of the Constitution in Navy lodges. That is the document we all served in the military to defend.
Dear Director Bockelman,
I served in the military during the Vietnam War. I completely agree with your original decision to remove protestant bibles from Navy Lodge guest rooms. Close to twenty percent of American adults identify as non-religious. I am one of those. Sadly the Supreme Court, in Greece vs. Galloway, has recently relaxed the historic rules of church/state separation that our wise founders rightly instituted. In the aftermath of that ill-conceived decision, we see local governments burdened with requests to include many religions and worldviews in government functions, which should be focused on fixing potholes, maintaining infrastructure, and licensing various business activities.
Do you really want the Navy to suffer the same fate? Are you prepared to be pestered to include in your lodges space for the Book of Mormon, the Hindu Bahagavad Gita, the Qur’an, the sacred writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the various texts of Buddhists and Wiccans, the Satanic Bible, perhaps the Roman Catholic version of the Bible and many others?
Your original decision to remove the protestant Bibles was correct and in agreement with our constitution that seeks to avoid having the government take the side of any religion. I suggest you stick with your original decision.
Timothy L Rauhouse
I am a veteran of the U.S. Army (active duty 1963-1966) and I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. I'm part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious - the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I'm deeply offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there. I believe Bibles in hotel rooms sends a message that I need to be converted, that I am wrong in my non-belief.
My alma mater for a master's degree, Iowa State University, removed Bibles from the Student Union hotel. When I trained in ROTC at the University of Connecticut, our commanding officer told us we were defending the rights of those who protested our activities in Vietnam. We were also defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive.
Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations remain secular. Thank you for demonstrating that the Navy, like Iowa State, is willing to stand by the separation of government and religion. None of us want to live in a theocracy and the Navy has taken appropriate action to stop theocracy from gaining a foothold in this great country.
Dear Director Bockelman,
I am writing to you as an honorably discharged Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. I want to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. As a non Christian, I’m offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that the hotel owners (in this case, my government) support and encourage a specific religion, Christianity. Please consider how someone of another belief, or no belief, would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive. Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.
Dear Director Bockelman,
As a retired judge who is a bit familiar with the United States Constitution and strongly supports the notion of separation of church and state, I appreciate the pressures imposed upon you by Christians to keep bibles in all Navy Lodge guest rooms. I also appreciate your decision that such "propaganda" is an affront to the notion of such separation and your decision to follow constitutional dictates was a bold one.
I therefore would sincerely appreciate your re-imposing your decision to remove Christian bibles from the rooms. Aside from the somewhat silly idea that such availability of the bibles behooves our nation, the placement is as much of an affront to non-Christians as would be a Qu'ran or tract preaching atheism similarly placed. It is simply inappropriate and, most of all, unnecessary.
I appreciate your consideration of my comments.
Dear Director Bockelman,
I am a family member of a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. As a nonbeliever, I’m part of the one in five U.S. adult citizens who is nonreligious — the fastest growing segment of the population by religious identification. I’m deeply offended when I go into a hotel room and find a bible there, which sends a message that I need to be converted or am somehow the “wrong” religion. Today nonbelievers make up about a quarter of active military personnel. So I know how “atheists in foxholes” would feel in encountering someone else’s “holy book” in what should be secular military accommodations. Military service is, in part, about defending the secular constitutional principles on which this country was founded. The separation between government and religion is one of those key principles that have allowed our country to thrive.
Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers.
Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.
Barbara J Mathison
Dear Director Bockelman,
I am the wife of a retired Navy Chief, and mother of a newly retired Navy Chief, and I am writing to thank you for your correct decision to remove Christian bibles from all Navy Lodge guest rooms. I speak for my husband and son in voicing the opinion that it is deeply offensive to find a bible in a hotel room provided by the United States military, thereby conveying the message that "Christianity" is the official religion of the United States Navy. Thank you for ensuring secular accommodations, which guarantees that some military personnel are not made to feel like “outsiders” because they are non-Christians or nonbelievers. Thank you for showing me that the Navy is willing to stand by that principle, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, but because it is the only appropriate course of action.
Thank you for taking action and finally removing the bibles from Navy accommodations. My daughter is an active duty Navy sailor and I watch closely what the department does. As a non-believer myself, I am encouraged to see that you have ended the preference of religion over non-religion and specifically Christianity over any other belief. I cannot speak for my daughter, but I am very grateful that you have ended this practice. I know you're probably getting grief about this minor issue, but thank you for standing up for our first amendment rights.
Keep up the great work at keeping America protected!
Eric Tawney, Ohio.
Dear Mr. Bockelman,
First, let me introduce myself. I am a U.S. Army veteran from the Korean Conflict. (No, no, never refer to the Korean War. It was the Korean Conflict or Korean Police Action, do you hear me?). May I ask that you DO remove Bibles from Navy Lodge rooms because the Bible can cause great confusion for our military personnel who are confronted by it in their rooms. For example, let's say a Bible is in a room, and one of our military persons opens it up and happens to come to a verse in Leviticus which reads, "If a man lies with another man as he does with a woman, both have committed an abomination, they shall be put to death, and their blood shall be upon them." The Bible thus teaches us to murder gay individuals, and that seems to be an horrific way to meet the LGBT situation.
Then the serviceman comes to the Ten Commandments, and reads that we shall honor the Sabbath Day and not work thereon. Yet if he goes off base on a Sunday to a grocery store to buy some food, there all the staff is working on Sunday! And he goes to Walmart on the Sabbath Day, and the entire employee staff is working there, too. Confusion, right?
And then he reads another of the Commandments that says Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife--but does this mean it's OK to covet thy neighbor's husband?
And then he goes to I Timothy and reads that women shall not be permitted to teach, shall remain silent, and be in submission. And now he is flabbergasted the U.S. Episcopal Church has selected Katharine Jefferts Schori to be its National Presiding Bishop! I myself do not want our military personnel to have their minds cluttered by such confusing language from the Bible, and I believe our servicemen would be more calm and effective as servicemen if the Bibles were kept out of their rooms, would you not agree?
Theodore M. Utchen
We (my husband and I) were very happy to hear that the Navy had decided to discontinue putting Bibles in Naval operated hotel rooms.
But, now, we have found out that that decision has been rescinded. Please, please go back to no Bibles! I ask this partially because my husband, when attending the Naval Academy many years ago was forced to proclaim a religion. His family had no religion and the only connection he had to any religion was that he grew up in a mostly Catholic community. So, that being the religion he knew the most about he said he was Catholic. Too late he found out that at the Naval Academy Catholics were forced to get up earliest and march to the chapel on Sunday mornings. He found out that if he had claimed to be Buddhist that he would have been allowed to leave the Academy Campus on Sunday mornings. He tried to change his religion to Buddhist but was not allowed to do so.
While Bibles in hotel rooms are not as coercive as requiring attendance at Sunday services, they are still offensive to those of us who have no religion. What would many people think if they found the Koran in their hotel room? To those of us with no religion, there is no difference whether we find the Koran or a Bible (or any other religious propaganda) in our hotel rooms.
Please go back to religious neutrality and remove all bibles from all hotel rooms.
As a former naval officer (LCDR, MC), I am writing to you out of concern for a naval policy which permits placement of Christian bibles in naval hotel rooms or other facilities. This governmental and taxpayer- supported activity is offensive to those of us who believe that religious promotion has no place in government institutions. In case you hadn't noticed, one may no longer assume that all Americans are devotees of the Christian religion...an ever-increasing number count themselves as members of other faiths, or as agnostics or atheists. A common (and especially irritating) response by Christian advocates is that, " If you don't like it, ignore it." Impossible...like finding something vile in your sandwich, but attempting to convince yourself that it's savory, so eat up! This official religious favoritism would be more befitting the Taliban than the US government. Please curtail the religious propaganda.
Erwin B. Clahassey, MD
“Dear James: After watching John Edward on Larry King last night, I was reminded of Bacon’s admonition – ‘A credulous man is a deceiver.’ On the gullibility scale, Larry is second only to Montel Williams. I hope the enclosed will help to educate them both. My best, Johnny Carson.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation needs your help to keep the Ten Commandments out of a county courthouse in Jackson County, Ala.
Although the Ten Commandments represent an unmistakably religious message, the Jackson County Commission is considering a proposal to display the Ten Commandments alongside the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at its county courthouse. The sponsor of the resolution argues that all are important historic documents serving to remind the public of our nation’s “divine” founding. (Clearly, including the secular Constitution and the revolutionary Declaration of Independent is a ruse to promote biblical edicts on governmental property.)
On August 15, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a letter to Jackson County Commission Chairman Matthew Hodges, objecting to the unconstitutional proposal:
“The First Amendment mandates that the government can't promote or favor or advance religion. By placing a Ten Commandments monument in front of this building, the county is signaling they have a religious purpose.” Furthermore, “The fact that the Commission would seek to fund this display through private donations indicates that the Commission recognizes that the display poses a great risk of public perception of endorsement of religion.”
U.S. law isn’t remotely based on the Ten Commandments or the bible, and neither was the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. In fact, the United States has a godless Constitution, with no mentions of “God,” “the Ten Commandments” or “Christianity.” Its only references to religion are exclusionary, such as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and that there shall be no religious test for public office. Likewise, the Declaration of Independence is a product of the Deistic Enlightenment, declaring that government derives its power from the consent of the governed—a profoundly antibiblical notion rejecting divine authority.
Contrary to Jackson County Commissioner Tim Guffey’s claims, the “Ten Commandments have no relation to the foundation of the United States. Our entirely secular Constitution makes no reference to them, nor does the Declaration. Our leaders wisely shaped the laws of the United States on fundamental principles of democracy and not on religious dogma,” as FFRF noted in its letter.
Please help send the message to the Jackson County Commission that the Ten Commandments has no place at a government building. (Scroll to end to read a news story and watch TV coverage of this controversy.)
Please contact the Jackson County Commission now to voice your opposition!
Commission meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month at the Jackson County Courthouse in Courtroom 1. Meetings are open to the public.
Use your own language or feel free to use the language below. If you live in Alabama or in Jackson County please be sure to identify yourself as a state citizen or county resident. Also get talking points from: FFRF’s “Is America a Christian Nation?” and “What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandments?”
[As a Jackson County citizen,] I am writing to urge you to refrain from displaying religious messages at the Jackson County Courthouse. Installing the Ten Commandments at a government building would send the message to nonbelievers and religious minorities that we are second class citizens. Biblical edicts have no place alongside the Constitution and the Declaration of the Independence. The Ten Commandments run contrary to the Declaration of Independence, a work of the Enlightenment declaring that “all men are created equal” and that government is instituted by the consent of the governed. The First Commandment also violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. Jackson County has no business telling citizens which gods to have, how many gods to have, or whether to have any gods at all! If the Jackson County Courthouse would like to post a list of ten items, it should post our Bill of Rights.
Thank you for immediately discontinuing the misguided plan to place a Ten Commandments display at the Jackson County Courthouse!
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.
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.”