The Freedom From Religion Foundation is now the proud owner of an official University of Wisconsin-Madison football helmet signed by Coach Paul Chryst and legendary coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez. The helmet will be included in a silent auction at FFRF's convention Oct. 9-10 in Madison at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.
During its investigation of the long-running chaplaincy within the Wisconsin football program, FFRF learned that the team's chaplain, Catholic priest Mike Burke, regularly received memorabilia to auction off for the benefit of his church, St. Maria Goretti Parish. The church uses the proceeds of the annual auction for religious functions, including "religious education and youth ministry programs" as well as "adult faith formation and evangelization."
In 2014, Burke's church auctioned off multiple memorabilia items signed by Wisconsin coaching staff, including head football, basketball and hockey coaches.
FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott submitted a "Charitable Donation Request" form in July for signed memorabilia items similar to items received by the church. The Athletic Department approved the request and agreed to provide a signed football helmet and make coaches available to sign other items. FFRF will also auction off a signed football, a basketball signed by Coach Bo Ryan and a private tour of Camp Randall Stadium.
"We appreciate that the University of Wisconsin is offering the same treatment to FFRF as it has to the Catholic Church," said Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "But we believe a public university should not be in the business of donating items for religious or nonreligious programs. As long as the university chooses to support Christian programming, it must keep a level playing field and provide similar treatment to our secular organization and others."
The second Reason Rally, sponsored by a coalition of secular groups, including FFRF, will take place at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Saturday, June 4, 2016.
"At FFRF, we work hard to ensure that reason will prevail, not only in urging that reason should be employed in forming opinions about religion, but must inform our public policy, not religious dogma," said Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
"We also hope to rev up the 'I'm Secular and I Vote' movement in an election year, to ensure that candidates are reminded that almost a quarter of the U.S. population today is nonreligious, supports secular government and opposes religious interference in our laws," added Dan Barker, who co-directs FFRF, the nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 23,000 members nationwide.
You may start making travel arrangements, booking hotel rooms and coordinating with other freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists and activists for four whole days of comedy, music, eating, drinking, enlightenment and activism.
Many secular activists, authors and musicians, including Richard Dawkins and James Randi, will attend. Confirmed speakers include Eugenie Scott, Paul Provenza, Cara Santa Maria and many others.
Please visit reasonrally.org for more information on who will be speaking and performing, what will be happening, how to help and where to go for accommodations.
FFRF is pleased to report that the Carroll County School District, Carrollton, Ga., has issued a statement admitting that Villa Rica High School "failed to follow district facility usages procedures for outside groups using school facilities" by letting a coach invite First Baptist Church to perform mass baptisms in a utility tub on the football field before practice.
Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell sent a letter Sept. 1 to the district, addressing the egregious nature of this proselytizing event. FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler sent a letter earlier over promotion of a religious baccalaureate at Mount Zion High School, and a student informed FFRF that the school had made appropriate changes.
"We are pleased that the school district has publicly affirmed its commitment to keep religion out of public school events, and concurs that the bizarre baptisms crossed the line," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
"We would hope that the staff members who participated would be reprimanded and carefully monitored and that the district would send out a memo reminding employees that they may not engage in devotional events with students in public schools," said Gaylor.
Name: Valerie Tarico.
Where I live: Seattle, Wash.
Where and when I was born: Indiana, 1960.
Family: Husband of 24 years, Brian Arbogast, who is my best friend, and two awesome college student daughters who still like us! Funky fact: My elder daughter exists only because I was able to abort an infected pregnancy and start over. We conceived her before that first, unhealthy pregnancy would have come to term. I am grateful every day to the kind doctors who gave us a second chance and made her life possible.
Education: Graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois (Billy Graham's alma mater); University of Iowa, Ph.D. in counseling psychology.
Occupation: Freelance advocate and writer, focused on challenging religious fundamentalism and on helping to make thoughtful, intentional childbearing the new normal.
How I got where I am today: I kept asking the questions that were off limits. So wicked!
Where I'm headed: When I'm not working to undermine the corrosive power of biblical literalism, I'm working to help catalyze a technology revolution in contraception. That means a transition from outdated everyday or every-time birth control methods, like the pill and condom, to long-acting IUDs and implants that literally toggle the default setting, making pregnancy opt-in rather than opt-out.
Taking human error out of the equation drops accidental pregnancy and abortion to near zero, with bonus health benefits like lighter menstrual periods and less cancer. I want to make "surprise" pregnancy actually surprising in Washington state by 2030, so that 90% of babies are born by design rather than by default. Beyond that, I suspect I'm headed for the Urban Death Project's compost bin.
Person in history I admire: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who makes both left- and right-wingers uncomfortable with her clear-eyed, unflinching challenge to Islamic oppression of girls and women. As someone on the left half of the political spectrum, I'm ashamed of how progressives treat her. I'm also completely infatuated with Van Jones, Sam Harris, Cecile Richards and Neil deGrasse Tyson. (My husband knows.)
A quotation I like: "We are each other's business; we are each other's harvest; we are each other's magnitude and bond." (American poet Gwendolyn Brooks) "Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty." (modern Renaissance man Jacob Bronowski) "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." (anthropologist Margaret Mead)
These are a few of my favorite things: Ancient trees, misty ferns, the smell of damp earth, silences, manual labor, timeless architecture, people who are kind and curious and who step up.
These are not: Light pollution, garish disposable buildings, willful ignorance, careless cruelty.
My doubts about religion started: I never could understand how my I was going to be blissfully happy in heaven while my childhood friend, Kay, (a Mormon) was being tortured in hell. If I find it painful that kids are starving in Africa or rhino babies are losing their mamas, or that ISIS is torturing and killing people in the Middle East, why would I be fine in a heaven that coexists with hell?
Before I die: I think climate change is the core moral issue of our time and that the growth of human need is driven in large part by unsought and unwanted childbearing. I'd like to see the trend lines moving on both of these issues, to see that there's hope for that we can attain sustainable abundance in a thriving web of life.
Ways I promote freethought: I write for online news and opinion sites, including Salon, AlterNet, TruthOut and The Raw Story and also post all of my articles for subscribers at ValerieTarico.com (sign up!). I wrote a book, Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light. I have a YouTube channel with videos about the psychology of religion at youtube.com/user/TrustingDoubt. I support the hard work of freethought organizations, including Foundation Beyond Belief, Recovering From Religion and, of course, FFRF.
Name: Eleanor McEntee.
Where and when I was born: I was born in St. Louis, Mo. I'm a child of the early 1970s.
Education: Clayton High School, Mo.; Guilford College, N.C.
Family: Nancy and Donald (parents) and Holly and Emily (my older and younger sisters).
How I came to work at FFRF: I have been Women's Medical Fund's volunteer bookkeeper since 2006. When the bookkeeping position became vacant at FFRF in 2015, I applied and was hired!
What I do here: Bookkeeping and other administrative tasks.
What I like best about it: I get to work on a Mac!
What gets old about it: The crank callers and the callers who talk/lecture and refuse to listen.
I spend a lot of time thinking about: When at work, I am thinking about transparency and clean audits, and when not at work, I am thinking about the route of my next Harley ride/adventure and about how I can make this world a better place to live in.
I spend little if any time thinking about: Fashion trends.
My religious upbringing was: Casual Congregationalist and serious nature walks.
My doubts about religion started: The musical aspect and sense of community were predominating but the dogma made no sense. It seemed hypocritical and the bible seemed anti-woman and demanded domination over the Earth instead of coexisting with nature.
Things I like: Riding my Harley, petting my kitties, having Monday burger nights with Holly and brother-in-law Eric, journaling, spending time in nature and visiting my co-worker's Betta fishes named Church and State (and yes, they are separate).
Things I smite: Hypocrisy and defending poor choices with faulty/no logic instead of taking responsibility for one's own actions.
In my golden years: Continue to ride my Harley, be able to laugh, be a critical thinker, be happy and healthy.
If you like, ask yourself a question here: Why is the food that is so bad for me taste so good? Shut up and pass the deep-fried cheese curds!
With so much of America agog and on its collective knees for Pope Francis' visit to America, including a first-ever papal address to a joint session of Congress, FFRF went on the offensive with a series of statements protesting state/church entanglement.
How entangled was it? The day after the pope's speech to Congress, House Speaker John Boehner resigned his seat (for unrelated reasons). GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush had this reaction: "John Boehner dedicated his life to public service. Bringing the Holy Father to Congress was a fitting cap to a great career."
FFRF sponsored full-page ads (see pages 12-13) Sept. 24 in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and Philadelphia Inquirer to explain why it's wrong for a religious leader to address Congress. It also sponsored a 30-second spot on ABC "World News Tonight" featuring President John Kennedy as a candidate making his famous remarks to Houston pastors: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."
The same ad ran in more than 20 major metro areas during "Late Night with Stephen Colbert" but CBS refused to air it nationally.
The New York Times' Sept. 17 edition featured a story headlined "An Atheist Group Asks, Should New York Be in the Pope Business?" It detailed FFRF's efforts, including:
• A letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticizing the city's ticket giveaway and staff involvement in the pope's Central Park "procession." The visit was estimated to cost taxpayers at least $1.5 million.
• A letter to Boehner asking him to invite an atheist dignitary, Richard Dawkins, to address a joint session of Congress to balance the score.
• Protesting use of Pennsylvania prison inmates to build a hand-carved walnut chair for the pope.
• Contacting President Barack Obama to protest the official website promotion of the pope's devotional events, including a Sept. 23 White House visit, and its invitation to citizens to sign up for alerts about the pope.
Co-President started her Sept. 24 blog: "I'm in Philadelphia to provide a feminist/secular voice with a speech at the Ethical Society on the eve of the pope's visit to Philadelphia, which is taking over the city."
She wrote that Francis "has been harder to criticize, sounding more like a real human being. And I think that's the real danger — putting a pretty face on Catholic dogma, which has not budged."
She noted that Francis responded to criticism of his canonization of Junipero Serra, the father of the missionary system, by saying that missionaries' first contacts with Native Americans were "often turbulent and violent."
"After his remarks to U.S. bishops praising their 'courage' in dealing with the pain of systemic predation by Catholic officials against minors, he had the gall to mention the young being subject to 'violence, abuse and despair.' Talk about a jarring note.
"But it doesn't really matter what the pope said during his joint address to Congress. Even had I or you agreed with everything the pope said, it was still unfitting, unprecedented, unconstitutional, that a religious figure was invited, for the first time in history, to make such remarks before a joint session of Congress. . . . What distresses me the most is the spectacle of a deferential and adoring Congress turning out and giving a standing ovation to a religious leader of such a powerful religion, the huge screens for onlookers outside, the governmental websites devoted to promoting the pope's visit including devotional events — all of this put on by our secular government at taxpayer expense. The symbolism of our government united with the Catholic Church is the worst message."
After months of community turmoil and divisive religious pandering by the mayor of Hawkins, Texas, the city council voted Sept. 21 to remove a sign saying “Jesus Welcomes You To Hawkins” from city property.
FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover first sent a letter to the city in June, asking for removal of the sign due to its promotion of a Christian messag: The sign “sends a message to the city’s citizens that the Hawkins government is endorsing and compelling belief in a particular god.”
Mayor Will Rogers reacted negatively, making such statements as “Jesus is not a religion, Jesus is in every religion across the globe.” He also compared Jesus to Superman, stating, “If you don’t believe that Jesus existed, then he would be fiction. If he’s fiction, and you want to remove his name from everything then you need to remove every fiction name that there is across the country. That means we couldn’t say Superman welcomes you to town.”
Rogers also insisted that the sign was the idea of private citizens. It turns out that he composed the wording and had public school students paint it, magnifying the state/church entanglement.
The council, after ordering a land survey to verify that the sign was indeed on city property, voted to remove it and place it in storage within the next 30 days.
Grover noted, “Despite the absurdity of his statements, Rogers confused the issue enough so that many Hawkins residents became convinced that FFRF was targeting their private right to worship. Many posted their own ‘Jesus Welcomes You To Hawkins’ signs on their lawns and petitioned the council to keep it, despite its clear illegality. FFRF, of course, has no problem with private citizens exercising their right to free speech. We did think it was odd that so many people were pretending to know that their god has strong, positive opinions about their town, but that’s beside the point.”
The Connellsville (Pa.) Area School District Board voted unanimously Sept. 9 to remove a Ten Commandments monument that led to FFRF's federal lawsuit. The action came on the heels of an Aug. 28 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Terrance McVerry that the monument at Connellsville Junior High School "runs afoul of the Establishment Clause."
FFRF filed suit in September 2014 along with a seventh-grade student, "Doe 4," and the student's parent, "Doe 5," who is an atheist and FFRF member. The granite monument was donated to the school in 1956 by a chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
McVerry's 50-page decision recounted the community uproar over the removal request, including a prayer rally at the school. At a public meeting, the complainants were referred to as "yellow-belly bums" for being pseudonymous, and speakers cited the need to "stand up for the bible" and Christianity.
"The monument still stands alone outside the school, declaring to all who pass it, 'I AM the LORD thy God.' There is no context plausibly suggesting that this plainly religious message has any broader, secular meaning," wrote McVerry.
He added that is ruling "is in no way meant to denigrate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the citizens and elected officials in the Connellsville community who rallied in support of keeping the monument. . . . When, however, our government, at whatever level, departs from mere acknowledgement of our religious history to endorsement of a particular religious message, as set forth in the Ten Commandments, it has gone too far."
McVerry awarded plaintiffs the requested nominal damages in the amount of $1.
FFRF was represented by Attorney Marcus Schneider with assistance from FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott.
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, Life Driven Purpose: How an atheist finds meaning, was published by Pitchstone Press in 2015. 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 was a founder and president emerita of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She served as executive director from 1978 to 2005, and worked as a consultant to the Foundation. Born in rural Wisconsin, she was 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 did 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.
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 in some capacity since May 2012, starting as a legal intern/extern, and currently works as a legal fellow.
CALLAHAN MILLER graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin — Madison in 2014 with a B.A. in Sociology and Legal Studies and a certificate in Criminal Justice. She received a Distinction in the Major for Legal Studies and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Kappa Delta. For the majority of her time as an undergraduate, she was a leading member of UW’s ground-breaking Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics student organization. She joined the FFRF team as an official staff member in January of 2015 after having previously been an intern and intends on going to law school herself in a few years.
RYAN JAYNE received a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Honors College in 2007. After graduating, Ryan taught piano and chess lessons while working as a financial advisor until 2012, when he began law school at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon. In law school he focused on intellectual property and animal law, serving as an associate editor for the Animal Law Review at Lewis & Clark and co-founding the Pacific Northwest’s first Secular Legal Society. Ryan graduated cum laude in 2015, began working with FFRF in January of 2015, and became a Diane Uhl Legal Fellow in September, 2015, specializing in faith-based government funding.
PJ SLINGER is editor of Freethought Today. A Green Bay native, he has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has worked as a sports reporter, news reporter, copy editor, web editor and photo editor in newspapers in Marshall (Minn.), Mankato (Minn.) and Madison (Wis). Prior to coming to FFRF in 2015, he worked for 15 years at The Capital Times in Madison. He has a wife (Jana) and three kids (Cassidy, Zach, Dane).
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 SEERING is the publicist, assistant webmaster & communications coordianator. She was born in Wausau, Wis. and studied abroad in Nagasaki, Japan. Lauryn graduated from the UW-Stout in 2012 with her BS in Professional Communications and Emerging Media, concentrating in Technical Communication & International Studies. Lauryn moved to Madison in 2013 and enjoys reading about space stuff, biking and creating art at coffee shops.
LISA TREU is our Director Of First Impressions at FFRF. She comes to us after working in broadcasting for iHeart Radio in Madison, Wisconsin. She hosted various radio programs for fifteen years. Lisa and her husband ran their own Birdhouse/Birdfeeder manufacturing company called Northwoods Mfg., Inc. during the 1990’s where she had her own line of decorative birdhouses that she designed and painted herself. Lisa is the wife of Harry and is the mother of twin daughters Katrina and Karinthia. In her spare time she enjoys reading, painting, gardening, feeding the birds, getting silly with her daughters and lounging with her two cats.
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.”
- 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.”
- Oliver Sacks, M.D., the compassionate neurologist and bestselling author, describes himself as “an old Jewish atheist.”