“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!
The Freedom From Religion Foundation needs your help to keep pressure on the Navy not to renege on its decision to remove Christian bibles from Navy-run lodges.
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.
The American Family Association learned of the action and recently issued a noisy alert calling on the Navy to reverse course. Hysteria spread quickly.
By early this week, FFRF was inundated with requests for interviews on why the Navy’s preferential treatment of bibles is unconstitutional. In response, Staff Attorney Sam Grover went toe-to-toe with hostile religious news anchors and fanatical guests (including debating former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt yesterday — jump to 2:04:17 of the America’s Forum newscast).
Yesterday (Aug. 14), it was reported that the Navy had temporarily caved and ordered the return of the bibles to hotel rooms while it reviewed its policy. Theocrats are loudly declaring victory in an effort to silence the objections of the nonreligious.
The Religious Right has orchestrated a media frenzy to intimidate the Navy into maintaining its illegal policy of providing bibles in all Navy-run hotel rooms. FFRF needs your help now to give the Navy some backbone. The Navy needs to hear from the one in five who are nonreligious and those who honor the constitutional wall of separation between state and church. (Read more about the background or scroll down for contact information and talking points.)
Two concerned service members separately contacted FFRF earlier this year to report finding Christian bibles in every Navy-operated hotel room in which they had stayed during decades of service. Over 24% of FFRF’s members are active duty military or veterans and over 23% of military personnel identify as atheists, agnostics, or have no religious affiliation. FFRF sent a letter on March 12, 2014 to NEXCOM noting that placement of bibles in all such lodging shows unlawful favoritism to Christianity over all other religions and to religion over nonreligion.
The Navy has a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion. By countenancing the placement of bibles in Navy-run lodges, the Navy is sending the impermissible message that military personnel are expected to be Christian, thus turning atheists and agnostics into outsiders.
FFRF has long advocated that nonreligious consumers ask for “bible-free rooms” at private motels and hotels because we shouldn’t have to pay high prices to be proselytized in the privacy of our own hotel or motel room. FFRF’s bible warning labels remain popular with freethinking travelers who so frequently encounter in their bedside table a so-called "holy book" which glorifies violence and discrimination against nonbelievers, women, gays and children. While private hotels may choose to succumb to the lobbying of The Gideon Society, the U.S. government has an obligation to ensure secular accommodations that do not give the appearance of governmental endorsement of religion.
Please immediately voice your support for the Navy’s decision, to counter action alerts by the Christian Right against this decision:
Be sure to identify any relationship you may have with the Navy or military. Use your own words or feel free to copy any part of the message text below:
Dear Director Bockelman,
[I am an active member/veteran of the U.S. military / a family member of a U.S. military service member and] 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 has 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.
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 two 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.”