The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed its first lawsuit over a violation of open records law, after a track record of taking more than 60 Establishment Clause lawsuits.
In a suit filed today in Dane County Circuit Court, Wis., the Madison-based national state/church watchdog charges that Wisconsin open records law was violated by Theodore Nickel, state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and Commissioner. In addition to FFRF, Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott is a plaintiff.
Elliott made a series of open records requests of the Office of the Commissioner after a reported agency decision that Wisconsin's contraceptive mandate, known as the Contraceptive Equity Law, would no longer be enforced because it was preempted by the June 30 Hobby Lobby ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
FFRF and many other observers disagreed, since the Religious Freedom Restoration Act under which the ruling was decided applies only to the federal government, not states.
On July 21, the right-wing news outlet MediaTrackers quoted J.P. Wieske, OCI legislative liaison and public information officer, as stating the Contraceptive Equity Law was "preempted." MediaTrackers reported that the state would not enforce the law. Legitimate news sources then piggybacked on MediaTrackers' story.
Elliott first made a records request July 22 about OCI's enforcement of contraceptive coverage requirements, including Nickel's authority to disregard state law. Elliott followed up July 25 with further requests.
When more than a month had lapsed, Elliott again contacted the agency on Aug. 25. Although that resulted in 16 pages of documents, much of the requests were denied or not responded to. Elliott contested the denial in an Aug. 29 letter, which also was not responded to. He subsequently requested records from the Office of the Governor, including any communications with the OCI related to Wisconsin's contraceptive mandate.
Gov. Scott Walker's office made two denials, but otherwise provided 36 pages of documents, including some communications with OCI that OCI had failed to provide to comply with FFRF's request.
The law says responses must be provided "as soon as practicable and without delay." FFRF charges that OCI violated numerous portions of the law and seeks an order directing the defendants to produce the requested records, award reasonable attorneys' fees, damages of not less than $100, punitive damages and other actual costs.
"Let there be sunlight," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, who thanked the firm of McGillivray Westerberg & Bender for representing FFRF.
The case is in the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Amy Smith.
By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Last week Pope Francis was hailed worldwide merely for appearing to suggest that dogs can go to heaven. Then it turned out he never said it.
For the record, this is the pope's void-for-vagueness remark about heaven on Vatican Radio Nov. 26: "The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything round us." Italian media, then media around the world, including The New York Times, went wild, conflating this remark with another comment "attributed" to Pope Paul VI, supposedly to comfort a small boy: "One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God's creatures."
But the quote fable is really beside the point. Heaven is the real fable. What is to the point is that none of us, beloved pooches included, will outlive our deaths. There's evidence only for death after life, not life after death. Heaven is pure make-believe and wishful thinking. Even had the pope said dogs go to heaven, he would have simply been conjuring up a nicer nonexistent place than the traditional Catholic version.
"Faith outreach" officials with the Humane Society and PETA fell all over themselves in response to the misreports of the pope's remarks on heaven. Ms. Christine Gutleben, senior "director of faith outreach" for the Humane Society, told The New York Times, "If the pope did mean that all animals go to heaven, then the implication is that animals also have a soul."
If dogs have "souls," isn't the other implication that they could also wind up in hell? Why weren't PETA and the Humane Society calling for a picket of the Vatican for cruelty to animals?
One can speculate endlessly about the nonexistent, but we shouldn't reward people, popes or parents for such irresponsible vaporizings. It's not right or ethical to deceive children about the fate of dead pets. At best, one might truthfully say of a pet or person who's been very ill, that their suffering is over. But to say a pet or a person is "in a happier place" is a fabrication. It's a "pie in the sky" lie. The time to enjoy pie is while we're alive. If we're going to enjoy pie, or treasure our pets, and each other, it has to be here and now.
Nor can I approve a fool's paradise, however final, inexorable, frightening, tragic or ghastly death might be. Telling ourselves obvious fibs about reality shouldn't be laudable. As Emily Dickinson put it, "Believing what we don't believe/Does not exhilarate." Most of us would agree death could be a friend in the most ideal of circumstances, at the conclusion of a long, fulfilling life when we're worn out and ready to go. And in those less ideal and more likely circumstances, such as long illnesses, or Alzheimer's, death may well be a welcome release. And wouldn't immortality ultimately turn into eternal torture? As Dan says, "The trouble with eternal life is: When does it end?"
Religion's greatest "sin" lies in displacing human endeavor, thought, time, resources and efforts from this world, our only world, in order to exalt a highly unlikely, unknowable, unseeable, unprovable and unbelievable pretend afterworld. The only afterlife that ought to concern us is leaving our descendants (along with the other animals and life we share our planet with) a secure and pleasant future.
SOME FAVORITE QUOTES ABOUT HEAVEN AND HELL
Heaven for climate, hell for company. — Mark Twain
It is possible to speculate endlessly about the nonexistent. — Anne Nicol Gaylor
The average man, who does not know what to do with his life, wants another one which will last forever. — Anatole France
Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. — Susan Ertz
That it will never come
Is what makes life so sweet.
Believing what we don't believe
Does not exhilarate.
That if it be, it be at best
An ablative estate –
This instigates an appetite
— Emily Dickinson
We are on the earth, and they tell us of heaven; we are human beings, and they tell us of angels and devils; we are matter, and they tell us of spirit; we have five senses whereby to admit truths, and a reasoning faculty by which to build our belief upon them; and they tell us of dreams dreamed thousands of years ago, which our experience flatly contradicts.
— Frances Wright
The lash of a hereafter is no guide for us here. — Ernestine L. Rose
Religion, with an upward glancing eye, asks what there is above. Philosophy looks around her and seeks to make a happy home of earth. — Emma Martin
One world at a time. — Robert G. Ingersoll
(Also attributed to Henry David Thoreau as he lay dying.)
I believe that this world needs all our best efforts and earnest endeavors twenty-four hours every day. . . . I do not know the needs of a god or of another world. . . I do know that the needs of humanity and this world are infinite, unending, constant, and immediate. They will take all our time, our strength, our love, and our thoughts; and our work here will be only then begun. — Helen H. Gardener
Our life is short and we cannot spare an hour from the human race, even for all the gods in creation. — Ernestine L. Rose.
Dying is a very dull, dreary, affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it. — W. Somerset Maugham
I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. — Bertrand Russell
I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own—a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature. — Albert Einstein
All religions issue bibles again Satan, and say the most injurious things against him, but we never hear his side. — Mark Twain
Annie Laurie Gaylor co-directs FFRF with Dan Barker, and lives in Madison, Wis. Some of the quotes above are from the anthology she edited, Women Without Superstition — 'No Gods, No Masters': The Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of the 19th and 20th Centuries, published by FFRF.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit today against Franklin County, Ind., which annually places a prominent nativity display in front of the Franklin County Courthouse in Brookville. The devotional tableau is erected shortly after Thanksgiving and stays up until early to mid-January.
The nativity consists of several life-size figures of Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, and at least one angel blowing a trumpet surrounding the baby Jesus. "The display represents an endorsement of religion and has the principal effect of advancing religion, and it therefore runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," the complaint charges. The display, which is owned by Brookville, has been erected for some 50 years. It's FFRF's information and belief that the county provides the electricity used to light the devotional scene.
In addition to FFRF, two Franklin County residents are local plaintiffs in the suit. FFRF is represented by Senior Staff Attorney Gavin M. Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. FFRF Staff Attorneys Rebecca Markert and Sam Grover are co-counsel.
After receiving complaints by local residents, FFRF first contacted Franklin County about its unconstitutional nativity in 2010. That year the nativity scene was erected at the foot of the flag pole. FFRF renewed complaints in 2011 and 2013. The county refused to take down the religious scene, moving it closer to the courthouse entrance in 2011. Community members have held annual rallies around it, where a commissioner was quoted this year as saying, "The atheists and the liberals are taking over our country."
In a 2010 media report, a Franklin County commissioner insisted that FFRF was "serious about limiting our Christian values that we have." In 2011, FFRF put up billboards reading "Imagine No Religion" and "Reason's Greetings" in Brookville to counter the government-sponsored crèche.
"There are ample private and church grounds where religious displays may be freely placed, said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Once Franklin County enters into the religion business, conferring endorsement and preference for one religion over others, it strikes a blow at religious liberty, forcing citizens of all faiths and of no religion to support a particular expression of religion."
"The First Amendment protects these kinds of displays by individuals and groups on private property, but also makes clear that displays on public property, which is maintained by taxpayers, cannot demonstrate a preference for religion," said Rose.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Franklin County to remove the nativity scene permanently. A motion for a preliminary injunction was also filed today. The case, No. 1:14-cv-02047-TWP-DML, sits before Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, an Obama appointee, at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.
FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with more than 21,500 members, including 350 in Indiana.
Eleven friendly and thought-provoking billboards featuring members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its chapter, the FFRF Metropolitan Chicago Chapter, are going up this week in Chicagoland in a public relations campaign to introduce area atheists and agnostics to their community. Additional billboards will be placed early next year.
The billboards feature the faces of local atheists, agnostics and freethinkers along with their personal freethought “testimonials.”
Tom Cara, chapter director, from Niles, is pictured next to his slogan: “Kindness comes from altruism, not from seeking divine reward.”
A freethinking family, Liz, Chris, Sylvie, Ian and Charlie Calato of Huntley, is featured and identified as atheists. Their message? “Finding purpose & meaning together . . . religion free!”
Hemant Mehta of Naperville, a young atheist celebrity who runs the popular “Friendly Atheist” blog, says “I’d rather put my faith in me.”
“We are here to challenge you to think for yourself!” says Kimberly Veal, of Chicago, identified as “social justice activist . . . Freethinker & Humanist.”
Retired teacher Mary Schulatz of Chicago proclaims, “I believe in reason and logic!”
“Free of faith, fear and superstition,” says Evan Kane of Highland Park, who calls himself a “real estate scientist.” Kane is active with the FFRF Chicago chapter.
Trader and atheist Joel Frazin, Chicago, says: “Equality for all shouldn’t be constrained by any religion.” IT Executive, father and atheist Kenner Estes, Chicago, notes: “Atheism does not dampen my wonder.” Chicago’s Drew Bekius, a former pastor who is now a freethinker, explains: “I’m following truth beyond belief.”
“I put my faith in science,” is the billboard message of Alan Wagner, Sterling, a musician and atheist. Grandmother Kathi Wise of Palatine, pictured on a lavendar billboard, affirms, “Life is good for this life-long atheist.”
FFRF, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 21,500 members, including more than 800 members in Illinois. FFRF debuted the “Out of the Closet” campaign in Madison in 2010 and has taken the personalized campaign to Columbus, Tulsa, Raleigh, Phoenix, Nashville, Portland, Spokane, Sacramento, Cleveland and Akron.
“Research shows that atheists and other nonbelievers remain at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to social acceptance. One reason for that is that even though at least 20% of the population today is nonreligious in the United States, many Americans have never knowingly met an atheist,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “We’re trying to change that.”
You don’t have to be on a real billboard to participate in FFRF’s “out of the closet” campaign. Make your own “virtual billboard” or upload a short freethought video statement.
DAN BARKER and ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR are co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and co-hosts of Freethought Radio. A former minister and evangelist, Dan became a freethinker in 1983. His books, Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children and Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher To Atheist (1992) are published by the Foundation. His newest book, The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God, was published by Ullysses Press in January, 2011. His previous book, the autobiographical Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, was published in 2008. A graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Religion, Dan now puts his knowledge of Christianity to effective freethought use. A professional pianist and composer, Dan performs freethought concerts and is featured in the Foundation's musical cassettes, "My Thoughts Are Free," "Reason's Greetings," "Dan Barker Salutes Freethought Then And Now," a 2-CD album "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist," and the CD "Beware of Dogma." He joined the Foundation staff in 1987 and served as public relations director. He was first elected co-president in November 2004.
Annie Laurie was also editor of Freethought Today from 1984 to 2009, when she became executive editor. The paper is published 10 times a year. Her book, Woe To The Women: The Bible Tells Me So, first published in 1981, is now in its 4th printing. In 1988, the Foundation published her book, Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, the first book documenting widespread sexual abuse by clergy. Her 1997 book, Women Without Superstition: 'No Gods, No Masters'is the first collection of the writings of historic and contemporary women freethinkers. A 1980 graduate of the UW-Madison Journalism School, she was an award-winning student reporter and recipient of the Ken Purdy scholarship. After graduation, she founded, edited and published the Feminist Connection,a monthly advocacy newspaper, from 1980-1985. She joined the Foundation staff in 1985. She has been co-president since 2004. She co-founded the original FFRF with Anne Gaylor (see below) as a college student. Photo: Timothy Hughes
FFRF President emerita
ANNE NICOL GAYLOR is a founder and president emerita of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She served as executive director from 1978 to 2005, and is now working as a consultant to the Foundation. Born in rural Wisconsin, she is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She owned and managed successful small businesses and was co-owner and editor of an award-winning suburban weekly newspaper. A feminist author, she has done substantial volunteer work for women's rights (including serving as volunteer director of the Women's Medical Fund). Under her leadership the Freedom From Religion Foundation has grown from its initial three Wisconsin members to a national group with representation in every state and Canada.
Director of Operations
LISA STRAND is director of operations of FFRF. She has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit (primarily association) management, including 15 years as executive director of the Wisconsin Library Association. She is married with a daughter, as well as three cats, a guinea pig and an untended garden that will someday be beautiful.
REBECCA S. MARKERT attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her B.A. in political science, international relations and German in 1998. After graduating from UW–Madison, Rebecca spent one year working as a legislative fellow at the German Parliament in Bonn, Germany. In the fall 1999, she returned to the United States and began working as a legislative correspondent and assistant to the chief of staff for United States Senator Russ Feingold in Washington, D.C. In 2002, she returned to Madison, Wisconsin, to work on Senator Feingold’s 2004 re-election campaign. After the campaign, Rebecca attended Roger Williams University School of Law and received her Juris Doctor in 2008. She joined the Foundation staff in October 2008.
Rebecca is the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s first staff attorney and primarily works on Establishment Clause cases. She is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin.
PATRICK ELLIOTT, the Foundation's second staff attorney, hails from St. Paul, Minn. Patrick received a degree in legal studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. He attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received his Juris Doctor in 2009. While in school, Patrick took an interest in the First Amendment and constitutional law. He joined FFRF as a staff attorney in July 2010, after working part-time for the Foundation since February. Patrick is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Western and Eastern Districts of Wisconsin.
ANDREW SEIDEL graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science and magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School, where he was awarded the Haber J. McCarthy Award for excellence in environmental law. He studied human rights and international law at the University of Amsterdam and traveled the world on Semester at Sea. In May of 2011, Andrew completed his Master of Laws at Denver University Sturm College of Law with a 4.0 GPA and was awarded the Outstanding L.L.M. Award. He has written a book on International Human Rights Law and his essay on the role of religion in government and the founding of our nation placed second in the FFRF's 2010 graduate student essay contest. Andrew is a former Grand Canyon tour guide and accomplished nature photographer; his work has been displayed in galleries in Colorado, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Maryland. He joined the FFRF staff as a constitutional consultant in November 2011.
ELIZABETH CAVELL received her B.A in English from the University of Florida in 2005. After college, Elizabeth spent a year as a full-time volunteer in AmeriCorps*NCCC. She attended Tulane University Law School and received her Juris Doctor in 2009. After law school, she worked as a deputy public defender in southern Colorado. She joined the Foundation as a staff attorney in January 2013, after working for the Foundation part-time since September 2012.
SAM GROVER received his B.A. in philosophy and government from Wesleyan University in 2008. He first worked for FFRF in 2010 as a legal intern while attending Boston University School of Law. In 2011, his article on the religious exemptions in the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate was published in the American Journal of Law and Medicine. After receiving his J.D. from Boston University in 2012, Sam worked as a law clerk for the Vermont Office of Legislative Council where he drafted legislation on health care, human services, and tax issues. He returned to work as a constitutional consultant for FFRF in the fall of 2013. Sam has written a paper on counterterrorism and the law that was published by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City and has traveled to southern Africa to work under Justice Unity Dow of Botswana’s High Court.
KATHERINE PAIGE graduated magna cum laude from Wichita State University in 2010 with a B.A. in History, Political Science, and French. She attended law school at the College of William & Mary where she received her Juris Doctor in 2014. Katherine became FFRF’s first Legal Fellow in September 2014, specializing in faith-based government funding.
MADELINE ZIEGLER graduated magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in 2011 with a B.A. in English Literature and Political Science. She attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received her Juris Doctor in 2014. She has worked at FFRF since May 2012, starting as a legal intern/extern, and currently works as a law clerk.
KATIE DANIEL is the outreach and donor relations manager 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. She loves baking for her coworkers and 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.”