Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

1algfreeblurBy Annie Laurie Gaylor 
Co-President 
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote a facetious column titled "Thank You, FFRF!,” which ran July 3 in his archdiocese organ, Catholic New York. Why did he “thank” FFRF? 

Dolan writes: “I prayed, I hoped, that the notoriously anti-Catholic firebrands of the nebulous and anonymous ‘Freedom From Religion Foundation’ (FFRF) in Madison, Wisconsin, would once again, as they predictably had in the past, print a full-page, drippingly bigoted blast in the hospitable pages of The New York Times. ‘[T]here it was, on page A13, a whole-page sneer at ‘dogma’ and an ‘all male Roman Catholic majority.’ ” 

Is it bigotry to attack bigotry? If the Catholic hierarchy would quit attacking women’s rights, we could quit attacking Catholic doctrine. Far from launching an ad hominen attack on the “people on the court,” as Dolan claims, FFRF’s unspeakable “sin” is to simply state the truth. Our July 3 ad in The New York Times protesting the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, headlined, “Dogma should not trump our civil liberties,” had the temerity to point out: “All-male, all-Roman Catholic majority on Supreme Court puts religious wrongs over women’s rights.” Our ad’s only other — equally factual — reference to Catholicism was this sentence: “The Supreme Court’s ultra-conservative, Roman Catholic majority — Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy and Thomas — has sided with zealous fundamentalists who equate contraception with abortion.” 

Women didn’t — and couldn’t — get a fair shake on a court that was carefully stacked against our rights by Republican presidents whose very party line imposes a judicial antiabortion litmus test. (I still hold out hope that Kennedy, as the overvalued “swing” voter, would not swing so far to the right as his Catholic brethren should they vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.) 

It’s personally gratifying that the Internet still reverberates with FFRF’s most famous full-page ad in The New York Times, run in 2012, titled “It’s time to consider quitting the Catholic Church.” (The Times made us rephrase the original headline, which was the much punchier: “It’s time to quit the Catholic Church.”) Dolan, of course, is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which our ad directly criticized for declaring open war on Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, and for placing dogma above humanity. 

It appears the delicate sensibilities of the Catholic hierarchy, accustomed as they are to obsequious deference, will never recover from such blasphemous treatment by atheist upstarts. They do not take irreverence lightly. They belong, after all, to the same institution that was behind the arrest, torture and execution in 1765 of a French teenager, Chevalier de la Barre for, in part, failing to doff his hat at a passing religious parade. This is the institution known for its auto-da-fes and its Inquisition, which still exists, by the way, in tamer form as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

Dolan claims he wants to “thank the anonymous militiamen at FFRF for giving me yet another handout for my students when I give my next talk on ‘Anti-Catholic Bigotry in the United States.” 

You’re welcome, Cardinal Dolan. Although a pacifist who believes the pen is mightier than the sword, I’m far from anonymous. I wrote both the 2012 “time to quit the Catholic Church” and 2014 ads. We’re hardly “nebulous and anonymous!” Dan and I signed the 2012 ad, and it names 18 contributors to the ad! Read FFRF’s 2012 ad here

Dolan (and his apoplectic cohort, Bill Donohue) are, of course, shrewd to play the “Catholic bigotry” card. They’re smugly aware that most U.S. citizens don’t realize the imbalance on our current nine-member Supreme Court, where six of the justices are Roman Catholic — five appointed by a Republican president (and only three justices are women). One of the reasons most Americans don’t realize the Catholic-dominated composition is because media who dare point it out get baited as bigots. It’s clever of Catholic hierarchy to cry “bigotry,” since it deflects attention from their own bigotry and the Vatican’s global campaigns against civil rights for gays and reproductive and equal rights for women. 

CHURCH CONDEMNS CONTRACEPTION AS 'INTRINSICALLY EVIL'

Dolan bragged that he stopped reading the Times “years ago, on the advice of so many New Yorkers who warned me that the Church rarely gets a fair shake in those pages.” But apparently the Times took his attack seriously enough to devote its Saturday “On Religion” column indirectly to the topic of FFRF’s ad. Samuel G. Freedman’s carefully written column, “Among justices, considering a divide not of gender or politics, but beliefs,” notes the 5-4 split in both this term’s major state/church separation cases, Greece v. Galloway and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. 

Freedman writes that it is “compelling to consider the Catholic-Jewish divide. In both cases, five of the court’s six Catholic justices — Samuel A. Alito Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, John G. Roberts Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — formed the majority that espoused a larger place for religious practice in public life. All three Jewish justices — Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan — joined by one Catholic, Sonia Sotomayor, dissented on behalf of a wider, firmer separation. 

“What attention has been paid to the denominational nature of the decisions has too often echoed with America’s sordid history of anti-Catholic bigotry, the presumption that Catholic public servants take their orders from the Vatican. A recent advertisement in The New York Times by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, for instance, linked the court’s Roman Catholic majority to ‘to the growing dangers of theocracy.’ ” 

Freedman’s column about a court opinion on contraception never once states the obvious: that Catholic dogma (yes, Dolan, there’s the word again) expressly condemns contraception as “intrinsically evil.”

But the truly unmentionable 800-pound gorilla in the room is abortion, which the Hobby Lobby ruling is actually about, and which the Vatican is committed to banning worldwide. Roberts, Alito, and Scalia chillingly presaged the June Hobby Lobby ruling by bringing up abortion several times during Hobby Lobby oral arguments. Samuel Alito, in writing the court opinion, recognized that the issue is really abortion. Alito notes on Page 2 of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling: “The owners of the business have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.” He audaciously adds that it doesn’t matter whether or not the methods are in fact abortifacients — faith trumps all. 

This is not to take fundamentalists off the hook. Observant Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants, who used to kill each other over arcane differences over such things as baptism and the sprinkling of babies, are uniting to fight their common foes: secularism and women’s rights. But the Catholic Church is past master at this game. 

If Dolan and his bishops have their way, contraception would be banned, everywhere. Abortion, even to save a woman’s life, would be banned. We recently witnessed the horrific handiwork of the church. A young Indian dentist with a wanted pregnancy who begged to live, begged for removal of her dying fetus, instead died unnecessarily of blood poisoning, because she had the misfortune to miscarry in Galway, Ireland, where Catholic doctrine reigns supreme. Catholic doctrine places faith and dogma above humanity, and certainly above the rights and lives of women. Let’s hope Mr. Freedman of the Times will someday write a column about the truly sordid history of Catholic crimes against women.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation alerted the Hobby Lobby craft store chain a year ago about numerous distortions in its full-page July 4 ad featuring quotes supposedly showing the U.S. government is predicated on a god.

The company, founded and operated by preacher’s son David Green, didn’t correct or alter those misleading claims and quotes when it ran a similar ad this July 4 in hundreds of newspapers.

“This disinformation campaign is not benign,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “The ‘crafty’ owner of this national chain has not only sabotaged the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, but is using his considerable fortune to establish a bible museum in Washington, D.C., intended to promote the ‘Big Lie’ that America is a Christian nation. David Green has also commissioned a slanted bible curriculum that he intends to force into our public schools. It’s time to call Hobby Lobby out for its irresponsible misrepresentations.”

FFRF called for a boycott of the chain last fall after the Supreme Court took its appeal. In late June, the all-male, all-Catholic majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby is exempt from the contraceptive mandate, based on Green’s claim that his religious rights are offended if women employees use company insurance for methods of which he disapproves.

“Hobby Lobby’s quotes are meant to give the false impression that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that our nation ‘trusts in God,’ ” noted FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, who meticulously researched the quotes. His commentary appears on FFRF’s interactive Web page

The Web page contrasts the Hobby Lobby quotes with the original quotes. “But, just like Hobby Lobby’s god, the quotes aren’t very trustworthy. They are wildly inaccurate in some cases,” Seidel said.

Hobby Lobby’s baldest attempts to rewrite history are in quotes about two atheists, which make them appear religious or complimentary of religion. Its misleading quote of Achille Murat, whom its ad describes as “a French observer of America in 1832,” is edited to make Murat seem pro-religion, when in fact he was criticizing religion’s racist and proselytizing goals.

Similarly, Hobby Lobby grossly mischaracterizes a Supreme Court case that upheld a provision in freethinker Stephen Girard’s last will and testament leaving $2 million (about $43 million today; who says nonbelievers aren’t generous?) to start a school for educating orphans, so long as “no ecclesiastic, missionary, and minister” held any position in the school. Hobby Lobby falsely calls this a “unanimous decision commending and encouraging the use of the Bible in government-run schools.”

Seidel asks: “If Hobby Lobby can’t be trusted to quote fairly from historical documents, how can it possibly design an objective bible course for public schools?”


FFRF ran 24 full-page ads last year, headlined “In Reason We Trust” and celebrating America’s “godless Constitution,” in daily newspapers around the country seeking to balance previous July 4 Hobby Lobby ads. Twenty-five ads were planned, but the news daily in Oklahoma City, where Hobby Lobby is based, censored FFRF’s ad. View the ad here.

Gaylor noted that it’s not possible to compete with Hobby Lobby’s scale of advertising. According to Forbes Magazine, Hobby Lobby has $3.3 billion in sales and 555 stores nationwide. This year, FFRF instead reacted to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling with a full-page ad in The New York Times on July 3. View the ad here.

“Don’t shop at Hobby Lobby. Your money is being used to work against contraceptive rights, to undermine secular education and to lobby for a Christian nation,” she said.

AndrewSeidelBy Andrew Seidel

FFRF Staff Attorney

“The point is, that any Catholic in public office, his first commitment has to be to his faith…” — Bishop Thomas Tobin, November 23, 2009 on Hardball

The day the Freedom From Religion Foundation ran its full-page New York Times ad —criticizing the “all-male, all-Roman Catholic majority” on the Supreme Court for putting “religious wrongs over women's rights” in the Hobby Lobby case — Cardinal Timothy Dolan facetiously thanked FFRF.  On the other hand, an apoplectic Bill Donahue, representing the Catholic League, blustered. Finally, we’d allegedly given them something to feel persecuted about. Dolan “prayed” and “hoped” for more fodder for “talk on Anti-Catholic Bigotry in the United States.” His expectations, or perhaps his faith, blinded him to the point of the ad.

The Brothers D portray our ad as an attack on Catholics instead of Catholic dogma as our ad’s large headline, “Dogma should not trump our civil liberties,” indicated. Our ad notes that the Hobby Lobby majority consists of every male Roman Catholic on the high court. This is a fact. Six justices — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Sonia Sotomayor — identify as Roman Catholic. There is excellent cause to question the impartiality of any truly devout Catholic justice on an issue such as access to birth control.

These beliefs are required by Catholic law. As I pointed out earlier in a blog post, “Bill O’Reilly is not a Catholic, and neither are you,” Catholic Canon law explicitly and rather appallingly requires “a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals . . .” Canon 752. Supreme Pontiffs have made several declarations unequivocally condemning birth control and contraception. Ergo, Catholics must submit to this doctrine, even if it means an AIDS epidemic kills millions of Africans.

To call yourself a Roman Catholic means something. It means that you believe certain things and follow certain rules: You believe that a cracker becomes human flesh and that consumption of that flesh is a holy communion with god. You must submit your intellect and will to this nonsense as surely as you must submit to the other Catholic teachings. If you don’t believe that magic words change the atomic and molecular makeup of matter, you’re not Catholic. If you think that cannibalism is distasteful as opposed to divine, you’re not Catholic.

Accordingly, Justice Scalia believes in the literal, corporeal existence of the Devil: “I even believe in the Devil… he’s a real person.” FFRF’s ad suggested that justices’ dogmatic adherence to Catholic doctrine may have implications for their ability to judge a case. If Scalia believes in the Devil because “Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine!” why should we not think Catholic doctrine on birth control might impact his Hobby Lobby decision?

Roman Catholic Church actually demands that Catholic judges obey Catholic law when deciding civil legal issues. For instance, Pope Pius XII addressed the Union of Catholic Jurists in 1949 and “outlined the obligations of Catholic civil judges under ecclesiastical law. The Catholic judge, he said, may not issue a decision that ‘would oblige those affected by it to perform . . . an act which in itself is contrary to the law of God and of the Church.’ The judge ‘cannot shirk responsibility for his decisions and place the blame on the law and its authors.’ ” Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom, 258 (Beacon Press, Revised Ed. 1967).

So, if the Catholic Church requires that a “religious submission of the intellect and will,” even for civil judges acting in a civil capacity, and the Supreme Pontiff has declared contraception immoral, do we have grounds to question the impartiality of justices who self-identify as observant Catholics when their decision effectively imposes Catholic dogma on private citizens?

Yes, we do. Dolan, in his gleeful attempt to seize martyrdom, and Donahue, in his emblematic rage, fail to understand the simple suggestion in FFRF’s ad: that a Catholic might actually think like a Catholic. If that’s what passes for anti-Catholic bigotry these days, no wonder Dolan was praying for more fodder for his lecture.

When Justice Sotomayor dissented in Hobby Lobby, she violated the teachings of her church, and I respect her all the more for that. She held her civil duty (and in all probability her womanhood) above the out-dated and barbaric teachings of the Catholic Church. Clearly, Catholics are capable of serving fairly and impartially in any civil role, as Sotomayor proves in this instance. But the Catholic demand for total submission places the justices in the untenable position of choosing between their duty to country or their religion. FFRF merely points that out.

Bishop Tobin, who’s quote opens this blog, actually provides the solution: “ . . . if your faith somehow interferes with — or your job gets in the way of your faith . . . you need to quit your job and save your soul.” Would that Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, and Thomas had the scruples of Sotomayor . . . or even Bishop Tobin.

Statement by Annie Laurie Gaylor

Co-President

Freedom From Religion Foundation

The ink was scarcely dry on the infamous Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling — allowing bossy religious bosses the right to veto women employees’ contraceptive choices — when a number of religious representatives wrote President Barack Obama seeking yet more “religious privilege.”

In a July 1 letter, they made a particularly ugly request in seeking the privilege to discriminate against gays and lesbians when doing business with the government. An earlier letter sent to Obama on June 25 and signed by more than 150 conservative religious groups and leaders, included an election-year threat that “any executive order that does not fully protect religious freedom will face widespread opposition.”

The July 1 letter was organized by Obama insider Michael Wear, “National Faith Vote Director” of Obama’s 2012 campaign, who worked in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in Obama’s first term. (A lesson in why public officials should not court theocrats.)

Piously describing themselves as “religious and civic leaders who seek to advance the common good” and buttering Obama up for his “commitment to human dignity and justice,” these theocrats seek to advance the “common bad,” to injure human indignity and to inflict injustice in the name of religion.

The groups, while feeding mightily at the public trough, proudly and openly lobbied Obama to be excluded from his promised executive order barring discrimination against gays and lesbians by companies receiving federal contracts and funding.

Religious groups and denominations have long been the enemy of gay rights — the only organized enemy. There exists no reason other than religion to discriminate or to oppose marriage equality. The bible plainly and revoltingly states that if two men have sex with each other, “their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

Paul states that men who “burned in their lust one toward another” or women who go “against nature” are “worthy of death.” (Romans 1:26-32) While the biblical passages on homosexuality would scarcely fill a biblical page, that has not tempered their messages of bigotry, hate and vengeance.

While many more liberal denominations are rapidly reconstituting themselves to accept gays and lesbians, they, with one or two exceptions, are all Johnny-come-latelies, who shifted toward social acceptance of the LGBTQ — when it was clear they themselves would become socially unacceptable if they continued to side with homophobic fundamentalists and the Catholic hierarchy.

Nevertheless, I’m pleased to report that more than 100 liberal religious leaders signed a July 8 letter to Obama urging him not to exempt religious groups from his pending executive order.

My mother-in-law, Pat Barker, who shed fundamentalism after Dan left the ministry and who died in 2004, made a very poignant observation, so poignant that Richard Dawkins picked up on it when he wrote the introduction to Dan’s book “Godless.” Dawkins noted that Pat, when interviewed about her loss of faith, told a reporter how happy she was that “I don’t have to hate anymore.”

Imprisoned by their faith, Wear (the head of Catholic Charities), Rick Warren and many other signatories of the letter still hate and are proud of it.

They lovingly congratulate themselves on what they perceive as their protected right and duty to refuse to work alongside and hire gays and lesbians. In their upside-down logic, they believe it is religious groups that would be “ostracized” by an anti-discrimination federal rule. The June 25 letter is more direct, boasting that discrimination is a “religious freedom.”

If an entity wants to discriminate based on religious taboos, then it can, but concedes its right to do so in my name and yours, using tax dollars. They can be as hateful, discriminatory and ugly as they like, but not on the public dime.

Yes, as Mr. Wear writes, “There is no perfect solution that will make all parties completely happy.” But there is a perfect solution for bigotry: Stop funding it with tax dollars. Mr. President, don’t try to make bigots happy — do what is right.

FFRF Co-Presidents

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

See Dan's bio »
See Dan's online writings »

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See Annie Laurie's bio »
See Annie Laurie's online writings »
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FFRF President emerita

Anne Nicol Gaylor
Photo by Brent Nicastro.

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.

Slideshow of Anne Gaylor & FFRF activism
See Anne Gaylor's online writings.

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.

FFRF Legal

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.

FFRF Staff

JACKIE DOUGLAS is the office manager at the Foundation. She graduated in 2002 from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Human Development and Family Services. Jackie is happily married, owns a home on the east side of Madison, and has a black cat named Lucky.

SCOTT COLSON, technology manager, webmaster and production editor, is a 2007 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who majored in philosophy. Scott joined the Foundation staff in May 2008. He enjoys playing bass, talking politics or economics and brewing beer.

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.

FFRF Volunteers

Phyllis Rose
Foundation officer and volunteer Phyllis Rose.
Photo by Dan Barker

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.

FFRF Honorary Board

honoraryboardmembers

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!”

In Memoriam 

  • 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.”

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