Vol. 21 No. 5 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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The Fundies Are Coming! The Fundies Are Coming! . . . The Fundies Are Here!
By Catherine Fahringer
I was one happy and relieved chick when I found the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1987. The country was infested with weirdo religious people who seemed bent on taking over the government. I needed protection from lunacy and the rebirth of the Inquisition.
I felt a sense of relief as I sent my membership check off to FFRF, and an overwhelming desire to meet the people who had been strong and brave enough to form an organization to beat off the Christian nuts. I joined in April; I went to my first convention in October; I came home a different person, a person determined to take on a few Christians of her own.
But where to start? I should have started with educating myself but, at 65, I didn't have time to mess around with the fine points; I would just plunge in and start by calling Anne Gaylor for ideas as to how to become an activist. Her soothing voice suggested that I begin by trying to get time on the local TV affiliates for the Foundation's professionally-made video commercial on freethought. Was I successful in this attempt which consumed several months and every ounce of ingenuity I could muster? No. How silly of you to think that atheists could buy time on TV just like real people.
But I knew someone who had a show on local access television and when I explained my problem, she kindly invited me to be a guest on her show, at which time the FFRF commercial would be shown so that we could discuss my failure to find a local station to accept it. That guest spot was the impetus for starting my own access program which I called Freethought Forum. I'm pleased to tell you that it continues to this day, but under new management as of a couple of years ago. I'd like to say the viewing audience has grown tremendously from a whopping one or two a week, to hundreds, but I'd probably be lying if I did.
During the years I was (ahem) a TV producer, I had other irons in the fire. There were several local skirmishes regarding religious banners on city lampposts and an almost-court-case over a religious monument which a Catholic group was preparing to place on a beautiful little island in our San Antonio river. The only lawyer I knew was too chicken to take it on, but we got as far as a court hearing where I could toss around phrases such as "three-pronged Lemon test," and refer to symbolic cannibalism when describing communion. (The paper quoted my communion comments!)
My skirmishes with religious issues and people kept me occupied enough to distract me from the fear-factor which had prompted them. Sort of. It was always lurking there, triggered to red alert when some church/state issue made the national news, or a disturbing decision came down from the Supremes, or President Clinton said that the Constitution guaranteed freedom of religion but not freedom from religion. That was all red alert, panic time, and it made my local state/church stuff seem more pastel.
Now zoom forward to National Day of Prayer, May 6, 2004, to San Antonio's observance of it. The former president of our local group, F.A.C.T. (Freethinkers Association of Central Texas), reminded us of it. Frank Hernandez had bravely protested the '02 event alone, and had had such a blast that he wanted more of us to participate in '03, and about ten of us did. To be honest, my sciatic nerve was waxing wroth, and I was tanked up on pain killers which were playing games with my head but not doing much against the wroth. I held my two-sided placard aloft for the hour or so of the singing and praying, not taking in much of anything but the endless repetition of the five-letter name we're all so sick of.
But this year was different; my mind accompanied my body. As usual, the festivities were held on the steps of city hall. The mayor was there to welcome the group of prayees and read a long, gushy proclamation. But that was only the beginning of ick. The Director of Communications, Archdiocese of San Antonio (the program stated), spoke on the sanctity of life (is the Catholic Church afraid its priests will run short on their supply of molestees?).
After that rather lengthy sermon, a Suzanne Dollar took the mike to speak on family. There were admonitions on the immorality of abortion (those poor itty-bitty babies), and also exhortations for women to stay at home and be more subservient to their husbands (which made me wonder why she was standing on the steps of City Hall with a mike in her hand when she could be home subserving all over the place and getting pregnant into the bargain). But that did not occur to Suzanne, who went on to speak of the gays with their alarming attempt to desecrate the biblical sanctity of marriage. (Now, Suzanne really ought to stay home and read the bible on that one.)
Next up was a pastor from the Maranatha Bible Church, which must be some kind of holy-roller place. He was supposed to speak about government, but was so busy jumping around and yelling and screaming that I never could understand a word he said but, dollars to donuts (no pun intended) he thought Jesus ought to play a more active role in government. Hallelujah!
Major General Chuck Carrol, USAF (ret.) followed with another lecture on the sanctity of life (which the program listed as military) and the evils of abortion. Next (and last), was the pastor of Community Bible Church, who gushed at the end of the closing prayer that ours was truly a great country where people could gather together on the steps of City Hall to pray and protest. Well, he got half of that right.
During the seemingly endless speeches, prayers and hymns about Jesus, and in praise of Jesus, I was jockeying around trying to give different people a good look at my placard. At one point I was propped up nicely between a parking meter and a no-parking sign (where two TV trucks were double-parked), when the TV cameraman said to me, "Would you move aside, please; you're blocking my view." It blew me away that he wouldn't recognize news if it bit him on his bum. A protest is news! It was during this request from the cameraman that I missed one of the speakers say that "we" are creationists, not evolutionists. I don't know who the "we" were, but I know he wasn't speaking of the protesters, one of whom was the person who filled me in on this missing link in the program.
To say that this entire experience put me in a royal snit is the understatement of my life. I came home and wrote a very strong letter of objection to the mayor in which I asked for a copy of the proclamation and an accounting of what expenses the city may have incurred in this tasteless production. I even told him the event should be called San Antonio Day of Hate. No reply as yet. I sent copies of that letter to every organization I could think of (as well as to the local paper) to tell them I thought it would be in their best interests to monitor this event next year.
I don't see how it can get worse, because this year's Day of Prayer was alarming enough. The mayor embraced and approved of, and got in bed with, the religious crazies, allowing them access to spout their narrow moral and political views over a microphone from the steps of city hall. And so, I warn you: the fundies are here! And they're probably in your hometown too. If I were you, I'd start paying attention to the National Day of Prayer to see if your city officials aren't getting way too involved in it. And you might keep tabs on them during any other days of religion-and-state coziness, including the March for Jesus in June. Jesus, take note: I'll be there, doing my best to block some TV cameraman's view. You betcha!
Catherine Fahringer is a Foundation officer.
June/July 2004 Excerpts