Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 4 entries for this date: Leo Pfeffer , Quentin Crisp , Clara Barton and Rod Serling
Leo Pfeffer

Leo Pfeffer

On this date in 1910, Leo Pfeffer, the 20th century's leading legal proponent of the separation of church and state, was born in Hungary, and came to the United States at age two. He was raised a Conservative Jew and remained a synagogue-goer, yet quipped that "the Orthodox consider me to be the worst enemy they've had since Haman in the Purim story!" (speech before FFRF, see quote below.) His masterpiece, Church State and Freedom, first published by Beacon Press in 1953, is the ultimate sourcebook for the history of the evolution of the all-American principle of the separation of church and state. His eight books include The Liberties of an American: The Supreme Court Speaks (1956), Religious Freedom (1977), and Religion, State & the Burger Court (1985). Pfeffer called himself a "strict separationist in contrast to what is called 'accommodationist.' " Pfeffer pleaded "partly guilty" to inadvertently perpetuating the myth that "secular humanism" is a religion. In defending nontheist Roy Torcaso before the U.S. Supreme Court, in Torcaso's case challenging a religious test in Maryland to become a notary public, Pfeffer wrote that "there are religions which are not based on the existence of a personal deity." His examples: ethical culturists, Buddhists and Confucians. "My good friend Justice Black thought that wasn't good enough. He put in the secular humanists. Who told him secular humanism? I didn't have it in my brief! I couldn't sue, because you can't sue a justice of the Supreme Court. But since then I rued the day" (Freethought Today, Jan/Feb 1986). Pfeffer worked as associate general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, wrote many briefs submitted before the U.S. Supreme Court in civil liberties cases, and was the Establishment Clause's best friend. D. 1993.

“I believe that complete separation of church and state is one of those miraculous things which can be best for religion and best for the state, and the best for those who are religious and those who are not religious.

I believe that the history of the First Amendment and also the Constitution itself, which forbids religious tests for public office, have testified to the healthful endurance of a principle which is the greatest treasure the United States has given the world: the principle of complete separation of church and state. I'm here to tell you that that principle is endangered today. ”

—Leo Pfeffer, speech on Sept. 29, 1985, before the 8th national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reprinted in Freethought Today, Jan/Feb 1986.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Quentin Crisp

Quentin Crisp

On this date in 1908, writer and critic Quentin Crisp was born in suburban London. He attended a school in Derbyshire in his teens, which he later described as a cross between a monastery and a prison. He worked as an illustrator and designer of book covers, writing books such as Lettering for Brush and Pen (1936) and Colour in Display (1938). He happened onto his 35-year stint of posing an an art school model, then wrote The Naked Civil Servant (1968) about his career. An award-winning film version, starring John Hurt, brought Crisp to public attention. "An Evening with Quentin Crisp" debuted off-Broadway in 1978 and played off and on for two decades. His later books include How to Have a Life-Style (1976), Love Made Easy (1977), The Wit and Wisdom of Quentin Crisp (1998), and Quentin Crisp's Book of Quotations (1989). Openly gay and famed for his aphorisms, he was sometimes called a "20th century Oscar Wilde." Once asked if he were a "practicing homosexual," Crisp replied: "I didn't practice. I was already perfect." D. 1999.

“When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, 'Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?' ”

—Quentin Crisp

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Clara Barton

Clara Barton

On this date in 1821, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton was born in North Oxford, Mass., the youngest of 5 children. Her parents were members of the Oxford Universalist Church. Barton was deistic and remained a creedless Universalist throughout her life. She was reading by the time she entered school at age 4, and became a teacher by age 17. At 29, Barton entered the Liberal Institute in Clinton, N.Y., to hone her teaching skills. By the time the Civil War broke out, she was working in the U.S. Patent Office in D.C., where she first organized a relief program for soldiers. When she learned that soldiers were dying not from injuries but from lack of medical supplies after the battle at First Bull Run, she organized a successful relief drive. The U.S. Surgeon General granted her a pass to travel with the Army ambulances, which she did for the next three years. After encountering the Red Cross in Europe, she came back to the United States, lobbied for ratification of the Treaty of Geneva, then founded the American Red Cross in 1881. She resigned as its director in 1904. She was a supporter of woman's suffrage and other liberal reforms. D. 1912.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Rod Serling

Rod Serling

On this date in 1924, Rodman Serling was born in Syracuse, N.Y. Serling enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, but was discharged in 1945 after being badly wounded, an experience which influenced his later screenplays. He went on to graduate from Antioch College in 1950 with a B.A. in English literature and drama, where he began writing scripts for radio programs. Serling soon became a television writer whose first television drama, “Patterns” (1955), won him an Emmy in 1955. His later work was equally successful: Serling was awarded two more Emmys in 1956 and 1959, for “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1956), which was adapted into a film in 1962, and “The Comedian” (1957), both episodes of the show “Playhouse 90.” However, Serling is most famous for hosting the classic television show “The Twilight Zone” (1959–1964), as well as writing 92 of its 156 scripts. Serling was passionate about social issues, opposing racism and capital punishment, and he often addressed these controversial topics in scripts for “The Twilight Zone.” Serling won two more Emmy Awards in 1960 and 1961 for outstanding writing in drama for his work on “The Twilight Zone,” as well as a 1963 Golden Globe Award for best television producer. His other work includes writing the script for the films “Planet of the Apes” (1968) and “The Yellow Canary” (1963).

According to the biography In The Zone: The Twilight World of Rod Serling (1997), Serling was raised Jewish, but later joined a Unitarian Universalist church. He married Carolyn Kramer, also a Unitarian Universalist, in 1948, and had two children, Jody and Nan. D. 1975

“Theologically speaking, Rod was what we call a naturalistic humanist, and that was the underlying philosophy of my pulpit. Racial issues, class, power—you find all of these in his writings, and he found reinforcements for his viewpoints in his congregation.”

—Rev. Ernest Pipes of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica, California, which Serling attended (quoted in a Nov. 1, 2007 article on www.uuworld.org).

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" e-mail list to automatically receive the calendar notice, log in and edit your email settings (My Membership). Or, email  and include your first and last name with your request for verification purposes. This email service is limited to members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation or subscribers to Freethought Today. To become an FFRF member, click here.


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