The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is announcing its 2014 high school, college and graduate/older student essay scholarship competitions, offering more than $23,000 in total cash prizes.
FFRF, founded in 1978 as a state/church watchdog and freethought (atheist/agnostic) association, has offered a college essay competition since 1979, added a separate contest for college-bound high school seniors in 1994, and one for “graduate/older students ages 25-30” four years ago.
“Thousands of scholarship programs reward students for blind faith and orthodoxy, but few reward them for using reason,” noted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
The William J. Schulz Memorial High School Senior Essay Competition asks college-bound high school seniors to write a 500-700 word essay on “A Moment When I Spoke Up for Freethought/Secularism.”
“My Atheist/Unbeliever ‘Coming Out’ Story” is the topic of a 700-900 word essay for FFRF’s Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Competition.
“Why ‘Religious Liberty’ Does Not Mean the Right to Impose Your Religion on Others” is the timely topic of the Brian Bolton Graduate/ “Older” Student Essay Competition. FFRF thanks Brian Bolton, a retired University of Arkansas professor, for generously underwriting this contest.
The awards for each contest are $3,000 first place, $2,000 second place, $1,000 third place, $750 fourth place, $500 fifth place and $400 for sixth place. Several $200 “honorable mentions” may be awarded at judges’ discretion.
Additionally, any winning student who is a member of a secular high school or college club or signs up (for free) to become part of the Secular Student Alliance before entering the competition will automatically receive an additional $50 grant from FFRF members Dean and Dorea Schramm. The Schramms wish to support the SSA and reward student activism and participation in secular campus activities.
Last year FFRF bestowed $33,000 in cash scholarships to 48 deserving freethinking student essayists.
Download PDFs of our topics and requirements at: http://ffrf.org/outreach/ffrf-student-scholarship-essay-contests
FFRF members: Please publicize FFRF’s important outreach to the next generation, students in your life, and to your local high schools, colleges and universities.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is again demanding that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services strike an unconstitutional requirement for religious belief that could bar an atheist from becoming a citizen.
All naturalization applicants are required to swear an oath: “to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law, to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law, or to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.”
Adriana Ramirez, an applicant for naturalization, was recently denied citizenship because her moral unwillingness to bear arms is not based upon religion. This is a flagrant violation of Supreme Court precedent, however the USCIS is not budging.
Ms. Ramirez, after being persecuted in her native Colombia for her pacifism, was granted political asylum. As a journalist in Colombia, she covered politics and the courts and even founded a journal dedicated to peace journalism.
Ms. Ramirez asked for an exemption to the oath:
“The strength of my moral and ethical convictions in this matter is greater than any religious training or indoctrination that I may have had in my upbringing.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote USCIS a Feb. 21 letter on behalf of Ramirez noting that US Supreme Court precedent does not require any religious test to receive an exemption to bear arms. “It is shocking that USCIS officers would not be aware that a nonreligious yet deeply held belief would be sufficient to attain this exemption. This is a longstanding part of our law and every USCIS officer should receive training on this exemption,” Seidel wrote.
In 2013, FFRF helped Margaret Doughty out of a nearly identical situation imposed by the Houston USCIS office. The office relented and let her take the oath without the bear arms requirement.
“We thought this discriminatory policy was dropped, and here another applicant encounters the same barrier. The U.S. government must resolve this problem permanently,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Photo by Brent Nicastro
Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sent a letter today to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council responding to comments by Perkins about a press release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that critiqued violence and sexism in the bible. Perkins accused Gaylor of not having read the bible and claimed “that’s not in the bible” during an appearance on Fox News Feb. 25 with Megyn Kelly. (View the Perkins interview here and Gaylor’s interview on the topic on Hannity Feb. 19 here.)
Barker and Gaylor’s response follows:
Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, 801 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Re: Biblical ignorance
Dear Mr. Perkins,
In speaking with Megyn Kelly on FOX News this week about The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s victory in persuading Iowa State University to remove Gideon bibles from state-owned hotel rooms, you made this remark about our organization:
“Let me read you from their statement. This is what they stated in their press release crowing about this decision:
“We are delighted to see reason and the Constitution prevail, and we can all sleep easier knowing secularism is being honored at our public universities,” said the co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Many nonbelievers greatly object to its primitive and dangerous instructions to beat children, kill homosexuals, atheists and infidels, and that it sanctions the subjugation of women who are scapegoated for bringing sin and death into the world.”
“I have to question, ‘Did they ever read that book, the bible?’ Because that’s not in the bible.”
Yes, Tony, we have read the bible. Annie Laurie has read it through, cover-to-cover, and continues to study and reference it for research. She has written a book about it: Woe To The Women—The Bible Tells Me So: The Bible, Female Sexuality & the Law. She also edited the comprehensive anthology, Women Without Superstition—‘No Gods, No Masters’: The Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of the 19th and 20th Centuries, which includes serious criticism of the biblical texts.
As co-president of FFRF, with Annie Laurie, Dan has read the bible many times. He was an ordained evangelical minister and evangelist who preached for more than 19 years before becoming an atheist. In Dan’s words: “I am not the world’s leading expert on the bible — and neither are you — but I can read the New Testament Greek. I preached from every book of the bible during my years of ministry. My books Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist and Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists, delve deeply into biblical passages. To date, I have done 115 formal public debates with theists, mostly Christians, in which the questionable reliability, historicity, and morality of the bible are topics often discussed.”
We question if you have actually read the bible, other than the more palatable passages. Questioning our objections, you said, “That’s not in the bible.” You are wrong. Let us educate you about the bible, that bestseller that is rarely read by believers:
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” (Proverbs 23:13)
“For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges [beats with a whip] every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” (Hebrews 12:6-7)
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)
“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)
“He that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.” (Exodus 21:15)
“He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:17)
“For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.” (Leviticus 20:9)
“God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” (Matthew 15:4)
“Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” (Psalm 137:9)
“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Lev. 20:13)
Kill atheists, infidels and blasphemers
“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you . . . Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die.” (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)
“If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the Lord gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars in the sky, and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. . . . The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)
“And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.” (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying . . . he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him.” (Leviticus 24:13-16)
Kill the CHILD of the blasphemer!
Because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die . . . And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick . . . And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. (2 Samuel 12:14-18)
Subjugation of women
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:13-16)
“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18)
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)
[NOTE: The Greek for “submit” is hypotasso, a military term meaning “to rank under.” It is the same word used to tell slaves to submit to their masters (Titus 2:9), and children to their elders (I Peter 5:5).]
[Women are scapegoated] "Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (I Timothy 2:11-14)
"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. . . . For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." (I Corinthians 11:3, 8-9)
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
Bible libels nonbelievers
The bible calls us nonbelievers fools: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1) It also says we are immoral and filthy, and have never done anything good:
“They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good . . . they are all together become filthy: there is none that does good, no not one.” (Psalm 14:1-3)
Under what possible interpretation could this not be an insult? If the hotel were placing books in rooms saying, “All Jews are filthy,” would there be no complaint? If government-owned hotels were putting literature in their drawers that said “All Christians are deluded and dangerously mentally ill,” would believers simply ignore it? You know there would be a massive outcry by Christians opposed to their government intruding and interfering with matters of private conscience.
Please acknowledge that your comments are wrong. We have indeed read the bible and know that its dogma about the rights of women, nonbelievers, children, and gays has no place in our secular government. This is one of the reasons we work to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to protect the First Amendment.
Our work and educational efforts do not limit your liberty to believe or worship. In America, we are free to disagree about religious issues; but we are not free to ask our government to settle the argument.
FFRF stopped a White Bluffs Elementary School in Washington from promoting prayer and worship in school flyers. Meetings in the school by All Pro Dad, a private organization which focuses on religious programming, were advertised in a flyer sent home in children’s backpacks that failed to indicate the event was not school-sponsored. The meetings were also noted in the school calendar along with official school events.
“The circumstances surrounding ‘All Pro Dad’ events would lead a reasonable observer to view it as school-sponsored,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel in his Jan. 14 letter to Rick Schulte, the Superintendent of Richland School District.
“It was promoted on the school events calendar along with official school-sponsored events. School resources were used to send home an advertisement for the event which did not contain a disclaimer of school endorsement. Because of the religious aspects of the programming, Richland School District must take measures to address parental concerns regarding school involvement in this event.”
FFRF received word in late January that the advertisement was added as a clinical error, and will not be included in the school calendar anymore. FFRF was also informed a new policy was adopted saying that the materials or announcements promoting religion may not be distributed by non-students or on the behalf of non-students.
FFRF was informed that a classroom in Southside Elementary School in Pulaski, Tenn., displayed numerous prominent images of Jesus and crosses. FFRF sent a letter on Dec. 17 to Giles County Superintendent Timothy Webb explaining that teachers may not promote religion in the secular classroom.
“Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel informed the district.The schoolteacher has “unconstitutionally entangled the school itself with a religious message, specifically a Christian message. To avoid continuing to violate the Establishment Clause, we ask the teacher to remove the crosses and images of Jesus from her classroom. ”
The school district replied on Dec. 19, 2013 to FFRF’s request to take the religious images down by issuing a memo to the principals and supervisors of Giles County School District.
“(Staff Attorney Seidel) who sent the letter on behalf of FFRF, after citing several Supreme Court decisions, stated that the law required that public schools not promote or prefer religions. The situation mentioned in the complaint has been addressed. Please remind your staff of the federal requirements in matters such as this.”
The district assured FFRF the religious symbols would no longer be displayed in the elementary school classroom.