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Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 5 June/July 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

La Crosse paper makes room for series on freethought

The La Crosse [Wis.] Tribune is publishing a series of columns titled “Freethinker’s Perspective.” (See Maria Runde’s column on this page.)

Longtime FFRF member Hank Zumach, La Crosse Area Freethought Society co-founder with Jeremy Fefjar, first proposed to the newspaper’s opinion page editor that the monthly commentaries be part of the Saturday “faith” page.

“The editor suggested a regular column in the Sunday editorial section of the Tribune, which has a much higher readership than any other day of the week,” said Zumach. (Sunday circulation is about 36,000, according to owner Lee Enterprises.)

“Yes, we can teach values without god,” by Kathy Ivey was the inaugural column, followed by Zumach’s, headlined “Study debunks myth of the need for religion” and which detailed work by Gregory S. Paul. Runde’s was the third in the series. The most recent is Fefjar’s “No god required to feel awe in the universe.”        

Zumach said the goal is “to make firm, positive statements about nontheism without being insulting to theism.”

He hopes it’s the wave of the future. “This is one of the very few times, if ever, that a regional, general publication newspaper has agreed to publish a series of columns with this type of content. You may want to consider pitching the idea to your local newspaper. The times they are a changin’.”

The Tribune has agreed to run at least eight columns. So far the column has spurred vigorous online comment and many letters to the editor, including this inadvertently humorous one from William Fasching of Viroqua, Wis., headlined “Science speculates; God was there.”  

In Fasching’s mind, “Science can only speculate on how things began. God was there at the beginning and knows how He did it. Man runs into a big closed door when trying to explain where we came from, why we are here and where we are going. Jesus is on the other side of that door, waiting to open it for us — we just need to keep knocking.”

La Crosse Area Freethought Society doesn’t go door to door, but you can check lcafs.org for more information. It just passed the 100-member mark.

Zumach, a retired roofing contractor, was one of several plaintiffs in a 2002 FFRF suit against a Ten Commandments monument in a La Crosse park. After the suit was filed, the city sold the small piece of land on which the marker sits to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which originally had donated the stone.

The Foundation contested the “sweetheart” sale as a sham and won two decisions at the federal level, but the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved the sale in 2005, agreeing that a fence and disclaimer must be present.

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