The Freedom From Religion Foundation is entering the fray over the controversial decision by the state of Arkansas to place a Ten Commandments monument on its Capitol grounds, by seeking permission to erect a permanent display saying "there are no gods."
This week the Arkansas secretary of state's office denied a request by a Hindu group to place a privately funded Hindu statue on statehouse grounds, following passage earlier this year of a state law to erect the bible edict.
In a letter addressed both to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of State Mark Martins, as chair of the Arkansas State Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor requested the right to represent the views of citizens who reject the bible or religion.
"Most freethinkers find the Ten Commandments to epitomize the childishness, the vindictiveness, the sexism, the inflexibility and the inadequacies of the bible as a book of morals," the couple noted.
"The first commandment,'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' is reason alone to have vetoed the Ten Commandments bill that passed your legislature this year. It is not the business of the State of Arkansas to tell citizens which gods to have, how many gods to have or whether to have any gods at all!"
FFRF, a national state/church watchdog representing more than 22,700 nonreligious members, is seeking the right to erect, with its own funds, a stone monument reading:
MAY REASON PREVAIL
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
Freedom depends on freethinkers
KEEP STATE AND CHURCH SEPARATE
Presented (add date) to the State of Arkansas on behalf of the membership of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, in honor of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
FFRF had written Hutchinson in April asking him not to place the monument.
FFRF also sent the Arkansas officials a small brochure, titled: "What's Wrong with the Ten Commandments?"
Challenging the negative stereotypes of atheists as heartless, hopeless, or just plain evil in popular entertainment, talented freethinkers were asked to create a sitcom featuring a lovable atheist lead character for the No God But Funny Contest, sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Center for Inquiry. Judges with expertise in comedy and television have pored over the many excellent teleplay and webisode submissions, and the winning entries have been chosen!
Contestants were asked to "contribute to the downfall of civilization" by submitting either a 22-minute pilot script, for the prize of $15,000, or a fully produced 3- to 15-minute "webisode" for the bigger prize of $25,000. The challenge was to create a show with a likable, funny atheist character that reversed stereotypes of the nonreligious, frequently portrayed as callous, amoral, or as "lost souls."
The winners in the $15,000 teleplay category are Rachel Lewis and Daniel Beecher of Salt Lake City for their pilot script THANK GOD I'M ATHEIST, where two young atheists in love, Holly and Matt, are about to be married, but have to contend with Holly's devoutly Mormon parents, who have very different plans for them. When Holly worries about coming out to her folks, Matt tells her, "It's not going to kill them...I'm thinking three days in a hospital, tops."
The winner for the $25,000 webisode category is John Dardis of Los Angeles for EARTH ANGEL, the self-discovery story of a witty young woman named Angel who, on her 18th birthday, must find a way to come out as an atheist to her quirky and very religious family...on Christmas Day no less!
"Even in 2015, atheists are still too often pigeonholed as the 'other' – people that Americans don't want to vote for and don't want their kids to marry, due in large part to the way we're portrayed in TV and movies," said Pamela Koslyn, creator of the No God But Funny contest. "But we're convinced that finding creative ways to present atheists as charming, funny, and warm will help to break old stereotypes and usher in greater social acceptance and legal rights for the nonreligious. That's what we want to begin to make happen with this contest, and the results have been fantastic."
The entries were judged by a panel of experts that included comedians Paul Provenza and Steve Hill, writer and producer Barbara Romen, magician Max Maven, and actor and writer Rich Fulcher.
Check out the complete pilot script for THANK GOD I'M ATHEIST here, and watch EARTH ANGEL here. Additionally, EARTH ANGEL will be screened before an audience at the Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles at 7:30pm on Wednesday, August 26, where Dardis will be presented with his prize. Details for this event are available here.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church. The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.