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Look in today’s New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and Philadelphia Inquirer for FFRF’s full-page advertisements about why it’s inappropriate that Pope Francis was invited to address a joint session of Congress.
Additionally, FFRF is airing a 30-second spot featuring footage of John F. Kennedy as a candidate making his famous remarks to Houston ministers, saying “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
That ad airs nationally sometime during ABC World News (5:30 p.m. Central).
The same ad ran in more than 20 metropolitan areas during The Late Show featuring Stephen Colbert last night. (CBS for undisclosed reasons rejected national advertising.) FFRF aired the ad last night instead of tonight as a football game is expected to delay or preempt Thursday’s Late Show.
“Many Americans have great unease over the governmental appearance of adulatory favoritism and endorsement of one religion’s leader,the appearance of governmental favoritism of Catholicism over other religions and over non-religion. Six of our nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic, and will be in attendance. Nor has cost to taxpayers of the security and traffic control necessitated over this address at the Capitol been disclosed,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Right to left: Therrin Wilson, Mercedes Hawkins, Adrienne Parkes & Zera Montemayor
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to announce that it has given $10,000 in scholarship grants in memory of Catherine Fahringer to four students chosen by Black Skeptics of Los Angeles.
The scholarship is part of the third annual First in the Family Humanist Scholarship program, to help students of color who are atheists and agnostics. An awards program by Black Skeptics of Los Angeles was held on Aug. 8.
"We're very proud to be providing the Catherine Fahringer Memorial Scholarships of $2,500 to these four recipients," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Mercedes Hawkins, 18, University of California at Merced. Mercedes writes:
"Too many religious people insist upon waiting for 'God' to make a change. They fail to realize that the change is in them and it is their duty to cultivate it outwardly. Once more people embrace humanism, we will freely celebrate our differences in beliefs and promote acceptance."
Mercedes is currently enrolled in the pre-nursing major program at California State University East Bay, and plans to become a nurse practitioner and eventually a pharmacist. "I will use the skills I learn in college to promote health and wellness in my community, and especially the Black Community. While in school I plan to pursue a program that will allow me to work part time as possibly an X-ray technician or possibly a phlebotomist or CNA."
Zera Montemayor, 18, University of North Texas. Zera writes:
"Religion is not the source for social change in the world. It is time the human race understood that words like atheist, agnostic and humanist are not truly as negative as the connotation they carry. We are not hateful, sinners, harlots or devil worshipers. We simply believe that each and every human is equal. Not one person deserves to be oppressed simply because they are from different walks of life. There are so many things I would love to see before my life is over. I would love to see to gay people get married and the public not make a big commotion about it. I would love to see transgender people not be harassed or called 'she-man.' I would love to see women wear whatever they please and not be marked by words like 'slut' or 'whore.' I would love seeing men taking ballet or a cooking class and not be marked with the misnomer 'gay.' Finally, I want to be able to tell people I am an atheist without it ruining friendships. I believe humanism is the answer."
Zera was born in West Texas, "a place with a church on every block, in essence a horrible place for a young and lonely atheist to live in." Sports and school kept her focused. She stayed in the top ten percent throughout her four years of high school, graduated number 62 in a class of 700, has always loved science and was in a high school science team. She is majoring in chemistry and chose the University of North Texas because they have one of the few accredited science programs in the state. She plans to attend medical college, with a goal of becoming a forensic pathologist.
Adrienne Parkes, 32, University of Pittsburgh. Adrienne writes: "One of the things that caused me to shy away from religion was the lack of acceptance of those who are different. Growing up, I felt like an oddball, one of the few biracial kids in a very white neighborhood. I had dabbled in church as a child . . . but I kept waiting to hear God answer me and it never happened. This made no sense to me, so I left and never looked back. In the years following I would learn that most churches weren't accepting of gays and lesbians, which only affirmed my decision. Many people are using their religion to hurt the LGBTQ community. We see it in people like the Duggars, who are campaigning to stop trans individuals from using gender appropriate bathrooms. Or in the recent cases of businesses using 'religious freedom' to justify not serving gay patrons. I believe that being a humanist, and being passionate about equal rights and fostering a positive community will create a much needed social change."
Adrienne grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, took two years of college at Community College of Allegheny County, and will be majoring in social work with a possible minor in Latin American Studies. She earned a certificate in American Sign Language and "would love to become a tri-lingual social worker and help a broader range of people."
Therrin Wilson, 18, University of Tennessee. Therrine writes: "I will be the first male in my entire family to receive a college education and I am also the first to disclaim Christianity. I do not condemn religion because it has influenced people to attribute a positive impact on society hence the Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc. On the other hand, I admire humanism more because humanist act upon a worthy heart when doing positive things for the community."
Therrin, from Memphis, grew up "in a neighborhood amid poverty and crime," and was evicted with his family from their home when he was in the 4th grade, moving from house to house with relatives and friends." He was always very focused on academia "because my intentions were to overcome adversity, go to college and become something great so that my kids will never have to witness what I've went through. My parents would always tell me that 'God would take care of us' but at a certain point, I'd noticed that believing in my own abilities rather than the imaginary hand of deities has made me a more efficient man. Hence, my proud conversion from Christianity to agnosticism."
FFRF, a national association of 23,000 freethinking (atheist, agnostic) members, also hosts three student essay scholarships (including awards this year to college-bound seniors writing about the challenging of being nonbelieving students of color) and student activist awards.
Catherine Fahringer was a San Antonio firebrand feminist and freethinking activist who ran a long-lived FFRF chapter and served on FFRF's executive board for many years. She was especially interested in nurturing the next generation of independent thinkers.
Yesterday, the North Carolina General Assembly unfortunately passed House Bill 540, which approves the placement of a statue of Billy Graham to represent North Carolina in the United States Statuary Hall. The bill is now before Governor Pat McCrory for approval.
The Graham statue would replace one of white supremacist and former governor Charles Brantley Aycock. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to Governor McCrory on April 21, applauding efforts to replace the statue, but noting that replacing Aycock with Graham "only swaps one divisive figure for another. North Carolina has far more worthy candidates."
Despite supporters' insistence that Graham is a universally beloved figure, he has a checkered history, including anti-Semitism, disdain for atheists, and other alienating and divisive views. Further, he is a religious figure who has no other redeeming secular achievements (such as Martin Luther King, Jr.).
FFRF suggested longtime Winston-Salem resident Maya Angelou as a suitable replacement for Aycock (only 9 of 100 statues in Statuary Hall are female figures). Others have suggested people such as African-American civil rights leader, lawyer, and educator Julius Chambers.
Please ask Governor McCrory today to veto HB 540! Feel free to give your own suggestion for a suitable Statuary Hall honoree.
It's helpful to also comment on social media and news sites, and to write a letter against the proposal to your local newspaper.
Feel free to copy and paste any of the talking points below (or check FFRF's letter to the governor for more talking points):
As a North Carolina constituent, atheist, and taxpayer, I wish to express my dismay at the misguided proposal to replace one state embarrassment with a someone who is equally inappropriate as a symbol of our state in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall. Removal of the statue of white supremacist Charles Brauntley Aycock is long overdue. But let's not replace him with Billy Graham, yet another white male figure who has expressed bigotry, in Graham's case against Jews, atheists, and gays, among others. North Carolina is an increasingly pluralistic state. One in five of us identifies as nonreligious. To represent our state with a man whose primary fame is as an evangelical minister sends a message of endorsement of Christianity, and of exclusion of non-evangelicals and the nonreligious, among others. It would be poetic justice to replace Aycock with a black woman meaningful to our state, such as Maya Angelou, or a symbol of the civil rights movement, such as Julian Chambers.
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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pulling out the stops both with letters of complaint and TV and newspaper advertising protesting state/church entanglements with Pope Francis' joint address to Congress Thursday.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation was singled out in a column by Ginia Ballafante in The New York Times last weekend for our activism protesting the appearance of government favoritism of religion involving pope-government entanglements. (Read column here: "An Atheist Group Asks, Should New York Be in the Pope Business?")
NEWSPAPER ADS RUN ON THURSDAY IN SEVERAL CITIES
We're running full-page ads in The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today and the Philadelphia Enquirer Thursday. The Washington Post ad features the words of candidate John F. Kennedy, affirming an America with an "absolute" separation between church and state, "where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope. . . "
FFRF is running a more hard-hitting ad, "Global Warning," in The New York Times, USA Today and Philadelphia Inquirer, calling it "an affront to our nation's secular values that Roman Catholic congressional leaders are granting the leader of their religion — the pope — an unprecedented opportunity to address a joint session of Congress." The ad depicts a graphic with a Ten Commandments-like monument of Catholic dogma and practice which the Vatican seeks to impose via law. It also features a light cartoon by Don Addis showing a priest blessing the marriage between church and state.
TV COMMERCIALS NATIONALLY AND IN MAJOR CITIES
FFRF is also airing a 30-second ad in metropolitan areas on CBS's new Late Show featuring Stephen Colbert on Wed., Sept. 23, the eve of the pope's visit. (CBS declined for reasons unknown to accept the ad nationally.) Cities where you may view the 30-second spot, employing John F. Kennedy's ringing endorsement of "an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," are: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Seattle, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Austin, Salt Lake City, Madison and Phoenix.
Additionally, the JFK spot will run nationally on ABC Nightly News on Thursday, Sept. 24, when there will be coverage of the pope's unprecedented address to a joint session of Congress.
FORMAL PROTESTS OF STATE/CHURCH VIOLATIONS
FFRF has written John Boehner asking him to invite an atheist dignitary, Richard Dawkins, to address a joint session of Congress to balance the score, has protested Pennsylvania prisoner creation of a special chair for the pope's visit, Congressional tickets, to view the pope and New York City's lottery to glimpse the pope in Central Park. We've also contacted the White House to protest its website promotion of the pope's devotional events, and its invitation to citizens to sign up for alerts about the pope.
ALSO LOOK FOR RON REAGAN'S "UNABASHED ATHEIST" AD
FFRF is also seeking to turn attention to something positive, by running its powerful commercial by Ron Reagan, a 30-second ad, on CNN's Anderson Cooper Monday through Fridays daily for the next three weeks. So far, CNN is the only national network that hasn't censored FFRF's spot.
If you approve, we hope you will consider a donation to FFRF's Advertising Fund to enable us to continue to speak out as a national voice for reason, freethought and secular government.