Freethought Today · Vol. 22 No. 2 March 2005

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF Founder

Tributes to Anne Nicol Gaylor

These tributes were delivered on Oct. 29, 2004, at the 27th annual national FFRF convention in Madison, Wis.

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Ken Taubert
Photo by Brent Nicastro

By Ken Taubert

I have known Anne for just about 25 years. I joined FFRF in 1980, one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Over the years we have had a lot of fun. Sure, it was and always will be fun, working for our cause, keeping church and state separate.

Anne, I and the gang have been on many picket lines.

One evening we were picketing at the State Capitol, here in Madison, Wis. It was eight below zero.

Another time a group of religious zealots was planning to picket an abortion clinic. They were crazy enough to advertise it, and we beat them to the punch. They were going to be at the clinic at 7:30 in the morning. Guess what? We were there at 6:30, and lined up in front of the clinic and down the driveway to the clinic. The police were behind us, so all the religious nuts could do was stand across the road and watch.

Every month we would do the paper. That was to get Freethought Today ready for mailing. Of course we were working, but I don't think we ever stopped talking for two mintues.

Everyone in this hall today is family. We are the Freedom From Religion Foundation family, and Anne from the beginning has been our inspiration and leader.

There were two people who were with us on every escapade: Mike and Helen Hakeem. Helen is no longer with us, and Mike is in a nursing home. We all miss them so much.

Anne, thank you for being my best friend, and I love you dearly.

Ken Taubert, Foundation Treasurer, has been a hands-on volunteer and Foundation activist. He lives in Madison, Wis.

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Catherine Fahringer
Photo by Brent Nicastro

By Catherine Fahringer

In late summer, Annie Laurie e-mailed me to say that she was planning a tribute to her mother during the October convention, and would like for me to say a few words. I felt that my enthusiasm and admiration for this remarkable woman would outweigh my lack of skill in speaking, so I accepted with alacrity.

Several days later, I received another e-mail from Annie Laurie asking how much time I would require on the program. Since I had already started composing the tribute in my head, I e-mailed her back: Two or three hours, and that's cutting it to the bone.

However, the Anne I know is probably cringing at the thought of even two or three minutes because there are people who do things for glory and self-aggrandizement, and there are people who are so focused and dedicated to correcting wrongs and protecting rights that what they do, they do as naturally as they breathe. It is life-sustaining and they expect no special recognition for what they consider so perfectly normal.

I joined FFRF in 1987 and attended my first convention in October of that year. I was mightily impressed. As time went by, I was more and more impressed. The organization was doing and accomplishing so much, and once I had fallen into the happy world of freethought, I couldn't understand why it wasn't a recognized part of what is constantly referred to as the "fabric of our society."

With the founding of this country, Freethought had weavers of the highest skill, but today, if Freethought is part of the fabric of these United States, it isn't the elegant living room draperies; it's the kitchen curtain.

Why hasn't Anne's picture been on the cover of Time or Newsweek? Why hasn't she been fawned over by Larry King, or yelled at by Chris Matthews? Why hasn't Barbara Walters cozied up to her to ask some inane intimate freethought questions? Why hasn't she been featured in a segment on 60 Minutes? Why hasn't Madison's mayor proclaimed an Anne Gaylor Freethought Day?

Here is a woman who, literally, from a dining room table, built a vitally important and impressive organization, and the mainstream reaction to its successes in keeping state and church separate has run the gamut from "Ho-hum, there go those crazy atheists again," to snide remarks and vicious hate mail. Anne is never besieged by national TV networks for guest appearances because, although it is perfectly okay to discuss all body organs and their functions, the one no-no is the rational function of a thinking brain.

Okay, mainstream, you don't know what a shero you are overlooking. While we are waiting for you to wake up, and I hope it's soon, we freethinkers, who know the difference between trash and treasure, give our treasured Anne our enduring admiration and gratitude.

Catherine Fahringer, a Foundation officer and acitivst, is a Life Member who lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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To view a slideshow tribute to Anne, go here

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