Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

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The irreverent ad featuring Ron (“unabashed atheist, not afraid of burning in hell”) Reagan extolling the Freedom From Religion Foundation will run on “CBS Sunday Morning” this Sunday, May 16, and May 30. It is airing for the first time on the show; CBS had originally refused to air the commercial on Sunday, May 9.

The progressive son of President Ronald and Nancy Reagan invites viewers to join FFRF in the 30-second spot, saying:

Hi, I’m Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist, and I’m alarmed by the intrusion of religion into our secular government. That’s why I’m asking you to support the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest and most effective association of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate, just like our Founding Fathers intended. Please support the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.

CBS agreed to run the ad nationally earlier this year after refusing for six years, when it appeared on several “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” episodes.

“It’s a heartening sign of the times that atheists and agnostics are being allowed a voice on CBS,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “After all, believing in the concept of eternal torture and punishment should be socially unacceptable, not Ron’s gentle jibe.”

Reagan has received FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award and addressed FFRF’s national convention in Madison a few years ago. He has publicly identified himself for years as an atheist. He was interviewed recently for FFRF’s “Freethought Matters” TV show.

FFRF advertising is made possible by kind contributions from members. Donations to FFRF are deductible for income-tax purposes.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation castigates the Texas Legislature for approving a bill to ban abortion care as early as six weeks of gestation. The bill will assuredly be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Christian nationalist whom FFRF recently successfully prevailed over his bigoted censorship of FFRF’s freethought view at the Texas Capitol.

This follows alarming passage of sweeping anti-abortion legislation in April severely restricting abortion care and signed into law in Montana, Arizona, South Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Idaho. More than 500 abortion restrictions have already been introduced at the state level so far this year.

Texas is following the actions of nearly a dozen other states that have passed the so-called “heartbeat” bill — a medically inaccurate misnomer. Dr. Ted Anderson, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an organization that represents 58,000 physicians in the United States, explains that this labeling is incongruent with the “anatomical and clinical realities of that stage of pregnancy” because the so-called heartbeat is simply “electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue.”

It has long been established and upheld by the Supreme Court that it is unconstitutional to impose a previability abortion ban. Pregnancies are considered viable around 24-26 weeks of gestation. Even then, the court agrees with medical experts that each pregnancy is unique. Therefore this anti-abortion bill is Texas is completely unconstitutional.

Shockingly, the bill also allows anyone to sue a doctor for providing abortion care or anyone else who helped someone get an abortion. This includes abortion funds that provide financial assistance, clinic employees — and even friends and family who drive a loved one to an abortion appointment. Perhaps the most startling aspect of this bill is that the person filing the lawsuit would not need any personal connection to the abortion, at odds with all legal precedent. Anti-abortion protestors, out-of-state lobbying groups, and religious organizations under the law could overwhelm doctors and clinics with lawsuits and displace resources from women seeking care.

In our secular nation, laws related to health care should reflect science — not the religious or other motivations of legislators.

Such laws endanger the rights of women nationwide, as they are intended to land before the U.S. Supreme Court, on which a majority, since the replacement of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Amy Coney Barrett, is anti-abortion. A “chill wind blows,” as the late Justice Harry Blackmun warned against the first erosions back in the 1980s of Roe v. Wade.

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Is politics the new religion?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has given a Georgia school district a legal lesson on why it can no longer send children home with backpacks containing bibles and other religious materials.

Graysville Elementary School (based in Ringgold, Ga.) in Catoosa County Public Schools gave students backpacks containing bibles and other religious materials apparently donated by the Catoosa Baptist Association. Children came home from school with a bible, a list of local Baptist churches, and a note asking them to “visit them and become part of the Catoosa Baptist Association family.” The list also included a religious message:

A- ADMIT THAT YOU HAVE SINNED - ROMANS 3:23
B- BELIEVE THAT JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN TO FORGIVE YOUR
SINS - ROMANS 5:8
C - CONFESS YOUR SIN TO JESUS AND ACCEPT THE GIFT OF
SALVATION - ROMANS 10:9-10

Courts have held that the distribution of bibles to students at public schools is prohibited, FFRF reminded the school district.

“Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line has written to Superintendent Denia Reese. “When a school distributes religious literature to its students, or permits evangelists to distribute religious literature to its students, it entangles itself with that religious message.”

The controversy caught the eye of a local TV station, which interviewed Line on the matter.

“You can’t plead ignorance as an excuse when you violate the law, doesn’t matter what law it is, whether it be the Establishment Clause or a criminal statute, you can’t just say, ‘Oh, I wasn't aware,’” Line told Channel 9.

Line added that he also had concerns about the age of the students receiving the bibles: “Public schools have a constitutional obligation not to promote religion, and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students.

For the rest of Line’s comments to the media outlet, click here.

FFRF hopes that the media spotlight will ensure that the constitutional rights of families will be protected in Catoosa County Public Schools from now on.

“Permitting church recruitment drives and the imposition of the bibles on a captive audience of young schoolchildren crosses the line,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The school district must make certain that it is no longer complicit.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 500 members and a local chapter in Georgia. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Tate ReevesThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is strenuously objecting to top Mississippi officials, including the governor, endorsing the National Day of Prayer in an over-the-top event.

Gov. Tate Reeves, the first speaker in a National Day of Prayer shindig at the Mississippi Coliseum on Thursday, May 6, read a National Day of Prayer proclamation and then led attendees in prayer. Then, Secretary of State Michael Watson actually claimed in his speech that we are living in the end times:

I believe we need Christian men and women in office today more than ever before. And if you’re a believer, if you’re a member of the church, you understand the signs of the times right now. … In the last few years, no more than ever before in the history of the church, we see the end times.

Another speaker at the event, Patti Herrington, the Mississippi Day of Prayer’s Capitol coordinator, called on God to convert the Jewish people to Christianity:

We pray for a spiritual, supernatural awakening over Israel, oh God. Lord, remove the veil over the eyes of your people, oh God, in Israel, that they would recognize the Messiah, oh God, that they would recognize Jesus, their king, that they would know him, they would see him, and you would reveal yourself to them.

Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson reportedly clapped and nodded in agreement with Herrington’s prayer. He also led his own prayer:

We’re not asking it in our name or our sake, we’re asking it for your Glory in the name above every name, the name before which one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God the father.

The National Day of Prayer is an unconstitutional sectarian event, FFRF informs these officials. It originated with the Rev. Billy Graham during his evangelical crusade in Washington, D.C., in 1952. He expressed an openly Christian purpose, seeking an annual prayer proclamation by the President because he wanted “the Lord Jesus Christ” to be recognized across the land. Subsequently, the National Day of Prayer Task Force was created to “communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership.” The task force issues annual National Day of Prayer proclamations and submits them to the president, choosing a theme with supporting scripture from the bible. This year’s theme: “Lord Pour Out Your Love, Life, and Liberty,” based upon the New Testament verse 2 Corinthians 3:17.

The Mississippi officials attending this sectarian event represent a diverse population that also consists of not only non-Christians but also atheists and agnostics who do not believe in prayer, FFRF emphasizes. Their active participation in a National Day of Prayer event in their official capacity unabashedly promotes a religious event, sending an official message of endorsement of religion over nonreligion and of exclusion to the 24 percent of Americans who are not religious.

And there are profound constitutional questions raised by their attendance.

“The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to the three Mississippi officials who attended the National Day of Prayer event. “The Supreme Court has said time and again that the ‘First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.’”

Government officials can worship, pray, and participate in religious events in their personal Capacities, FFRF emphasizes. But they are not permitted to provide credibility or prestige to their religion by lending a government office and government title to religious events.

As a matter of policy, government sponsorship of a National Day of Prayer event and promotion of prayer by elected officials is inappropriate and unnecessary. It raises the distasteful appearance of political pandering to appeal to and appease a vocal Christian evangelical constituency. FFRF encourages these Mississippi officials to instead stand up for the constitutional principle of the separation between church and state, which unites and protects all citizens — believers and nonbelievers alike.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country, including members in Mississippi. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Qualified Immunity

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has joined more than 80 other organizations in calling for an end to the judicially created doctrine of qualified immunity — which shields state officials from liability for their misconduct even when they violate the Constitution.

The criminal killing of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin has put a spotlight on this legal doctrine.

“This doctrine has hampered our ability to fight for civil rights across the legal spectrum, not just on issues of state/church separation and true religious freedom, but also discrimination on the basis of race, sex and sexual orientation,” explains FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert. “Nobody should be above the law.”

FFRF is particularly concerned about the fact that qualified immunity makes it hard for citizens to hold individual government officials accountable when they use the power of their office to impose their personal religion on others. Often, officials know what they are doing is wrong, but that they won’t personally suffer any consequences.

The group letter, dated May 10, explains that qualified immunity is not a statutory or constitutional requirement, but an obstruction created by judges. Like the issue of “standing” (jumping through hurdles to prove you have the right to sue), qualified immunity has been used to protect government officials who violate the law, especially the separation of state and church.

One of many FFRF lawsuits in which this doctrine has been invoked to fight legal challenges from the state/church watchdog includes the case it just won against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

The letter explains the problems with qualified immunity and with adopting incomplete solutions to fix it. For instance, in early March, the House passed HR 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would end qualified immunity for state and local law enforcement.

“But HR 1280 is only a half measure,” the groups maintain, “and half measures on qualified immunity will not do when attempting to hold police and other state actors accountable for unconstitutional acts.” The bill would remove qualified immunity for law enforcement, but solidify it in every other area of the law and insulate other officials permanently, including school officials, caseworkers, social workers, detention and correctional facility staffers, probation officers and government employers.

The letter details several recent applications of the doctrine that, while harrowing, are sadly typical.

The effort was spearheaded by the Constitutional Accountability Center.

“Since we began FFRF, we have been continually thwarted in correcting constitutional violations due to the doctrine of qualified immunity,” adds FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

Photo via Shutterstock by VDB Photos

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FFRF Co-Presidents

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DAN BARKER and ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR are co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and co-hosts of Freethought Radio and Freethought Matters (TV). A former minister and evangelist, Dan became a freethinker in 1983. His books, Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children and Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher To Atheist (1992) are published by FFRF. Other books include Godless (Ulysses Press, 2008), The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God (Pitchstone Publishing, 2011), Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning, Pitchstone Press (2015), GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction (Sterling Publications, 2016), and Free Will Explained: How Science and Philosophy Converge to Create a Beautiful Illusion. A graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a degree in religion, Dan now puts his knowledge of Christianity to effective freethought use. A professional pianist and composer, Dan performs freethought concerts and is featured in FFRF’s musical CDs, "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist," "Beware of Dogma,” and “Adrift on a Star." He joined FFRF's staff in 1987, serving as public relations director. He was first elected co-president in November 2004, speaks widely and has engaged in more than 100 debates about religion.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, a third-generation freethinker, co-founded FFRF with her mother Anne Gaylor as a college student in 1976. She served as editor of Freethought Today, FFRF’s newspaper, from 1985 to 2009. Her book, Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So, first published by FFRF in 1981, is in its 4th printing. In 1988, FFRF published Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, the first book documenting widespread sexual abuse by clergy. Her 1997 anthology, Women Without Superstition: 'No Gods, No Masters,’ is the first collection of the writings of historic and contemporary women freethinkers. A 1980 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Journalism School, she was an award-winning student reporter and recipient of the Ken Purdy scholarship. After graduation, she founded, edited and published the Feminist Connection, a monthly advocacy newspaper, from 1980–1985. She first joined the FFRF staff in 1985. She has been co-president since 2004. In the late 1970s, her student protest ended commencement prayers at the UW-Madison. She has been plaintiff in or overseen many state/church lawsuits and actions by FFRF. Dan and Annie Laurie have appeared on a variety of TV news shows, including “Oprah,” “O’Reilly,” “Good Morning America,” Univision, CNN and FOX news segments, CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight.

Photo: Ingrid Laas

See Dan's bio »
See Dan's online writings »

See Annie Laurie's bio »
See Annie Laurie's online writings »

FFRF President emerita

Anne Nicol Gaylor
Photo by Brent Nicastro.

ANNE NICOL GAYLOR was a founder and president emerita of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She served as executive director from 1978 to 2005, and worked as a consultant to the Foundation. Born in rural Wisconsin, she was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She owned and managed successful small businesses and was co-owner and editor of an award-winning suburban weekly newspaper. A feminist author, she did substantial volunteer work for women's rights (including serving as volunteer director of the Women's Medical Fund). Under her leadership the Freedom From Religion Foundation has grown from its initial three Wisconsin members to a national group with representation in every state and Canada.

Slideshow of Anne Gaylor & FFRF activism

FFRF Legal

REBECCA S. MARKERT is the Legal Director for FFRF. She attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her B.A. in political science, international relations and German in 1998. Rebecca attended Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island, and received her Juris Doctor in 2008. She joined the Foundation staff in October 2008 as the first in-house staff attorney. Prior to joining FFRF, she worked for former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold both in his legislative office in Washington, D.C., and in his 2004 campaign office.

She handles a First Amendment caseload that includes matters involving religion in the public schools, religious symbols on public property, and electioneering by churches. She has served as co-counsel in federal lawsuits across the country and routinely assists FFRF’s cooperating attorneys in litigation. She’s drafted amicus briefs filed in many federal appellate courts including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rebecca is admitted to practice in Wisconsin, and before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Western and Eastern Districts of Wisconsin, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Rebecca is also a member of the Western District of Wisconsin Bar Association, Dane County Bar Association and the James E. Doyle American Inn of Court. She also serves as the President of the Legal Association for Women in Madison, Wisconsin.

Photo by Chris Line. 

PATRICK ELLIOTT, the Foundation's Senior Litigation Counsel, hails from St. Paul, Minn. Patrick received a degree in legal studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2005). He attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received his Juris Doctor in 2009. He joined FFRF as a staff attorney in 2010.

Patrick oversees litigation for FFRF, including important First Amendment cases involving religion in schools, religious displays, and free speech violations. Patrick is admitted to practice in Wisconsin, Minnesota, the U.S. Supreme Court, and many federal district and circuit courts around the country.

Patrick has served as the Chair of the Civil Rights & Liberties Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin (2020). He has helped plan and present educational programs for lawyers on civil rights issues.

Photo by Chris Line. 

ANDREW L. SEIDEL is a constitutional attorney, the Director of Strategic Response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and an author. Andrew graduated cum laude from Tulane University ('04) with a B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science and magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School ('09), where he was awarded the Haber J. McCarthy Award for excellence in environmental law. He studied human rights and international law at the University of Amsterdam and traveled the world on Semester at Sea. Andrew completed his Master of Laws at Denver University Sturm College of Law with a perfect GPA ('11) and was awarded the Outstanding L.L.M. Award.

His first book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American hits shelves in May 2019. Renowned constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky has described it as "a beautifully written book" that "explodes a frequently expressed myth: that the United States was created as a Christian nation." Publisher's Weekly said that Andrew "provides a fervent takedown of Christian Nationalism in his furious debut. ... his well-conceived arguments will spark conversations for those willing to listen." Susan Jacoby (Freethinkers; The Age of American Unreason; and The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought) wrote the foreword and Dan Barker penned a preface. When not fighting for the First Amendment, Andrew writes for ThinkProgress, Religion News Service, Rewire News and elsewhere. Andrew joined FFRF as a constitutional consultant on Halloween, 2011.

Photo by Chris Line. 

 

ELIZABETH CAVELL received her B.A in English from the University of Florida in 2005. After college, Elizabeth spent a year as a full-time volunteer in AmeriCorps*NCCC. She attended Tulane University Law School and received her Juris Doctor in 2009. After law school, she worked as a deputy public defender in southern Colorado. She joined the Foundation as a staff attorney in January 2013, after working for the Foundation part-time since September 2012.

Photo by Chris Line. 

MARK DANN joined Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on May 20, 2019, as our first full-time director of governmental affairs. Dann previously worked as the director of governmental affairs for the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). He has also served as the federal affairs director at Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life advocacy group, and as a democracy development consultant with the National Democratic Institute in Moldova and Iraq. And he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Crimea before it was invaded by Russia.

Mark will help raise the national profile of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he is based.

Mark lives in Washington, DC with his husband Sultan Shakir. They have a Chihuahua/Jack Russell Terrier who as a finalist in this year’s Running of the Chihuahua's in DC.

SAM GROVER received his B.A. in philosophy and government from Wesleyan University in 2008. He first worked for FFRF in 2010 as a legal intern while attending Boston University School of Law. In 2011, his article on the religious exemptions in the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate was published in the American Journal of Law and Medicine. After receiving his J.D. from Boston University in 2012, Sam worked as a law clerk for the Vermont Office of Legislative Council where he drafted legislation on health care, human services, and tax issues. He returned to work as a constitutional consultant for FFRF in the fall of 2013. Sam has written a paper on counterterrorism and the law that was published by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City and has traveled to southern Africa to work under Justice Unity Dow of Botswana’s High Court.

Photo by Chris Line. 

RYAN JAYNE received a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Honors College in 2007. After graduating, Ryan taught piano and chess lessons while working as a financial advisor until 2012, when he began law school at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon. In law school he focused on intellectual property and animal law, serving as an associate editor for the Animal Law Review at Lewis & Clark and co-founding the Pacific Northwest’s first Secular Legal Society. Ryan graduated cum laude in 2015, began working with FFRF in January of 2015, and became a Diane Uhl Legal Fellow in September, 2015, specializing in faith-based government funding. Ryan became an FFRF staff attorney in September, 2017.

Photo by Chris Line. 

MADELINE ZIEGLER graduated magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in 2011 with a B.A. in English Literature and Political Science. She attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received her Juris Doctor in 2014. She has worked at FFRF in some capacity since May 2012, starting as a legal intern/extern, and currently works as a staff attorney.

Photo by Chris Line. 

CHRISTOPHER LINE received his B.S. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2012. He began working for FFRF in 2015 as a legal intern while attending law school at the University of Wisconsin. Shortly after receiving his Juris Doctor in 2017, Chris began working full-time for FFRF as a Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow. He became an FFRF staff attorney in September 2019. He is an accomplished photographer whose work has appeared in The Humanist magazine, the Progressive, and FFRF’s own Freethought Today. His work can even be found on display in Freethought Hall.

Photo by Chris Line. 

GRETA MARTENS graduated from Hamline University with a B.A. in history and a minor in Legal Studies in 2018. After graduating she moved to Madison and worked as an archivist at a pharmaceutical company. She has been a legal assistant since November 2019. Outside of work, she enjoys reading books and comics, hiking, and going to the farmer’s market.

JOSEPH MCDONALD joins FFRF as the Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow after graduating with with Juris Doctor and Master of Public Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2020). Prior to joining FFRF, he was a public school teacher and school principal from 2014-2016. Upon returning for graduate school, he acted as a health policy analyst for the Population Health Institute from 2016-2018. Both during and after law school, he taught Public Education and Law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Education Leadership and Policy Analysis. Joseph is thrilled to join the FFRF team and enforce separation of church and state and educate the public.

STEPHANIE DYER joined FFRF as the Intake Legal Assistant in November 2020. Stephanie graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in August 2020 with a B.A. in political science and legal studies, and a certificate in criminal justice. She is a Madison native, growing up on the Northside. Outside of work, she likes to travel and spend time outdoors hiking and kayaking.

BARBARA ALVAREZ is FFRF’s first Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern, a program set up to memorialize FFRF’s principal founder, who was an early abortion rights activist and author of the book Abortion is a Blessing. She is from Madison, Wis., and attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on a Ph.D. in library and information sciences with a minor in gender and women’s studies. Alvarez was a major winner in last year’s FFRF essay competition for graduate students, writing about the bible’s role in the abortion battle.

CHARIS HOARD, FFRF's first governmental affairs intern (2021 spring semester). graduated from Bowling Green State University with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Psychology & Law in August 2020, and is currently pursuing her Master of Public Administration degree at Bowling Green State University.

FFRF Editorial Staff

PJ SLINGER is editor of Freethought Today. A Green Bay native, he has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has worked as a sports reporter, news reporter, copy editor, web editor and photo editor in newspapers in Marshall (Minn.), Mankato (Minn.) and Madison (Wis). Prior to coming to FFRF in 2015, he worked for 15 years at The Capital Times in Madison. He has a wife and three kids.

Photo by Chris Line. 

AMITABH PAL is the Communications Director of FFRF. Prior to joining in February 2016, he was the Managing Editor of The Progressive magazine for more than a decade. He was also the editor of the Progressive Media Project, an affiliate of The Progressive that sends out op-eds through the Tribune Wire Service to hundreds of newspapers in the United States and other countries. Pal has appeared on C-SPAN and BBC and television and radio stations all over the United States and abroad. His articles have been published in school and college textbooks in the United States and Australia. Pal teaches a course at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. He has a Master's in Journalism from the University of North Carolina and a Master's in Political Science from North Carolina State University.

Photo by Chris Line. 

ROGER DALEIDEN is the Graphic Designer at the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He grew up in Wausau, Wis.  He has been living in Madison since 1987. He graduated from University of Wisconsin-Stout with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1986 (Fine Art), and the received his Master of Fine Art degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1991. Roger has taught Art and Design courses for UW-Madison and also for Madison College. He has worked as a Graphic Designer for catalog companies, most recently Full Compass Systems, and as well as for newspapers, including The Capital Times. Some of his other interests include bicycling through our beautiful Southern Wisconsin landscapes, paddling down the lower Wisconsin River, sailing on our lakes and skiing at the local ski areas.

Photo by Chris Line. 

JAKE SWENSON started as FFRF’s first graphic designer in 2015. He was born in Rockford, Illinois, and graduated with a degree in fine art from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. He enjoys music, cycling, photography, traveling, and coffee.

Photo by Chris Line. 

LAURYN SEERING is the Communications Manager and supports a wide range of communications functions, including: website content curation, distributing materials to members and media, and managing FFRF's social media platforms. Lauryn graduated from the UW-Stout with a B.S. in Professional Communications and Emerging Media, concentrating in Technical Communication & International Studies with a minor in Journalism. She enjoys learning new languages, reading, biking, and creating art at coffee shops.

Photo by Chris Line. 

BILL DUNN is the editor emeritus of Freethought Today. He has a degree in history and mass communications (journalism emphasis) from the University of South Dakota and has worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor in South Dakota and Wisconsin since 1980. Bill joined the Foundation staff in July 2009. He has two daughters, Kaitlin Marie and Jamie Lee.

BAILEY NACHREINER-MACKESEY is the Editorial Assistant at FFRF. Born and bred right here in Madison, she graduated from UW-Madison in 2017 with majors in Journalism and Mass Communication and Political Science and a certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies. Outside of FFRF, she can be found volunteering for Madison’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), catching up on her ever-growing stack of feminist reads, or slingin’ top notch espresso drinks as a specialty coffee barista.

Photo by Chris Line. 

FFRF Administrative Staff

LISA STRAND is director of operations of FFRF. Previously, she was the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Library Association. She has 25 years of experience in nonprofit organizations, both as a staff member and volunteer leader, including having served as board president of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives and the Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin. She has a B.A. from the University of Minnesota. Lisa is married with a daughter, as well as three cats, a guinea pig and an untended garden that will someday be beautiful.

Photo by Chris Line. 

JACKIE DOUGLAS is the office manager at the Foundation. She graduated in 2002 from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Human Development and Family Services. Jackie is happily married, owns a home on the east side of Madison, and has a black cat named Lucky.

Photo by Chris Line. 

ELEANOR MCENTEE has over a decade of experience as a nonprofit bookkeeper and is very dedicated to nonprofit organizations.  In her free time, she journals, spends time with her cats Steven and MacNcheez, and rides her Harley all over Wisconsin and more!

Photo by Chris Line. 

LISA TREU is our Director Of First Impressions at FFRF.  She comes to us after working in broadcasting for iHeart Radio in Madison, Wisconsin.  She hosted various radio programs for fifteen years.  Lisa and her husband ran their own Birdhouse/Birdfeeder manufacturing company called Northwoods Mfg., Inc. during the 1990’s where she had her own line of decorative birdhouses that she designed and painted herself.  Lisa is the wife of Harry and is the mother of twin daughters Katrina and Karinthia.  In her spare time she enjoys reading, painting, gardening, feeding the birds, getting silly with her daughters and lounging with her two cats.

Photo by Chris Line. 

KRISTINA DALEIDEN is FFRF's Programs Manager. She a Wisconsin native and life-long freethinker, and received her B.A. in Creative Writing from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and a Post-Baccalaureate certificate in Paralegal Studies from Madison College in 2010. She has worked for law firms focused on employment and labor law, and worked as an office coordinator at a local small business prior to joining FFRF. Kristina is an avid follower of politics and enjoys long protest marches on the square, historical fiction and post-modern poetry. Her hobbies include writing to her representatives, yoga, badgering her family and trying to persuade her cats to get off the kitchen counters.

Photo by Chris Line. 

ASTORIA GOLDSBY is the Store Manager and in charge of processing orders. She is a Madison native who attended Madison Area Technical Collage (MATC). In 2006 she attained a Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts. Astoria joined FFRF in 2019, and has 11+ years in customer service. She loves spending time with her partner and dog, playing board games, and wine tasting. 

Photo by Chris Line. 

FFRF Specialty Staff

BRUCE A. JOHNSON has been a broadcasting professional for over 35 years. He has worked in Russia, Africa, Europe, Mexico and all across the USA.  Projects he has photographed, edited and/or composed music for have been awarded many Wisconsin Broadcasters, Milwaukee Press Club and both regional and national Emmy Awards. He is a 30-year resident of the East Side of Madison, and is married with two daughters.

Photo by Chris Line. 

JAMES PHETTEPLACE is the Director of IT for FFRF. Prior to joining in January 2018, James was the Director of IT for Willy Street Co-op for more than a decade, and served as a Project Manager for major expansion efforts. He was also an information specialist, programmer and consultant for Community Care Systems, Inc. from 1995 to 2003. James is also a Qualified Administrator of the IDI (Intercultural Developmental Inventory), and is dedicated to promoting inclusion, diversity and equity in the workplace. James is a poet and musician and has performed in the Madison area for over 20 years.

Photo by Chris Line. 

Executive Board of Directors

View DAN BARKER's profile above. 

MIKE CERMAK (Director) lives in rural Pennsylvania with his family and owns several small businesses. He first joined FFRF while in college, after having read “Losing Faith in Faith,” and is passionate about state-church separation. Mike is a private pilot, electric car owner and “evangelist,” and enjoys technology of all kinds.

View ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR's profile above. 

Photo by Chris Line. 

STEPHEN HIRTLE (Chair) is a professor in the School of Computing and Information at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Pittsburgh Freethought Community, blogger with the Steel City Skeptics, faculty liaison for the Secular Alliance at Pitt and hosted a CFI Institute on “Secularism on Campus.” He has been a guest on Freethought Radio and has assisted FFRF in fighting a nativity display at the Ellwood City Municipal Building, a Ten Commandments monument outside Valley High School in New Kensington, and the Year of the Bible resolution passed by the Pennsylvania House.

TODD PEISSIG (Director) grew up in central Wisconsin and still lives there today. He attended the University of Wisconsin Pharmacy School, graduating with a B.S. in Pharmacy in 1989. He has worked as a retail community pharmacist with the Kmart Corporation for 27 years and is currently the pharmacy manager overseeing 5 technicians. Traveling extensively both domestically and worldwide is a great passion of his, as is fighting the battle of religious overreach in our country. He also is an activist fighting for LGBT rights. Todd volunteers a full day for FFRF every six-eight weeks, as well as at FFRF conventions.

JIM ZERWICK (Director) attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, joined the Navy in 1968, studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute, and served as a communications tech in the Mediterranean area until late 1971. After discharge, he and a buddy toured Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. He earned a Master’s in Library Science at UW-Madison, worked for several years at the Michigan State University Science Library, and became the engineering librarian at the University of Virginia. There he became hooked on flying ultralight aircraft. Returning to Wisconsin, he spent the following 29 years working as a property manager and assisting his parents as they approached the end of their lives. His mother, Rose Zerwick, who died as a “happy heathen” at 95 in 2013, was a second-generation atheist. Among Jim’s claims to fame is being part of the backup chorus singing Dan Barker’s “The Stay Away Pope Polka” for FFRF. He has been on the Board, initially as treasurer and now as a director at large, for 10 years. He is married to a retired high school teacher who has two grown children and a granddaughter. His three siblings and their spouses “all share a healthy skepticism of religion.”

CHERYL KOLBE (Secretary) retired from Portland Community College in 2004 as Student Systems Support Manager where she was responsible for implementing the software for Enrollment Services. She is passionate about the mission of FFRF and in 2013 she started a local chapter in Portland, Oregon and continues as chapter President.  She is a volunteer naturalist for Nature Conservancy and takes advantage of frequent opportunities to usher for performances in Portland. In her free time, she is an avid hiker, cross-country skier, and kayaker. Her two daughters and two granddaughters are a constant source of pleasure.

SUE KOCHER is President and a founding member of Triangle Freethought Society in North Carolina. She works at a large software company by day, and she occupies her off-hours with passions which include: vegetable gardening, cooking, working as a professional dog trainer, and of course, activism. Sue believes that the separation of church and state is essential for a true democracy, and that the replacement of supernatural beliefs with reason is essential for the survival of Homo sapiens. And for being worthy of that name.

STEVE SALEMSON (Treasurer) worked in scholarly publishing for nearly two decades, first as business manager of the Duke University Press and then as associate director of the University of Wisconsin Press. In previous lives, he was a professional musician and a French translator and interpreter. He has an M.A. in Liberal Studies from Duke University and a B.A. in Comparative Linguistics from Queens College in New York, and degrees in French horn and music pedagogy from the École Normale de Musique de Paris. He and his wife, translator Joan Wallace, love living in Madison. Steve enjoys biking, international folkdancing, doing crossword puzzles, and being a grandfather. In addition to serving on the board of the FFRF, he sits on the boards of the Midwest Folk Dance Association and the National Mustard Museum, and thus is involved with both nonprofits and non-prophets.

DAVID TAMAYO (Director) is co-founder and president of Hispanic American Freethinkers in 2010, which is the first and only national Latino 501(c)(3) educational organization of its kind. He was Vice President of the Reason Rally 2016, former host of the TV Show “Road to Reason — A Skeptic’s Guide to the 21st Century,” founding Board Director of Camp Quest — Chesapeake, and host of Contrapuntos Podcast. David is the Chief Information Officer for DCS Corporation, a large aerospace engineering company in Washington, D.C. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from George Washington University, and a master’s in Management in Information Technology from University of Virginia. David joined the FFRF Executive Board as a director at large in Fall 2020.

FFRF Honorary Board

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the formation of a new FFRF Honorary Board of distinguished achievers who have made known their dissent from religion.

ffrf honorary board 2020

The FFRF Honorary Board includes a. Ed Asner, b. Jeremiah Camara, c. Sean B. Carroll, d. Jerry Coyne, e. Richard Dawkins, f. Daniel C. Dennett, g. Ernie Harburg, h. Jennifer Michael Hecht, i. Susan Jacoby, j. Robin Morgan, k. Mike Newdow, l. Katha Pollitt, m. Steven Pinker, n. Ron Reagan, o. Robert Sapolsky, p. Edward Sorel, q. Geoffrey R. Stone and r. Julia Sweeney. 

“We are so pleased that these outstanding thinkers and freethinkers have agreed to publicly lend their endorsement to the Foundation, and its two purposes of promoting freethought and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause,” said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president.

  • Ed Asner, movie and stage actor, TV ("Lou Grant") legend, winner of seven acting Emmy Awards, comedian and dramatist, has been a trade union and political activist, and two-term president of the Screen Actors Guild. He voiced Ralph in the beloved film, "Up," and portrayed Santa in "Elf."
  • Jeremiah Camara is filmmaker of "Holy Hierarchy: The Religious Roots of Racism in America" (2018), "Contradiction: A Question of Faith" (2013), and other films, and author of the books Holy Lockdown: Does the Church Limit Black Progress? and The New Doubting Thomas: The Bible, Black Folks & Blind Belief. He's also creator the widely-watched YouTube video series "Slave Sermons."
  • Sean B. Carroll, professor of molecular biology, genetics and medical genetics act the University of Wisconsin, is author of 'Brave Genius', 'Remarkable Creatures', 'The Making of the Fittest' and 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful.'
  • Jerry Coyne, Ph.D., professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, is author of the popular book 'Why Evolution is True' and the blog of the same name.
  • Richard Dawkins, probably the world’s most famous contemporary atheist and a distinguished evolutionary biologist, is Oxford professor emeritus. In his blockbuster book, The God Delusion, Dawkins writes: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
  • Daniel C. Dennett is Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts, and author of the bestselling book about religion, Breaking the Spell. In a newspaper article about his nonbelief, Dennett once wrote: “I’ve come to realize it’s time to sound the alarm.”
  • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments For the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction and a research associate in Harvard’s psychology department, is FFRF Freethought Heroine of 2011. Goldstein is a 1996 MacArthur Fellow (the “genius” award). She has taught at Barnard and in the Columbia MFA writing program and the Rutgers philosophy department. She’s been a visiting scholar at Brandeis and at Trinity College in Hartford.
  • Ernie Harburg, a retired research scientist, is president of Yip Harburg Foundation and co-author of Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz? Ernie has dedicated his retirement to furthering the lyrics, music, memory and progressive views of his freethinking father, the lyricist Yip Harburg, author of classic songs such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and of Rhymes for the Irreverent, recently republished by FFRF.
  • Jennifer Michael Hecht, poet, historian and author of the acclaimed Doubt: A History and The End of the Soul, told the FFRF 2009 convention audience: “If there is no god — and there isn't — then we [humans] made up morality. And I'm very impressed.”
  • Susan Jacoby, bestselling author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, and program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, told FFRF convention-goers in 2004: "[President] Kennedy had to speak about his religion because he was suspected of insufficient dedication to the Constitution's separation of church and state. Today's candidates are suspect if they display too much dedication to secular government."
  • Robin Morgan, feminist pioneer, global activist, author of the groundbreaking "Sisterhood is Powerful" and more than 20 books, was formerly Ms. Magazine editor and consulting editor. She is the co-founder of the Feminist Women's Health Network and Women's Media Center and currently hosts "Women's Media Center Live" the radio "talk-show with a brain."
  • Mike Newdow is working pro bono to challenge such violations as the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. He told the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments: “I am an atheist. I don't believe in God. And every school morning my child is asked to stand up, face that flag, put her hand over her heart, and say that her father is wrong.”
  • Katha Pollitt, “Subject to Debate” columnist for The Nation, author and poet, has spoken out regularly and energetically as a freethinker, in such columns as “Freedom From Religion, Sí!”
  • Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard, is author of The Blank Slate: “I never outgrew my conversion to atheist at 13.”
  • Ron Reagan, media commentator, describes himself in a radio ad he taped for FFRF as: “Unabashed atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”
  • Robert Sapolsky, a neurologist, Stanford professor and bestselling author, once suggested FFRF put up a sign at its conventions: “Welcome, hellbound atheists.”
  • Edward Sorel, satiric cartoonist and irreverent illustrator who is a regular contributor to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and whose caricatures have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, has been a Foundation member since the 1980s.
  • Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, joined the faculty in 1973, after clerking for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan. He later served as dean of the Law School (1987-1994) and provost of the University of Chicago (1994-2002). Stone is the author of many books on constitutional law, including Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century (2017).
  • Julia Sweeney, comedian and actress, is writer/performer of the play, “Letting Go of God”: “How dare the religious use the term 'born again.' That truly describes freethinkers who've thrown off the shackles of religion so much better!”

In Memoriam 

1honoraryboardmemoriam

  • Christopher Hitchens, the iconoclastic journalist, was author of the bestselling God Is Not Great: “Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”
  • Oliver Sacks, M.D., the compassionate neurologist and bestselling author, described himself as “an old Jewish atheist.”

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