Ten ways to get active — right now!
1. Monitor local state/church abuses
Work with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a 501(c)(3) legal and educational association of freethinkers working for state/church separation, to protest clear-cut violations of the separation between church and state, such as prayers or religious instruction in public schools. Check out FFRF’s State & Church FAQ section on state/church violations first. Then if you believe you have a violation, fill out FFRF’s Report a State/Church Violation form.
It it not always easy to end violations, but a prompt complaint by a local citizen helps to educate about the importance of state/church separation — and may prevent a future or worse abuse.
2. Write a letter to the editor
This remains one of the cheapest and most effective ways to affect public opinion. Succinct letters with a clear focus, responding to timely issues, have the best chance of publication. Most newspapers prefer to print letters written directly to their editorial page editor (rather than open letters addressed at large). Even with the decline in newspapers, any statewide public official or legislator who knows what they’re doing has staff follow local coverage, including letters to the editor. So speak up against theocratic actions by public officials or in favor of secular values in our laws and legislation.
3. Influence via social media
Retweet and like FFRF and FFRF Action Fund tweets and posts — and add your views on social media.
4. Don’t vote in a church!
In many places, one-third to one-half of all polling places are churches! Citizens should not have to fulfill their most civil function of all — voting — in a church or religious school. These days the cross is increasingly used as a symbol of political intimidation and many churches are not neutral on election issues. If you have to vote in a church,complain! Usually your city or county representative has the authority to suggest changes to polling places. A local rep is more apt than a bureaucrat to respond to a citizen complaint. Suggest secular alternatives (particularly those with disability access): libraries, public schools (it‘s educational for students to witness Election Day), fire stations, malls, etc. Even if this abuse does not affect you personally, you may still wish to complain to your city clerk or registrar if this is a growing trend in your area.
Polling sites are published by newspapers prior to local elections and by city or county agencies overseeing elections. In some states, polling sites receive public compensation, making this a more serious entanglement.
5. Sponsor a debate or public appearance
College kids love debates, and media often cover them! FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, a former fundamentalist minister who is ideal for debating religionists, would do a debate
a month if he had the chance. Our staff attorneys are also game to take on legal issues in public appearances. If you have a connection with your local university, try to get a student group or department to sponsor a debate or public appearance. Other venues include colleges and local UU and Ethical Culture congregations, where speeches about FFRF, freethought and the separation of church and state may be welcome.
6. Advertise freethought!
Don‘t let religionists win by default! FFRF still receives communications from individuals claiming to be the “only freethinker in Montana,” the “only atheist in Utah” or the “only agnostic in my hometown.” Many freethinkers feel isolated because other freethinkers don‘t speak up. Let sympathetic friends and family know there is a national group representing freethought and working for state/church separation. If you enjoy advertising your views, FFRF has produced bumper stickers, “nontracts,” buttons, solstice cards, T-shirts and sweatshirts with educational freethought messages. See details at ffrf.org/shop.
7. Recruit a Member!
The best source for finding new members of FFRF is you — the existing member. FFRF can send out an introductory packet, including a copy of our newspaper, Freethought Today, and a brochure about our 45-plus years of activism. Find out more. FFRF also offers the option of gift memberships.
8. Promote FFRF’s annual student essay contests
One of the most important services provided by FFRF is outreach to freethinking young people. Since 1979, the Foundation has sponsored an annual essay competition, awarding cash scholarships to freethinking youths. Today, FFRF sponsors five contests for different educational levels, ages and interests, granting more than $45,000 overall in prizes annually. The topics and prompts go up at our website in March of every year. Tell the students in your life or let public schools or universities in your area know about this unique opportunity. FFRF runs ads in the wrap of its monthly newspaper in the spring, which may be sent to schools, or you can email guidance counselors links to our contests to our contests.
9. Challenge friends and family to take the FFRF quizzes
A fun way to learn about the harm of using the bible in government functions or invoking it in our laws is by taking the FFRF’s online bible quiz, “What Do You Really Know About The Bible?” (Even believers may learn to look at the bible more critically by taking our quiz.) Even more important, every citizen should understand the secular nature of the U.S. Constitution; “What Do You Know About State/Church Separation?” is an entertaining way to learn more about the First Amendment and challenge myths that this is a “Christian nation.”
10. Join the campaign to pressure Boy Scouts of America
Even while bending on admittance of LGBTQ children and allowing girls to join Boy Scouts of America, the organization hasn’t reformed its official policy to accept nonreligious children. Its Declaration of Religious Principle continues to state: “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.” Historically, it has expelled or refused admittance to nonreligious boys, while relying on public handouts and support. In 2000, the Boy Scouts won a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled it a private group that is free to discriminate. The case in question involved gays (and the group has since changed much of its discriminatory policy there), but the ruling leaves nonreligious Boy Scouts with little chance of legal redress.
Local troops in the past have traditionally met for free at public schools and relied on public school teachers to recruit. If this is happening in your area, you can help combat Boy Scouts bigotry by contacting your local school board and neighborhood schools, asking them to stop supporting or giving preferential aid to an openly discriminatory group. You can also contact your local United Way, which is not supposed to fund groups discriminating on the basis of religion. If they grant Scout troops financial assistance, ask them to stop. If you have been a regular United Way contributor, be sure to let it know.
You may wish to complain to the Boy Scouts of America directly:
Roger C. Mosby
President and CEO
Boy Scouts of America
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
Irving TX 75015
For more information, see Boy Scouts of America Practices Discrimination.