Meet a Litigious Member: Linda Stephens

stephens member

Linda Stephens (with NOW sign) at a rally she organized at the Federal Building in Rochester, N.Y., protesting a Catholic group which was protesting the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate. “The theme of both of our protest and theirs was ‘Support Religious Freedom,’” Linda said. “Of course, we each defined that term differently. I had signs printed up that read ‘Religious Dogma, Bad For Your Health.’ ”


Name: Linda Stephens.

Where I live: Greece, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester.

Where and when I was born: Battle Creek, Mich., Nov. 16, 1942.

Family: Kathryn Gibson (mother, 91) and five younger siblings, one deceased.

Education: B.A. in English (Western Michigan University), M.A. in English (SUNY-Brockport), master of library science (SUNY-Geneseo), Ed.D. (Syracuse University).

Occupation: Retired librarian. 

How I got where I am today: By reading, traveling, observing life and thinking.

These are a few of my favorite things: Poetry, flowers, indie films, travel, Bruce Springsteen.   

These are not: Fox News, anti-abortion protesters, religious bigots.

A quotation I like: “Come, come my conservative friend, wipe the dew from your spectacles and see that the world is moving.” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)   

My doubts about religion started: In my high school years, but they solidified in 1962 when I was 19 and attended a symposium titled “Is there a God?” at Albion College in Michigan.

Where I’m headed: To England in the fall to visit  “Hardy Country.” A writer for The New Yorker called Thomas Hardy “God’s Undertaker,” and Hardy made no bones about the fact that he was a nonbeliever. In fact, one of Hardy’s most famous poems is titled “God’s Funeral.”  In it, he describes a procession carrying the corpse of the “man-projected Figure . . . whom we can no longer keep alive.” 

Before I die: My wish list includes a woman president in the White House, passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, early retirements by Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts and the death of racism. (A few pipe dreams in there, I know.)  

Ways I promote freethought: I was the atheist plaintiff in the Town of Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court decision. I am an event organizer for the Atheist Community of Rochester (ACoR). I am the vice president and web administrator for the Rochester chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I was vice chair of Monroe Citizens for Public Education and Religious Liberty before it disbanded.

Other activism: I am past president of the Greater Rochester chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Person in history I admire and why: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, lead author of the “Declaration of Sentiments,” which was presented at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and which kicked off the first women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements in the United States.

I also admire Elizabeth because she believed that “The heyday of woman’s life is the shady side of fifty.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation