A Few Words From Jo Kotula (May 1994)

Charline and I were stunned, some months ago, to learn of plans for this gathering, under this friendly roof, this umbrella, this haven for refugees from orthodoxy.

We are here, we feel, not so much in our honor, but to celebrate, to dedicate our freedom of inquiry, our right to a healthy skepticism, to explore every avenue of thought open to scientific probing.

It does appear that each of our thousands of denominations believes that its principles, its tenets, should have official recognition, put forth by our secular government, imprinted on our currency, proclaimed in ceremonies with ringing bells from church steeples!

We are aware of claims that their rules must be enforced, their absolutes be imposed by a central authority infallible in their rigidity, and under their ultimate control.

Our skepticism is reinforced when Foundation member, former Irish Catholic priest, Patrick Maguire, said that our Foundation was urgently needed, today. It is reinforced when that great mind, Isaac Asimov, commended us for our activities in ferreting out violations of our Constitutional proscriptions against religious intrusions into the operations of our secular government, alluding to the grim possibilities of “a return to the days of the thumb-screw and the rack.”

When he spoke thus, he may have been aware of the ruminations of George Kendall, in one of the more obedient Catholic weeklies. He thought steps should be taken to curb the activities of freethinkers, in our schools, our governing bodies and in our daily activities. He did not rule out putting to death such deviants from church fiat.

A healthy skepticism was demonstrated by one of the early officers of the Foundation, when Ruth Green chose as title to her brave book, The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide To The Bible. She must have enjoyed the letter from the minister who “wished he had written such a book. He wished he’d read her book, fifty years before!

We have in our files the correspondence between Albert Einstein and the young Navy ensign, which leaves no doubt that Einstein rejected the common forms of craven worship of a so-called “Supreme Being.” He rejected it entirely, calling himself an atheist. Senator Joe McCarthy would have been proud when President Bush said that atheists could not be citizens, couldn’t be patriotic, etc., and he went on to say “This is one country under God.”

Charline tells of another skeptic . . . when the children of neighboring Seventh Day Adventists  — on seeing the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, sweep down from the Arctic one night — fell on their knees in terror, fearing the end of the world had come, but Mrs. Kirkpatrick assured them that the sun would rise in the morning, as usual. (Yes, Charline’s mother rated as a skeptic!)

In appreciation of this wonderful celebration of freethought, in this beautiful setting, Charline and I must express our warmest feelings toward the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship and toward our New Jersey staff, Nikki Fuentes, our esteemed secretary-treasurer, Audrey Wreszin, Margaret Reheis, Eleanor Demarest, Robert Drysdale and Ken Malpas.

The robust health and strength of the Foundation must be credited to the dynamic group in the national office: President Anne Gaylor, recently honored by the National Organization For Women of Wisconsin, by the president of the Wisconsin State Senate and a number of state legislators.

Ruth Green put it very well, in a letter of August 27, 1979: “We are fortunate to have as a leader a person of such knowledge and ability, and whose personal charm and appeal preclude any hint of the abrasiveness that sometimes characterizes dynamic advocates of unpopular causes . She also has a considerable gift with words and phrasing that lend authority and clarity to any statement she may issue . Anne has the admirable gift of achieving victory through sweet reasonableness.”

Thank you, Anne!

Freedom From Religion Foundation