‘Tooning Out Religion (May 2001)

The smorgasbord of editorial cartoons on these two pages is a sampling of those presented by Steve Benson, the Arizona Republic’s Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist, before the annual convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in St. Paul last fall.

“‘Tooning Out Religion” was an encore presentation by Steve, who accepted a “Tell It Like It Is! Freethought in the Media” award at the 1999 annual convention.

Steve is the grandson of the late Mormon “prophet” Ezra Taft Benson, the former Secretary of Agriculture under Eisenhower.

He graduated cum laude in political science from Brigham Young University, 1979. Steve and his wife Mary Ann Christensen broke with the Mormon Church in 1993 in disagreement “over its doctrines on race, women, intellectual freedom and fanciful storytelling.” Now an openly-admitted secular humanist atheist, Steve lists among the benefits of leaving religion, “another day off, a 10 percent raise and getting to choose his own underwear.”

The headline-making cartoonist and his wife reside in Gilbert, Arizona, with their four children, “all of whom live under assumed names.”

He recently completed a term as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

His cartoons appear in about 130 newspapers and magazines nationwide.

Steve was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1993, and has placed first in Best of the West editorial cartooning in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, and 1999. He cites his proudest achievement as receiving the “Parched Cow Skull Award” from the Arizona Office of Tourism for “the least positive contribution” to the winter visitor industry.

Since 1997 he has worked as a sworn police officer for the State of Arizona. When pulling over motorists who ask him what they’ve done wrong, Steve has been tempted to reply, “Do I have to draw you a picture?”

Among his many hobbies, Steve cares for a popular home zoo of dozens of small animals that includes (not counting his children) ferrets, iguanas, tortoises, birds, rabbits, rats, mice, dogs, and cats. He says working with the animal kingdom helps him “better understand lower forms of life–namely, politicians and the clergy.”

His work proves the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand phone calls.”

Steve will present “‘Tooning Out Religion” on July 6 at the Lake Hypatia Independence Weekend hosted by the Foundation’s chapter, the Alabama Freethought Association.

Freedom From Religion Foundation