Legal Case a Media Bonanza

The Feb. 28 oral arguments at the Supreme Court over the right of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to challenge the federal faith-based bureaucracy has proven to be a bonanza period of media coverage for the Foundation.

In two weeks, the Foundation added more than 800 new members!

An Associated Press news story by Ryan Foley about the Foundation and its challenge was released on the national wire, running in hundreds of daily newspapers the week prior to the oral arguments.

The AP story unleashed literally thousands of e-mails to the Foundation, two-thirds from supporters, many joining online.

Swelling the response was a CBS Evening News segment, which aired on Saturday, Feb. 24, the weekend before the Supreme Court hearing.

A CBS crew filmed Foundation co-presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor recording their weekly radio program, Freethought Radio. They were interviewed at the Foundation’s office in Madison, Wis.

The Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Wis., ran an in-depth, nearly 2-page profile about the Foundation and its history, by Doug Erickson, as the main feature on Sunday, Feb. 25. He interviewed FFRF’s principal founder, Anne Gaylor, president emerita, as well as Dan and Annie Laurie. Sidebars included timelines about FFRF achievements, Q&A on Hein v. FFRF, photographs, and an additional Web slideshow and interview.

On the morning of the oral arguments, an article appeared prominently in USA Today about the Foundation and its lawsuit. Also running on Feb. 28 was a sympathetic editorial in The New York Times, editorializing in favor of FFRF’s right to sue.

In Government by Law, Not Faith,” The Times editorialized in favor of “the courthouse door remain[ing] open to ordinary Americans who believe that the government is undermining the separation of church and state.”

The Times cited the Foundation’s brief, which documents that the number of grants to religious groups increased 38% from 2003 to 2005, under the tutelage of faith-based offices at the White House and cabinets.

Coverage of the oral arguments was widespread, including national wire stories, C-Span and CNN, plus original news stories appearing in diverse dailies such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, and many other venues, blogs and Internet publications.

Rounding off the week of coverage, ABC World News, in a piece by TV correspondent Dan Harris, featured a major story on Sunday, March 4, over what Harris called “the increasing assertiveness” of atheists in America today.

An interview with Dan and Annie Laurie opened and ended the broadcast, and was filmed at the foot of the steps of the Supreme Court.

On the morning of the oral arguments, the Foundation’s website was so flooded–fielding 400 hits a second–that it temporarily crashed, although was soon back online.

As of presstime, the Foundation’s current membership count is now more than 9,500 members and growing fast. The Foundation has long been the largest national association of atheists and agnostics.

“Our warmest welcome to everyone who has joined the Foundation after learning about us through our faith-based challenge. We’re grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of support,” said Annie Laurie and Dan.

Freedom From Religion Foundation