A Champion of the First Amendment: Ellery Schempp

As a matter of religious conscience, I could no longer participate in these devotions.

This speech was delivered on Oct. 13, 2007, at the 30th annual national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, Madison, Wis.

By Ellery Schempp

Thank you for that lovely introduction. Thank you for this award.

I am happy to accept this award in memory of my parents, Edward and Sidney Schempp. It was my dad who introduced me to Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU. My father was made an honorary Life Member of FFRF. Dad was a bit cantankerous in his later years, and I plan to carry on the tradition.

I accept this award also in honor of the ACLU and in memory of the attorney who argued our case, Henry W. Sawyer. Sawyer’s legal scholarship, his hours in research and crafting the arguments and personal thoughts, were essential.

Everyone loves a hero. The real heroes were my parents, Henry Sawyer, and the ACLU.

The Supreme Court case is fully known as Abington vs. Schempp and Murray vs. Curlett. Madalyn Murray brought a parallel case, and the two cases were joined by the Court.

In accepting this recognition, I want to emphasize that the Schempp/Murray case was just one part of a continuum. Prior families who paved the way: Everson, McCollum, Torcaso, and Engel. And after the Abington decision, there were: Griswold (1965), Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), Lee v. Weisman (1992), and Glassroth v. Moore (2002).

Pennsylvania has had more than its fair share of important court cases– Abington, Lemon, Allegheny County, Dover–the wonderful decision about “intelligent design” in Dover, Penn. This is because Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between.

Last month I gave a talk on Constitution Day, commemorating the anniversary of that day 220 years ago, when the 39 delegates of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the draft Constitution for the United States and forwarded it to the states to hold ratifying conventions. These were our Founders.

Talking about the Constitution and the bible is a rather odd combination. Because there is nothing in the Constitution about the bible and there is nothing in the bible about democracy or our Constitution.

Our Constitution never once mentions God or Christianity or any commandments. It is a purely humanistic document. The preamble begins, “We the people do ordain and establish. . . .”

It mentions religion just twice, and both times the word “no” is attached. The first mention is in Art. VI: “no religious test shall ever be required. . . .” The second time is in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Constitution is a purely humanistic, religiously neutral, secular, and political document. No delegate thought the idea of a bicameral legislature came from divine revelation.

The bible never once mentions democracy, a republic, or anything related to American values. The bible never once mentions freedom of speech or freedom of religion. It does not mention separation of powers and limitations on the power of the executive, nor an independent judicial branch. It does not mention elections or voting. The bible provides no model for “good” government or for personal freedoms. It is a purely religious/theological document.

So it seems to me that bible-reading and prayer in schools do not promote American civic or patriotic values at all.

And in quoting the First Amendment’s religion clauses, which were written by James Madison, it is entirely fitting that we are here in Madison, a city happily named for him.

I became involved in thinking about the Constitution and the bible way back in 1956. I was a 16-year-old junior in the Abington Senior High School, in a suburb of Philadelphia. Pennsylvania had a law that required ten verses of the bible to be read in every classroom at the beginning of each school day. This was followed by the students standing to recite the “Lord’s Prayer” and the flag salute. Twenty to thirty states had similar laws.

It is interesting that this daily ceremony was known as “Morning Devotions.” It seemed to me that this established, or preferred, a Christian religious practice in the schools under the authority of the government. I had read the First Amendment; it is only 45 words long, and not taxing even for teenagers.

What I actually did was:

On the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, I brought a copy of the Quran to school. I wanted to show that there were other holy books; the bible was not unique. The Quran was picked merely by accident–in 1956 hardly anyone in the U.S. knew anything about Islam, including me. My friend’s father had a copy in his library. It could have just as easily been some Hindu or Buddhist scripture.

The school rule was that during bible-reading, kids were required to put away all other material and listen–or at least pretend to be attentive. On that Monday morning, I disobeyed the rule by opening the Quran and reading it–silently–and nervously, I might add. I did not stand for the Lord’s Prayer. But I jumped up for the pledge.

The reaction was swift. My homeroom teacher demanded to know what was going on. I replied that, “As a matter of religious conscience, I could no longer participate in these devotions.” It is fair to say that he was pretty much speechless. But he knew disobedience when he saw it.

He sent me to the school principal, the school disciplinarian. He was equally dumbfounded when I said that I thought these “devotions” violated the First Amendment. He waved his arms in a wide sweep and said that there were 1,300 other students here, and it was a matter of respect.

Now there was a bit of teenage rebellion in me, but it was clear to me that he meant respect for his authority. And in his mind, there was little difference between respect and being “devoted to.” But I felt on safe grounds talking about the Constitution–I am sure he read up on it that night. He was at a loss as to whether this was a discipline problem.

Y’see, the school attitude was that there were two categories of kids. The good ones conformed, had school spirit, and didn’t make waves. Then there were the rotten apples in the barrel. I was a quiet student, never getting detention for infractions–maybe once for talking in class, not wholly angelic–and I had good grades. My being in front of him introduced cognitive dissonance, big time.

Since I didn’t fit the mold, he sent me to the guidance counselor, who inquired about my family life and whatever troubles I might be having. Perhaps I had a conflict with authority and my father? No, I had a disagreement about bible-reading. Yes, I had mentioned to my parents that I was thinking of making this protest. I was confident of their support. After two or three hours, she sent me back to my regular classes.

That evening over dinner, I reported on the day’s events to my folks. My Dad suggested that I write to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The letter that I wrote to the ACLU was long forgotten, but Steve Solomon, the author of the recently published book about the Abington Supreme Court case, found a copy in the National Archives (of all places).

I typed it out on Dad’s typewriter with two fingers. (Looking out on this audience–there are far too many of us who remember typewriters.)

The letter I wrote to the ACLU in Philadelphia said:

“November 26, 1956


“As a student in my junior year at Abington Senior High School, I would very greatly appreciate any information that you might send regarding possible Union action and/or aid in testing the constitutionality of Pennsylvania law, which arbitrarily (and seemingly unrighteously and unconstitutionally) compels the bible to be read in our public school system. I thank you for any help you might offer in freeing American youth in Pennsylvania from this gross violation of their religious rights as guaranteed in the first and foremost Amendment in our United States’ Constitution.

“Sincerely yours,

“Ellery F. Schempp”

Well, speaking for American youth was rather pretentious, indeed. I was 16 years old then. Since then, I learned to write shorter sentences. I also enclosed a $10 bill–$100 today. This got their attention–if a kid can save this sum from his allowance and grass-cutting, he must be serious.

1956. This was two years after the Supreme Court desegregation ruling that racial segregation was intrinsically unequal. A few years after the McCarthy era, when every dissent was labeled “communist” and treason. Two years after Congress added “under God” to the pledge. The mood was to conform as the highest objective in life, like in the book, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.

Seven years later, in 1963, a year after I graduated from Tufts, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case called Abington v. Schempp and Murray v. Curlett. The Justices decided 8-1 that bible-reading and public-prayer rituals in the schools were unconstitutional under the First Amendment. It is important to note that three of the court’s most conservative members supported this decision in their understanding of “original intent.”

We received about 5,000 letters, roughly a third supporting us, a third opposing in reasonable terms, a third hateful and vituperative. Many of the letters in support mentioned Matthew, Chapter 6, about not praying for public display as “hypocrites do” seeking public approval and not using “vain repetitions.” This is a theological viewpoint, but it has overtones for understanding our secular Constitution.

My parents answered every letter with a return address. This was in the days before Xerox machines and when stamps cost five cents–still, hundreds of dollars. We were accused of being everything the writer hated: what are you–commies, Nazis, Catholics, Jews? What are you, Baptists? “In the name of Christ, go to hell.” I don’t recall any letter that accusingly asked: What are you, Zoroastrians? I conclude that nobody hates Zoroastrians. (You might want to look into this.)

One of the things we learned was that in the United States, it was considered bad not to be Christian, it was very bad to be a communist, but it was really quite awful to be an atheist. When people called us “you communist atheists” they had reached their ultimate outrage! Atheists are the most hated–and feared–group in America.

My family did not suffer as much as Madalyn Murray’s, because we were Unitarians. Nobody knew what that meant, but it sounded good. Most church-goers don’t know that they are Trinitarians. In any case, we had the magic word “church” in our traditions. If Unitarians had pagodas, it would have been different. However, my brother Roger was kicked around a few times; kids shouted “now passing the commie camp” from the school bus. My sister Donna was mortified, and some parents told their daughters not to play with her. I later learned that my principal wrote letters of disrecommendation to every college I applied to.

I really never contemplated going to court. I thought that having a sectarian Christian practice in the schools was clearly against the First Amendment. And once I pointed this out, the grown-ups would correct this. Surely they weren’t serious. At age 16, grown-ups were hard to understand. Unfortunately, at my age, they still are.

Besides, I had got to thinking–this is always a bit risky! The school lawyers argued that prayer and bible-reading were vital for instilling moral values. I began to worry. Kids in Arizona, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado, and 15 other states didn’t have these “devotions.” Did that mean they were less moral than us in Abington? (Fortunately, they were too far away, so we didn’t have to meet “heathens” playing us in sports.) Then I had a really scary thought–maybe it meant that Abington kids had fewer morals and we were in much greater need!

Several feelings and thoughts motivated me:

First, I felt that there was a fundamental issue of fairness for all. My Jewish school friends were clearly uncomfortable with Christmas and Easter passages. Jews do not consider the New Testament the “Word of God,” and there are certainly passages there that have been hurtful to Jews over the centuries. The bible is not the holy book of Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, or Hindus. Nonbelievers, pagans, and others do not need Christianity preached to them in the schools. If freedom of religious conscience is good for some, it is good for all. That is equality and fairness.

Nor do I consider the bible a valuable source of truth–certainly no more than any other book written 2,000 years ago. While there are some beautiful verses, there are also many quite ugly sections. And the notion of reading about Noah’s Flood under the imprimatur and authority of a state-sponsored devotion and then going to geology or biology class was, and is, deeply offensive to my scientific understandings. We all know that Noah’s Flood never happened. I do not believe in miracles or supernatural interventions in human affairs, and I thought it was wrong for the schools to teach them.

I note that when Catholics and Protestants talk about “morality,” they actually mean sex. But no writer in biblical times had the slightest clue about sperm, ova, and genetics. I do not see the Ten Commandments as showing the slightest concern for children or “family values,” nor for freedom of conscience. Our laws are clearly based on economic capitalism and humanistic values. Is there anyone who thinks our tax laws and Medicare laws are based on Ten Commandments?

Secondly, I consider that the First Amendment has served our nation very well, and the more we respect it, the more strength it gives us–even at the present time. “It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.”–James Madison, fourth president of the United States (1751-1836).

I was much moved by reading a wonderful book titled The Democratic Way of Life, by Thomas Vernor Smith and Eduard C. Lindeman (published in 1951–copyright 1926, 1939 by T.V. Smith, 1951 by Smith and Lindeman; the copy I read is Third Printing 1955, A Mentor Book, New American Library, NY, NY).

It presented an idealistic view of democracy based on liberty, fraternity, and equality and the role of political minorities, and made no mention of God. This gave me confidence that separation of church and state was a valuable ideal for liberty, equality, and social comity.

Thirdly, I oppose the view that praying and searching for “spiritual peace/healing” is a satisfactory substitute for learning about difficult issues in the world–and struggling with them. I think our struggle is not to find inner peace, but to keep alive the itch that makes us want to do better. As John Donne observed, there is peace in the grave, “but none, I think, do there embrace.”

Public prayer is not intended to promote religious values, but to enhance the authority of some churches and some political views over others. Similarly with the posting of the Ten Commandments. It is about power, not about religion. Government by Christian or Islamic or any other faith has rarely been progressive.

And the Constitution clearly intends that there should be freedom from religion. Government is to be free from religious interference. This is clear, because the Constitution makes no provision for any church or religion to have any official role. Our Constitution does not depend on any divine blessing.

We got many letters about the missionary position. Many people who protested the Supreme Court’s decision said, “Well, if it weren’t for prayers in the schools, many kids would never hear about Christ or God.” What an absurd idea. But so what? What is the source of this notion that “everyone has to be introduced to Christ”–or to Allah–in order that their souls might be saved? If believers are happy with their souls, why not leave mine alone? It makes me think they are insecure in their faith, and only by getting converts do they gain confidence that they may be right after all. The right to privacy–to be left alone by government and police–is an important constitutional liberty.

After all, it is largely religious dogma that opposes gay marriage and rights of women. It was religious dogma that made contraception illegal. It is religious dogma that promotes circumcision and genital mutilation. It is religious dogma that promotes “abstinence” and categorizes masturbation as “sin.” In the last century, prejudice against Native Americans and African-Americans had strong religious underpinnings, particularly in denying that the “heathens” possessed souls.

It was religious dogma that described women as “morally unfit” to vote.

And it is religious doctrine that aims to discredit evolution and insert “intelligent design” or creationism in the schools in place of sound science.

It was religious dogma that rejected the discovery that germs cause disease while priests and preachers insisted that disease was “God’s way” and humans should not interfere. (You will note that these preachings pretty quickly lost traction when children did not die, when women did not die in childbirth.)

In our Constitution, the word in the First Amendment is “religion.” “No law respecting an establishment of religion.” The phrase is not “a” religion, but religious doctrines or dogmas in general, which are prohibited from being established by governments. This is an important distinction–non-establishment is broader than merely one church or ecclesiastical organization.

The Founders were thoughtful men, and they did not choose the word “religion” over “church” without careful thought as to the meaning. Madison noted that throughout history, “superstition, bigotry, and persecution have accompanied the union of religion and government.” He also noted that Christianity did not need the support of government to flourish. This is a counterpoint when “original intent” is shouted out.

Owing to Thomas Paine, the general intellectual movement of the times, and distaste for the existing systems, the founders reached back to ancient Greece–a pagan civilization–for inspiration about democracy and a government based on the common man. Having discarded the Divine Right notion, they had no intention of allowing a new set of religious doctrines to take over.

The “Divine Right of Kings” notion had prevailed from the earliest days of Christianity, and arose from earlier pagan philosophy that rulers, by virtue of their being rulers, were obviously favored by the gods. This Divine Right notion not only gave kings legitimacy in the eyes of the church, but allowed that whatever religion the king had, everybody else had to have. Kings loved the idea, of course.

Almost all the language in the Declaration of Independence is to refute the church authority in rulership. This is where we see “inalienable rights,” granted by the Creator to ordinary humans, disputing the supposed superiority of the kingship class that had been supported by the Church. The Declaration of Independence is equally for independence in both government and in religion.

It had to be so. Divorcing the King meant divorcing the King’s religious authority.

The Declaration of Independence was not based on the bible. In fact, it was in direct opposition to churches and religious hierarchies. There is not a single phrase in the bible that offers a model for the Declaration of Independence.

For the Colonies to declare independence in direct violation of the King was, indeed, a radical step. The Divine Right notion was deeply imbedded in everybody’s mind, in priestly leadership, and in political thinking before this.

The authors of the Declaration, mostly Thomas Jefferson, needed poetic language and appeals to emotion to overcome the Divine Right mindset, and to reject the notion that we needed a blessing from the Almighty in order to prosper. Our Founders managed to achieve this radical departure in human, political and social thinking. It was mind-blowing. Thomas Paine deserves much credit.

One of the most brilliant ideas of the Founders–probably from James Madison–was the idea of an independent judicial branch.

This, too, was a radical departure from the European systems the Founders were aware of. Under the Divine Right notion and the hegemony of the church, there were actually two different court systems–normal civil and criminal courts under the King, but also church courts. Church courts dealt with cases of heresy and blasphemy as well as clergy misconduct. There were no checks and balances on these courts at all.

This issue was revisited a few years ago when the Catholic Church in Boston actually argued that our courts had no power over priests, that priests were to be judged only by the church’s canon law courts. This self-serving position was summarily rejected by the U.S. federal courts. This was a ratification that constitutional law trumps church law.

People sometimes say, “We are a Christian nation.” We are not. We are a constitutional nation.

It is, of course, entirely true that a majority of Americans self-identify with some brand of Christianity. But our Constitution, our laws, and our government are not Christian. They are not Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist, either.

And look how successful separation of church and state has proven to be. The United States has more church-goers, more denominations, and more money donated to churches than any other country in the world. All the evidence shows that the secular Constitution has been extremely good for “religiousness.”

Although 60-70% continue to say in opinion polls that they want prayer in schools, I think this issue is largely pass. A little prayer won’t hurt anyone, some people say. The problem has always been, whose prayer, to which deity, and how to be fair to all. By the time we sort out having some Christians praying “in thy closet in secret,” prayer rugs and prayer shawls, Hindu shrines, Buddhist chanting, milk & cookies blessings, it’s hard to imagine how there will be time left for math, English, science, and the civics of the Constitution.

And we all know, a little prayer here, then someone comes along saying this one is not devout enough, then a bigger prayer. For those wishing to be “seen of men” for their public religiosity, little prayers will not satisfy them.

Today there are loud voices claiming that Christians are being persecuted and that their beliefs are under threat of annihilation. I have great trouble taking them seriously. When I drive down the street, almost every corner has a church, with a prominently displayed cross. It is absurd to think that Christians are an endangered species.

In fact, the Christian right is thriving–and flush with political power. And have huge amounts of money. And claim to speak for all Americans.

But are they using this power to promote tolerance, good government policies, and decent conditions for our citizens? Sadly, often not. They are exercised about posting the Ten Commandments, having more public prayer, getting tax money for religious schools, denying gays the right to marry, and insisting on keeping “under God” in the Pledge. I think people turn to gods when their own situations are unhappy or confused. If there is fear for the future and little joy, then a promised reward in an “afterlife” looks attractive.

Christian and other fundamentalist zealots often like to describe us atheists as “bitter, angry, unloving, unlovable, immoral, negative, ungodly.” Well, the ungodly part I recognize.

We all know beauty in our own lives. Expanded is a wider love and understanding, such as poetry inspired from the Dead Sea Scrolls: “So I have walked on Uplands unbounded, and know that we, who arrived unbidden, may have consort with things eternal.” Our uplands embrace music and science and beauty and caringness beyond the fartherest horizons of scriptural literalists.

Historians have noted three periods of religious fervor and zealotry in our country’s history. These are called “Great Awakenings.” Don’t blame me for the name.

The first was in the 1730-1770s. It ended Puritanism and gave birth to Unitarians–so it wasn’t all bad. But it ended before the Revolution and Constitution. For this, we can say, thank god.

During the Second Awakening, in the mid-1800s, many new denominations arose–Shakers, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many schisms within church groups, including the seeds of “Reformed” Judaism.

The Third Great Religious Awakening was in the early 20th century. It was mixed with social reform movements, women’s suffrage, social Darwinism, prohibition, and resulted in a new social understanding under Franklin Roosevelt. Lots more schisms within organized church and synagogue groups. Religious fervor always has strange consequences.

We have been now in the fourth period of religiosity. I would call it the Great Darkening. But it will end, I am sure of that. The pendulum always swings.

Many of our fellow Americans seem to feel vague fears and seek refuge in the supernatural for a nave sense of security by displays of religiosity. The role of separation of church and state is all the more important–it does government no good to rely on magical thinking, and it does religion no good to be separated from reality.

There are many dimensions to fear. There is a huge amount of belief in psychics, astrology, alien abductions, faith healing, appearances of the Virgin Mary–even on cheese sandwiches!–stone statues that burst into tears, in exorcism, ghosts, prayer, demons, life after death, crop circles, raptures, creationism, magnetic bracelets, homeopathy–all stuff related to magical thinking and supernaturalism–the list of irrational nonsense is endless. We used to call this superstition. We are in an age of belief in silly things. Many are relatively harmless, but it is a sign of an unhealthiness in our society. And this is, I think, related to fear.

Apparently, for many, the world does not make sense. And is thus a bit unknown–or worse, unknowable. This makes people want to cling naively to all sorts of weird notions that give them emotional comfort and seem to make sense. My plea is to use the power of our rational minds to understand the world.

To return to the “free exercise” clause for a minute, we can have personal religious beliefs of every and all kinds. Yours do not have to make sense to me, or vice versa. Where we get into dangerous territory is when we say that because I believe, you should also. Some apparently believe that God is looking out for this nation especially, but I think it is a superstitious notion that public prayer will make Him or Her more favorably disposed.

The danger is that by wrapping God up in political discussion, we short-circuit and short-change the public square of discourse. Claiming that your idea is more godly than mine or that some people are more “chosen” or more “saved” than others is bad politics and bad religion. If it is a good idea, then it will succeed by persuading others on its evidence, not by saying “God says so.”

And for some reason, televangelists are unwilling to share God’s email address with the rest of us. Doesn’t sound like Christian charity to me. I mean, for people who talk to God every day, via telepathy or satellite, I am willing to put up with Comcast.

I do know that one-way tickets to Heaven are frightfully expensive. There are better bargains on the Internet.

The idea of bible-reading is, of course, a Protestant idea. It differs from Roman Catholic traditions, Jewish traditions, and since I cannot keep up with all 189 different sects and denominations, it probably differs from Coptic, Armenian, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses traditions–and whatever is labeled as heresy by one sect or cult or another.

Many people are surprised to learn that bible-reading in the schools was controversial 150 years ago. In 1844, there were riots in Philadelphia over the practice; men were killed, churches were burned–over bible-reading. This is well-described in Solomon’s book. It is just as divisive today–the question as to which version of the bible–the Douay version used by Catholics, one of the 20 or so versions used by Protestants–from the King James version to the many newer translations.

Since there is no original text and translators from the ancient Greek or Aramaic differ, nobody can claim to have the “true, authentic” version of the bible.

Our Constitution is different. It has a clear origin; it was written in English.

Y’know, there are actually 613 commandments in Jewish scriptures filled with “thou shalt nots.” But our Constitution significantly does not include or refer to a single so-called commandment. Although it is amusing that the Bill of Rights in the first Ten Amendments echoes this style–government “shall not” establish, abridge, etc. The phrase “shall not establish religion” comes first, followed by no abridgement of freedom of exercise, speech, the press, assembly, petition.

As to constitutionality and morality, I am a little confident of being moral–I have never boiled a baby goat in its mother’s milk. Trust me about this. Although, I do confess to having eaten a shrimp and a cheeseburger at the same picnic.

I oppose superstition. I oppose ritual genital mutilation.

From a democracy viewpoint, religious officials and promoters are not elected, take no oath of office for the Constitution, and do not have to account for their money. Religious leaders have always tried to capture the power of government to promote their self-interests and agendas.

The Constitution of the United States of America has proved itself to be a remarkably successful model for decent government.

I am confident. I think “We, the people . . .” is a beautiful and enduring idea.

There is, in fact, no alternative but to have faith in our Constitution and “We, the people. . . .”

There is a viewpoint: “No man or men can save this nation. It’s time to put our trust in God, or we perish.” I totally reject this idea. I think our Constitution reminds us to do like the delegates did in Philadelphia 220 years ago–it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. They did not sit around waiting for prayer or scripture or rapture.

As I said, I think our country is emerging from a period when many people thought that religion would make for a better world. It is now clear that more prayer, more bible-reading or more Quran-reading, more faith-based government and appeals to God do not solve our problems in war, do not solve our concerns about the environment and global climate change, do not solve issues about health insurance or care for our elderly.

The Constitution alone does not solve these problems either. But it provides the framework for our discussions and for developing sound policies.

More and more Americans now recognize that more displays of public piety are not any answer. We want effective leadership, rather than a “preacher-in-chief.”

I end with these thoughts:

Discussion about the complexities of dealing with terrorist threats and bad governments here and abroad is impaired when God and religion are mixed up with patriotism.

The Constitution was made for “We, the people . . .” not for deities. It is up to us humans to cherish and defend it. Various gods can fend for themselves quite well without help from hairless apes.

I am a strong supporter of the Secular Coalition for America. All of us atheists, humanists, agnostics, non-believers, secularists, skeptics have to work together. Christianists are schismed into 189–189!–or so denominations, sects, and cults, which keeps them confused. Their power came from when they were united. We must do the same.

In freedom from religious agendas, our voice has to be clear, despite doctrinal nuances. And we cannot rely on courts. We have to win elections.

Now, following me, comes Matthew LaClair. I am of the graybeard generation. Looking out, there are too many of us who remember typewriters. I strongly support the Secular Students Alliance. This is where the future lies. I urge your support to students.

Last year I was 66. Two 6s; but to be truly evil. . . . Well, I definitely aspire to the third 6.

Finally, I wish this recognition to go also to Anne Nicol Gaylor, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and Dan Barker. Their energies over the years are vastly more important than anything of a one-trick pony. The FFRF people have been champions for 30 years; all of you have been the best t than anything of a one-trick pony. The FFRF people have been champions for 30 years; all of you have been the best of champions.

Thank you for all your energies on behalf of freedom from religion.

Thank you all.

Ellery Schempp graduated from Abington Senior High, Penn., in 1958, graduated cum laude from Tufts in physics and geology, and earned a Ph.D. in physics from Brown University. In 1956, as a high school sophomore, he initiated a protest of “morning devotions” at his public school, and with the support of his parents and the ACLU launched the lawsuit resulting in an 8-1 decision by the Supreme Court barring devotional bible readings and prayers from public schools.

He worked on fiber optics research at Bell Telephone Laboratories, and became assistant professor of crystallography and research assistant professor in physics at the University of Pittsburgh. He joined the staff of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1980, and in 1984 worked on the development of MRI systems. He is a member of the American Physical Society. He has authored or co-authored articles in many professional journals.

Freedom From Religion Foundation