Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? Freethought of the Day is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 2 entries for this date: Robert R. Tiernan and Hermann Bondi
Robert R. Tiernan

Robert R. Tiernan

On this date in 1933, freethinking attorney Robert Reitano Tiernan was born in Norwood, N.Y., to Albert and Grace (Reitano) Tiernan. Raised as a Catholic and later rejecting it, he graduated from LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school in Syracuse, and the Boston College School of Law. The day after law school graduation he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving two years at Fort Dix, N.J. He helped provide security for presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

Tiernan practiced law for 20 years at the D.C. firm of Keller & Heckman in Washington and later specialized in constitutional law in Denver. After the tragic accidental death of his younger son Timothy in 1983, he spent three years successfully lobbying for mandatory installation of vehicle airbags.

A longtime FFRF member and supporter, Tiernan headed the Denver chapter and was FFRF's 2001 Freethinker of the Year for his legal contributions over the years. He stopped a 53-year violation involving a major taxpayer subsidy of an annual Easter service at the publicly owned Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver and defended pro bono a freethinker accused of "blasphemy" for removing a religious cross illegally placed in a public right-of-way.

He won a partial victory in 1998 in an FFRF lawsuit when a federal court ordered removal of religious phrases and several images from a shrine built to commemorate the Mass said by Pope John Paul II in 1993 in Cherry Creek State Park outside Denver. "We object to the holding of religious ceremonies on public property, but that was a battle that was lost 25 years ago when the pope was allowed to say Mass on the Mall in Washington, D.C.," Tiernan said at the time. D. 2019. 

Brent Nicastro photo

“It’s a shame that the judicial system, and especially the current U.S. Supreme Court, has tinkered so much with [the Establishment Clause] because the admonition is simple: There shall be no establishment of religion. The idea of ‘accommodating’ religion, which is the current rage with the judiciary, absolutely contradicts this clear and simple language and demeans our Constitution.”

—Tiernan, accepting FFRF's 2001 Freethinker of the Year award in a speech titled "Blasphemy 101"

Compiled by Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Hermann Bondi

Hermann Bondi

On this date in 1919, Sir Hermann Bondi (knighted in 1973) was born in Vienna, Austria. He graduated from Trinity College with a degree in mathematics in 1940. Bondi worked as a university lecturer at Cambridge University from 1945-48, a professor of mathematics at King’s College from 1954-71 and a master of Churchill College in Cambridge from 1983-90.

Bondi was an astronomer, mathematician and cosmologist renowned for his studies of relativity and black holes. He was one of the developers of the steady-state theory of the universe, which proposed that matter is constantly being created and that the universe had no beginning in time. (The steady-state theory has since been replaced with the big-bang theory.) Bondi discovered the Bondi Accretion, the Bondi Radius and Bondi mass. His books include Cosmology (1952), The Universe at Large (1961) and his autobiography Science, Churchill and Me (1990).

He was also the director of the European Space Research Organisation from 1967-71 and chief scientific adviser for England’s Ministry of Defence from 1971-77. He married Christine Stockman, a fellow physicist and humanist, in 1947 and had two sons and three daughters.

Although his family was Jewish, Bondi was a strong humanist who never “felt the need for religion,” according to a UK Telegraph article (Sept. 13, 2005). Bondi co-founded the British Humanist Association and served as its president from 1982-99 and was president of the Rationalist Press Association from 1982 until 2005. Bondi donated half of the money from a large award he received to the Atheist Centre in Andra Pradesh, India. D. 2005.

“Our humanist attitude should therefore throughout be to stress what we all have in common with each other and relegate quarrelsome religion to the private domain where it can do [less] harm.”

—Bondi, April 1995 speech titled “Ethics, Science and Humanism” (quoted on the International Humanist and Ethical Union website, June 1, 1995).

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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