FFRF piece to air on national public TV affiliates

A short first-of-its-kind feature spot, “Spotlight on Freethought and the First Amendment,” produced in conjunction with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, begins airing on select national public television affiliates Saturday, Aug. 18.

The spot is guaranteed to air 500 times in the next three months and reach three million people. There are two versions, one four minutes, and the other 5:30 minutes, which will run interchangeably. When and where the short program, used as filler, will run cannot be announced beforehand. Public TV affiliates decide which fillers are needed the day they run. If you catch one of the spots on your local public TV affiliate, please be sure to contact the affiliate promptly to thank it for airing the program, and encourage it to rebroadcast “Spotlight on Freethought and the First Amendment.”

Larry Cohen is senior producer of “Spotlight On,” which airs short informational documentaries as filler on public television affiliates. This is believed to be the first such segment featuring discussion of freethought, atheism and focus on the specific dangers of mixing state and church.

The show description sent to affiliates reads:

“America has more diversity, faiths, religions, and cultures than any other country in the world. And yet we all seem to get along pretty well. Only in a country where we can be free of religion in our government can we then be free to practice our own or choose not to follow any faith.

“This segment focuses on our freedom to practice our faith, or no faith — exactly as we want.”

“More wars have been waged, more people killed, in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history,” says the narrator. “So with such wildly contrasting beliefs in this country, why aren’t we at each other’s throats? Here’s why. It’s our Constitution and its very core of freedom from religion. Our country was founded in part by refugees seeking freedom, seeking to escape centuries of religious persecutions, holy inquisitions, witch hunts.”

The four-minute version talks about the benefits of the United States’ secular form of government, defines “freethought” and includes brief interviews with FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker, author of Godless and Losing Faith in Faith, and Annie Laurie Gaylor, editor of Women Without Superstition.

Gaylor, a co-founder of FFRF, says on-camera:

“The United States of America was the first nation where our founders did not claim a pipeline to a divinity. It was a revolutionary act that they created a secular and entirely godless Constitution whose only references to religion are exclusionary, that there shall be no religious test for public office. The founders were aware of the inquisitions and the pogroms and the religious wars and the terrors in Europe, and the persecutions in many of the individual colonies — and they wanted no part of that. And so they erected what Thomas Jefferson called the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ and that protects all of us. It has prevented the bloodshed and warfare that we see in so many parts of the world where religion is involved in government.”

Adds Barker: “There are some believers that don’t see the difference between neutrality and hostility. They think efforts of groups like ours to keep the government neutral are also a hostile act against their faith, when we’re not asking for the government to be pro-atheistic either. If the government stays neutral, the government stays secular, then everybody’s an insider, nobody’s an outsider.”

The longer spot features a bonus: an interview with Pitzer College professor Phil Zuckerman, a leading expert on “secularity” and how secular societies measure up favorably to religious nations. Zuckerman is an FFRF member and author of many books, including Society Without God.

As a bonus, a version that is over seven minutes, including additional interview footage about freethought, morality and purpose in life has been posted at FFRF’s website and can be viewed now on FFRF’s homepage: ffrf.org/.

Watch for little “cameos,” including appearances by Darwin, Einstein and Susan B. Anthony, shots of some mementos at FFRF’s office, Freethought Hall, a powerful quote by Mark Twain about the witch hunts, and photographs by Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel of the Reason Rally crowd, and of FFRF Staffer Katie Daniel giving those Westboro Baptists the thumbs down when they picketed an FFRF event.

“We warmly thank FFRF members who contributed to FFRF’s PR Campaign Fund as part of the spring membership appeal, whose generosity made possible the filming and airing of this first-of-its-kind segment,” said Gaylor.

Only the first three months of airing are monitored by Neilsen Ratings, but “Spotlight On” segments often run far longer. The program is not offered as any part of any PBS national program service.

FFRF has been venturing into television this year with nationally airing ads, including one featuring JFK endorsing the separation between church and state, and one by actress Julia Sweeney defending contraception from attack by Catholic bishops. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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