Setting the Wall Street Journal Record Straight

Beware of Blogs!

The on-line version of the Wall Street Journal published an item (Aug. 26, 2008) which mentioned the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s “Keep Religion OUT of Politics” billboard, but contained some false reports.

In a two paragraph item mentioning the interfaith worship service on Sunday at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Naomi Schaefer Riley claimed that Robert R. Tiernan, “a spokesman for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, also disrupted the proceedings, trying to shout down convention CEO and Pentecostal minister Leah Daughtry when she said that Democrats were people of faith.”

First, attorney Robert R. Tiernan of Denver is often a spokesperson for the Foundation, and an excellent one. But in this instance he attended the Interfaith worship service as an individual, and passed out leaflets opposing funding of faith-based groups which he wrote as an individual.

Second, Bob did not attempt to shout down Rev. Daughtry. As a lifelong Democrat, Bob stood up, exasperated by the first-ever scheduling of an official worship service at the political convention, in response to her remark that Democrats were people of faith. Bob tried to say that Democrats should not be in the religion business. He was promptly escorted out of the auditorium. (To hear more about the rather dramatic proceedings and Bob’s perspective on religion and politics as a one-time front man for JFK, tune into Freethought Radio’s broadcast this Saturday. For information on broadcast times, live streaming and podcasts, check:

Riley then claimed: “The religious Dems did win one round, apparently, when the convention organizers convinced the Freedom From Religion folks to replace their ‘Imagine No Religion’ sign posted in downtown Denver with a billboard that only says, ‘Keep Religion OUT of Politics.'”

This assertion is completely false. The nonpartisan and nonpolitical Foundation has never been contacted by the Democratic Party (or by anyone on their behalf). The Foundation did not and would not alter the wording of its billboard in deference to that party or any other such entity.

The facts: The Foundation had rented a downtown board in Denver in July and July to host its “Imagine No Religion” message, as part of its national billboard campaign. The cost to continue that rental escalated in August, due to the increased demand for advertising during the National Democratic Convention in Denver. Generous donors made up the difference so the Foundation could continue leasing the prime spot through August. It was in fact Robert Tiernan who suggested the more pointed and timely wording: “Keep Religion OUT of Politics.” (Hardly a retreat!)

When the Foundation phoned the reporter to ask for a correction and retraction, she stated in her defense that this assertion is all over the blogosphere. She did not seem to be aware that the original source for this fib is an obscure rightwing preacher with a big mouth.

The Foundation asked for a retraction this morning. The reporter promised only a correction. As of the release of this statement, the story has still not been corrected.

Beware blogs and the Wall Street Journal!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is the largest national association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), with more than 12,000 members, which has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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