Freethinker of the Year Award

Jennifer Essak, Sam Essak, Michael Hakeem, and Richard Uttke – 1996

Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., Anne Gaylor, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker, Samuel M. Essak, Jennifer Essak, Richard A. Uttke and Michael Hakeem, 95-C-634-S, Feb. 23, 1996, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin

The Essaks, Prof. Michael Hakeem, and Richard Uttke were four State of Wisconsin employees who signed on as significant plaintiffs in the Freedom From Religion Foundation's winning federal lawsuit challenging a longtime Wisconsin statute mandating worship on Good Friday and declaring it a state holiday. The statute was declared unconstitutional by federal Judge John C. Shabaz on Feb. 23, 1996. Numerous government buildings and services, including public libraries, now remain open for business throughout Wisconsin on "Good Friday."

Michael Hakeem: "It was a delight to win this lawsuit, but even loss is not entire loss. Loss is educational. It tells people out there that there are other voices, that there is opposition to church/state entanglement."

Jennifer & Sam Essak: "We were very excited to be part of a bigger battle, to be a part of something to make a bigger impact. There are still battles to be fought against Good Friday here in Wisconsin and in other states."

For full speech click here.

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