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)

Freedom From Religion Foundation