Steve Benson

On this date in 1954, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steven Benson was born in Sacramento, Calif., the grandson of Ezra Taft Benson, who served as secretary of agriculture under President Eisenhower and became president of the Mormons (1985-94). Benson was an Eagle Scout and graduated with a degree in political science, cum laude, from Brigham Young University in 1979. “I was on track to eternal Mormon stardom, reserved especially for faithful men in a church run by men,” he has written.

He worked briefly as an editorial cartoonist for the Morning News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., before starting a long association as a cartoonist with the Arizona Republic in 1980, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993. He and his wife Mary Ann, who have four children, left the Mormon Church in a highly publicized break in 1993, “citing disagreement over its doctrines on race, women, intellectual freedom and fanciful storytelling,” as he has written.

Benson lists among the benefits of leaving religion: “Another day off, a 10-percent raise and getting to choose his own underwear.” Among his favorite sayings is Mark Twain’s adage: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

An atheist, he has appeared at several FFRF annual conventions. He received a Tell It Like It Is Award (1999), an Emperor Has No Clothes Award (2002) and a Friend of Freedom Award (2003). For several years starting in 2001, Benson teamed up with FFRF Co-President Dan Barker for the inimitable “Tunes and ‘Toons” production, an irreverent look at freethought and religion in the news. Some of their jointly written parodies, “Godless America” among them, are recorded on the “Beware of Dogma” CD.

Freedom From Religion Foundation