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Freethought Today · April 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

2008 Freethinker of Year Kay Staley dies

Kay Staley, who was awarded FFRF's 2008 Freethinker of the Year Award, died Jan. 17 in Houston at age 72.

Staley, an FFRF member, was born Oct. 8, 1943, in Tulsa, Okla., and graduated from the University of Houston Law Center after earning her undergraduate degree from Baylor University in 1964. She then became a real estate broker.

She became the plaintiff in the case to have the bible removed from a monument at the Harris County Courthouse in Texas. The court found that the display violated the First Amendment. For this Kay was awarded the FFRF Freethinker of the Year honor.

"The county really tried to contend, number one, that it was not a religious display, " Staley said during her speech at the 2008 FFRF convention. "Their whole case was based on that it was a monument, not a religious display. I don't know where they figured they were going to go with that. I won't bore you with the legal arguments, but the judge decided that a reasonable observer would think that the county was endorsing this display, and so he thought that made it unconstitutional. And when the county argued that they were not appearing at the rally in their official capacities, the judge said they were in their official capacity attending a rally during business hours. So we got a wonderful opinion in the district court."

Kay was the lead plaintiff in FFRF's federal lawsuit in 2011 against Texas Gov. Rick Perry for infamously proposing and promoting a "Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation's Challenges" at Reliant Stadium in Houston, inviting citizens to "turn to Jesus and ask for God's forgiveness."

Kay was also a member of Humanists of Houston, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, ACLU, Houston Church of Freethought and Final Exit Network.

"Kay Staley's presence, charm and personality inspired others not only to be activists, but to have fun while raising a ruckus," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "In her memory, let's all redouble our efforts to make a fuss and speak up when we encounter religious coercion, especially by our government."