FFRF Board Member and Portland Chapter founder Cheryl Kolbe sent the following note to Cynthia Fuhrman, the managing director of the Portland (Ore.) Center Stage at The Armory.
"I recently attended 'Fun House' (an amazing play which was very well done). As they were opening the theater doors, I heard on the loudspeaker the lines something like: 'We welcome all races, all religions, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations, all genders.'
"I am definitely in favor of being all-inclusive. If you continue to say this at performances, I wonder if you would consider including nonreligion in some way. As an atheist, all religions excludes me, as I do not have a religion. And the courts have been mixed concerning whether the term 'religion' includes those who have no religion.
According to the IRS, there is a significant difference between a religion and any other 501(c)(3) organization.
"Thank you for considering this option. According to various studies, atheists are one of the most distrusted groups. Being clearly included in your statement would be most welcomed and positive." — Cheryl Kolbe
The response she got from Fuhrman was: "As a fellow atheist, I appreciate your perspective on this (and hope I would even if I wasn't). I'm open to your suggestions on this; and also interested in trying to be inclusive while not making the laundry list so long that our announcement isn't actually heard! How do you respond to the idea of removing the "all religions" notation, and making it "all beliefs and creeds?" I like the idea of actually removing the word "religion," because many people engage in spiritual practices that they would never classify as a religion; and those of us who don't really identify with anything organized around theology could, I think, find ourselves in that language."
Kolbe replied: "What about this language? 'We welcome all races, all nationalities, all sexual orientations, all genders, and people of any religion or none at all.'"
Fuhrman responded: "I like your solution a lot! Simple and clear. It will take us a while to get everything updated (our statement in the printed playbill, for instance, and the one for the next three shows is already printed), but we can easily update our announcement!
Thanks for your good thinking on this, much appreciated."