Meet a Member: Helping refugees rewarding for Executive Board member

Name: Stef Moritz

Where I live: Downtown Madison, Wis., just a few blocks from Freethought Hall.

Where I was born: Elgin, Ill.

Family: Husband Vince Jenkins and 17-year-old cat, Ginger.

Education: I have a master’s degree in what they used to call “library science.”

Occupation: Retired public librarian. For 28 years, I worked in libraries in Illinois and Phoenix.

How I got where I am today: I have a stubborn streak, inherited from my late mother. Sometimes it’s a liability, but, on the positive side, it makes me persistent!

Where I’m headed: Well, not into the afterlife, for sure. I just want to live a good life while I’m here, respect the planet and its myriad, diverse forms of life, and when my time is finished, donate my brain to dementia research.

Person in history I admire and why: Charlotte Bronte, because she invented the admirable, strong character, Jane Eyre.

A quotation I like: “The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds.” — Dan Millman.

These are a few of my favorite things: Orange tabbies, extra-dark chocolate, gummy bears, quiet evenings on the couch reading with my hubby, traveling to new and exotic places.

These are not: People who call mainstream media “fake news,” creationists, climate-change deniers, racists and bigots. (Do you see a pattern here?)

My doubts about religion started: Actually, later on in life. I was raised in a devout Catholic family and my education in parochial schools did not encourage me to question the tenets of the religion. In adulthood, I became aware that my personal beliefs were more and more out of sync with church teachings regarding homosexuality, birth control and the exclusively male power structure. The final break came after the devastating attacks on 9/11, when I fully realized what a destructive force religion could be. Since then, religion has played no role in my life and I am at peace with that. I’m OK with people who get something out of religion, as long as they don’t try to force their beliefs on anyone else.

Before I die: I’d like someone, somewhere, to feel that I changed their life for the better.

Ways I promote freethought: I serve as secretary on FFRF’s Executive Board and support other organizations which champion not only freethought, but freedom of expression. As a former librarian, I abhor censorship and believe that we cannot have a free society without freedom of expression.

How I like to spend my free time: I volunteer in a number of capacities, but what is most rewarding is helping recent refugees adapt to their new lives in the United States. I enjoy one-on-one English language tutoring and am currently working with some refugee women from Iraq. I also volunteer on a regular basis for the Wisconsin chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where they have bestowed upon me the title of “Land Inquiries Specialist.”

Stef Moritz

Annie Laurie Gaylor: IRS must reform church reporting policy

By Annie Laurie Gaylor

Jim Jones was the American religious cult leader who was responsible for a mass suicide and mass murder in Jonestown, Guyana, on Nov. 18, 1978.

We recently passed the 40th anniversary of the horrific massacre of more than 900 people at the behest of Rev. Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana. We now know not to “drink the Kool-Aid.” But our society is still blind to the fact that this atrocity was made possible in large part because Jones’ ministry was given a pass by the government of the United States.

The U.S. government, in fact, gives every minister and every religion a pass. Because donations to 501(c)(3) groups are deductible for income-tax purposes, tax-exempt groups are essentially subsidized by the American public. Therefore 501(c)(3) nonprofits must account to the public about what they do with tax-exempt donations — except for churches. The Internal Revenue Service waives all religions, churches, temples, synagogues and mosques from having to file the annual Form 990 information return that other 501(c)(3) entities must file every year in order to retain their tax-exempt status.

In October, FFRF (which, by the way, faithfully files the annual Form 990 accounting for its tax-exempt finances) renewed its important court challenge of this discriminatory and preferential IRS treatment of churches.

The Form 990 legal issues can seem a little academic or dry . . . until you look at Jonestown, and realize how its IRS-blessed financial secrecy spawned one of the late 20th century’s most heinous massacres in the name of religion.

Residents enslaved

Approximately 80 percent of Jonestown residents were African-Americans, seduced or terrorized into supporting Jones, who assured them that only he could protect them from a prophesied Nazi uprising. Residents were wretchedly enslaved, sleep-deprived, abused, starved and denied outside contact. At least a third of the more than 900 victims were children or minors. Also slaughtered were three journalists and a member of Congress, the admirable Rep. Leo Ryan, who had listened to constituents who had family trapped in Guyana and flown down to investigate. He and the reporters were shockingly shot down on a runway after his fact-finding visit, precipitating the killing and suicide spree by the mentally unhinged Jones.

Mainstream Christian denominations quickly distanced themselves from the events of Nov. 18, 1978, but it’s important to remember that Jones had an ordination from the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ, a mainline denomination. In plain sight, because his church lacked any formal accountability, Jones was able to amass a veritable treasury and armory, and even state-subsidized foster children, carting away money, guns and children from American shores and secreting them to a remote jungle spot. All of this happened without a peep or a protest from governments of the time.

Cautionary tale

Jonestown also wouldn’t have happened, of course, were it not for the undue deference religion and ministers receive in our society, of which the Form 990 exception is but one symptom. Jim Jones is a cautionary tale not only about why churches should report finances to the IRS, but why it’s essential to safeguard the Johnson Amendment, which bars tax-exempt entities from engaging in politicking. Jones was praised to the hilt by public officials in San Francisco in the early 1970s, gaining their trust by offering social programs and providing campaign workers. He was photographed with many local and national politicians — appearing at events with Rosalynn Carter, Gov. Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, who appointed Jones in 1976 to the city’s Housing Authority Commission. The Peoples Temple former attorney Timothy Stoen analyzed, “There wasn’t anything magical about Jim’s power. It was raw politics. He was able to deliver what politicians want, which is power. And how do you get power? By votes. And how do you get votes? With people. Jim Jones could produce 3,000 people at a political event.”

The horror

Those of us who were alive when Jonestown occurred will never forget the horror: The aerial footage of what at first glance looked like bright carnival colors, that turned into an endless ocean of bodies splayed out in gruesome death. (Cyanide poisoning, contrary to Jones’ reassurances, is very painful. When it came to be Jones’ turn to die, the hypocrite ordered a lackey to shoot him in the head.) Jeannie Mills, in her book, Six Years With God: Life Inside Rev. Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple, noted that Jones controlled his followers through fear, using floggings, beatings, psychological and sexual humiliation, and pitting followers against one another. Mills, who left the Peoples Temple in 1975 as one of the first public defectors, had helped coordinate the on-site investigation by Rep. Ryan. Tragically, she herself was later murdered in 1980, along with her husband Al and their 16-year-old daughter, Daphene. Jones’ last words, recorded on tape right before the Jonestown massacre, were orders to kill Mills and her husband.

Mills’ family, like other members, were expected to donate all their savings, houses, insurance and jewelry to the church, and contribute their full-time salaries. Jones, who had 8,000 San Francisco followers, accounted for none of this plunder or riches to anyone, much less to the government. Had the Peoples Temple been required to fill out the basic federal information return, there would have been many red flags about finances that might have caught the eye of governmental officials. Instead, governmental officials refused to investigate defectors’ numerous complaints of kidnapping, child abuse, battery.

Mills recounted how Jones attracted followers through “faith healing.” He would shove a rotting chicken liver into a victim’s mouth, camouflaging it with a towel. When the individual would retch it out, Jones would pronounce it was a cancer passing out. He employed church sleuths to spy on members and raid their garbage cans. Then he’d use the information as though it was a “revelation” or to publicly humiliate members from the pulpit. The megalomaniac would hand out questionnaires to every church member asking if he or she wanted to have sex with him. He would claim: “I have so much sperm that I have to ejaculate at least 25 times a day.” He claimed to have the world’s biggest male organ and inaugurated bizarre public rituals around his boast. Church members were forced to “confess” they were gay. Marital sex was forbidden. He preyed sexually on women and men, and sadistically meted out public punishment with a 2-foot-plus wooden paddle, which would be used on children and adults alike as many as 150 times. Microphones would be held up to the mouths of screaming victims, who on penalty of further beatings, were then required to say to Jones, “Thank you, Father.” Sometimes Jones would giggle during the beatings. Members were encouraged to believe the world would soon end, and were told they would die without Jones’ protection.

All of this took place in the United States prior to the Peoples Temple move to Guyana.

Of course, Jonestown is and was an aberration in American churches. Most churches in our nation, thankfully, will not devolve into suicide cults. Some denominations faithfully release financial statements to their own members. A very few, largely Unitarian, voluntarily even file the Form 990, bless their secular hearts.

Financial secrecy

But there are all too many examples of the harm that occurs through church secrecy over finances. That very secrecy may attract or develop wingnuts, charlatans and criminals. Look at David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco or the renegade polygamous Mormon church, many of whose communities survive on welfare and engage in child rape and marriage. It’s obvious that any church involved in a crime or scandal will benefit from the lack of reporting accountability to the IRS. One has only to observe the institutional crimes against children by the Roman Catholic Church and the U.S. bishops to see how hidden finances have protected the churches and aided its massive cover-ups. How many of these crimes occur precisely because churches are financial black holes?

The question FFRF always asks is: Why wouldn’t a church want to be transparent about its finances, to meet the same standards as other tax-exempt nonprofits? In a sense, by continuing to hold church doctrine as unquestionable, and churches and ministers as above the law and above accountability, we Americans are still voluntarily drinking the Kool-Aid.

Annie Laurie Gaylor is co-president and co-founder of FFRF.

NYU law student wins Paul J. Gaylor Memorial Student Activist Award

FFRF is proud to announce that Mickey Desruisseaux has earned the Paul J. Gaylor Memorial Student Activist Award of $1,000.

The award is annually endowed by Annie Laurie Gaylor in honor of her father, Paul. Mickey was given the award for his defense of the views of nonbelievers. His article, “Why do we portray atheists as broken believers?” was published in the November issue of Freethought Today after originally appearing in the Washington Square News, the student newspaper of New York University.

Mickey, 25, graduated from the University of Chicago in 2015 with a degree in political science. He is now a law student at New York University and plans to graduate in 2021. He was born and raised in Chicago, and has a passion for writing, politics and the Chicago Bulls. While undecided about what type of law he will practice, he feels strongly about criminal justice reform and civil rights defense, or “maybe constitutional law as a backdoor back into the world of politics. And as I mentioned before, I have a vested interest in seeing the 45th president out of office in two years.”

Mickey Desruisseaux

FFRF welcomes 23 Life Members

FFRF is pleased and proud to announce our 23 newest Lifetime Members, our three new After-Life Members and our new Immortal.

The three new After-Lifers are Norman Wayne Lauritzen, Ruth Ann Lauritzen and Hal F. Mather. An After-Life Membership is a $5,000 membership level for those who want their donation to “live on” after them.

FFRF’s 23 newest Lifetime Members are Elizabeth Bouve, Carlton Cum’arah Khem Bronner, William Cabell, Raymond Dodge, Mynga Futrell, Richard Heldmann, Jamie A. Henson, Robert Hunter, Tim W. Jenkins, Jennifer Johnston, Steve Kahn, Barbara Kwiatek, Robert J. Morgan, Harvey Motulsky, Jerome Rampelt, Karen Roy, Allen Sharples, Karen Sielbeck, Jon Taggett, David Tucker, Chuck Weller, Rose L. White and Joshua Wiens.

States represented are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Individual Lifetime Memberships are $1,000, designated as membership or membership renewal, and are deductible for income-tax purposes.

The new Immortal is Joe Annino. The Immortals category is a donation designation for those members who have contacted FFRF to report they have made provisions for FFRF in their estate planning.

In memoriam: Richard Kirschman ‘always a step ahead’

Life Member Richard Kirschman, a philanthropist and innovator, died on Nov. 6 at the age of 85.

Richard was born on Long Island on Dec. 27, 1932, to Lewis Kirschman and Dorothy Freeman. He attended Bucknell University, briefly served in the Marines and later the Navy from 1955 until 1958.

Richard was the author of several books, including the PG-13 Bible, a printing of the text of the first five books of the Old Testament with the most offensive passages “in bold to help parents easily find the parts about slaying, lying, killing, pillaging, stoning, etc.”

Doris Ober, Richard’s wife, wrote to FFRF after his death. “He was a remarkable man who led a remarkable life. Always a step ahead, he wrote his own obituary, which I’ve copied below. He was a great admirer of your organization [and a member since 2010].”

“I made it all the way to the end. At least that’s the way it feels to me. Didn’t get cut off early as too many have. Had the exquisite pleasure of living a life of curiosity and learning that allowed me to try many things and live in many places. To feel free and safe in this great country.

“What I will miss most — a ridiculous notion for someone who has never believed in life after death, God, angels, or supernatural anythings — is being around to see what comes next. Lots of nexts. Next in new discoveries in medicine and science. Next with how the world’s troubles unfold. I will miss music, beauty of all kinds, wild creatures, the natural world and intelligent conversation.

“But it is people I will miss most. My beloved wife and companion in life, Doris Ober, whose love, warmth, good humor, intelligence, talent and values have enriched my life for decades. My sister Ellen for her affection, many accomplishments, and take on life. . . . And my dear friends — whose names my forgetful mind dares not list for fear of omitting someone dear and cherished.

“I leave with these thoughts: Oppose war, be kind to each other, make music and art, travel and speak out against intolerance, ignorance, and superstition. Embrace humor, responsibility,        honesty and respect for the truth.”

Richard Kirschman

Head’s Up poetry column: An Eye For an Eye

AN EYE FOR AN EYE

“Are you saved?” he asks me,

sunrise in the corner of his eye,

a snag at the edge of his voice.

In a blur of memory, I see the others:

the preacher who used to trounce my tender sins,

kids at church camp, their brimstone choirs

shrill with teenage lust gone underground,

true believers come knocking to tell me

that flaming hell is real.

And those twisted faces on the tube:

Christian gunmen in Beirut, their hot eyes

exploding in the beds of sleeping children;

the righteous hatreds of Belfast, lighting

Irish eyes like a tenement fire;

the eyes of the Ayatollah, squinting with joy

at the blood of his blindfolded prisoners.

It smolders in the windows of the soul,

that holy blaze, never so bright

as in human sacrifice,

never so proud as in crimson crusades,

the glorious, godlike destruction.

From Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems:

A Satirical Look At The Bible

Steve Pinksi: FFRF Life Member donates kidney to stranger

By Steve Pinski

I

Steve Pinski rests in his hospital bed after donating a kidney.

donated my kidney to a complete stranger.

For me, this was a very simple decision — it was the right thing to do. I have two brothers-in-law with Huntington’s disease. They, in turn, had two children each with Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s is a terrible genetic disease that eventually takes everything from you. If I could donate a kidney, liver or arm to help them, I would, without hesitation. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do except visit them in a total care facility, which my wife and I do as often as possible. There is no cure.

Obviously, I don’t think this decision was influenced by God, since I don’t believe in a personal Santa Claus god. My religion didn’t help me donate a kidney, because I believe all religions on Earth are man-made and false. Furthermore, while I believe “nothing fails like a prayer,” I also believe “nothing succeeds like true compassionate action.” You can be good without a personal god.

I merely figured if I couldn’t help my family members who have a genetic disease, I might as well help whomever I could. People are dying every day waiting for a kidney and I have two good ones. With my decision made, I just had to find out if I was eligible to donate and then do it.

Data speak volumes

I’m an engineer, and I really like data. Checking out the National Kidney Foundation website, I found the following statistics:

• There are currently 121,678 people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants in the United States. Of these, 100,791 await kidney transplants.

• The median wait time for an individual’s first kidney transplant is 3.6 years and can vary depending on health, compatibility and availability of organs.

• In 2014, 17,107 kidney transplants took place in the United States. Of these, 11,570 came from deceased donors and 5,537 came from living donors.

Also, on average:

• More than 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month.

• 13 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.

• In 2014, 4,761 patients died while waiting for a kidney transplant. Another, 3,668 people became too sick to receive a kidney transplant.

While there are several different ways to go through the process of donating an organ, here’s the process I went through. First, I went to the National Kidney Registry (NKR) website and clicked the button, “I am considering donating my kidney.” The NKR process then went into high gear.

I had to complete the NKR screening via the website and then, once clearing that step, I had to fill out my full medical history on the website. From there, I had to select the NKR medical center where I wanted the surgery performed. (I chose the University of Colorado Health Center in Denver.)

Three days later, I was contacted by the UC Health living donor coordinator. I then underwent complete workups and labs. Getting cleared for donation took about eight weeks.

At that point, NKR organizes the chain of people to get kidneys. (In my case, it was three).

Finally, there was the pre-op followed by the surgery on July 31. I now have to go to post-op appointments to review my health at six months, one year and two years.

Psychological interview

If you are a non-directed donor (donating to someone you do not know), you must see a psychologist. They want to understand why you want to donate an organ to a complete stranger. One of the very interesting anecdotal things I was told during my psychologist interview had to do with religion. I explained I used to be very religious, but I had left all religion about 10 years ago. My psychologist looked at me and said, “That’s interesting.” I asked why he thought that was interesting. He then told me that, in his experience, most of the people who donate to complete strangers are nonreligious. I guess humanism really is making the world a better place.

Other than my wife and kids, I had not told anyone until I was cleared to donate. I figured I didn’t need to tell anyone unless it was really going to happen. In addition, I have five sisters, and my mother — who are all nurses. I was about to break the cardinal rule the nurses in my family taught me: Never go into a hospital and have surgery unless it’s absolutely necessary. So, I couldn’t tell any of my family nurses until it was over. I told my brother and he was very happy for me.

But I also couldn’t tell several of my sisters and mother, prior to the surgery, because of religion. The very religious among them would have started prayer chains all over the country. I prefer to be in the hands of science and not give them the satisfaction of thinking their prayers made the surgery turn out great. And the surgery did, indeed, turn out great!

My kidney was removed at 7:30 a.m., on July 31, packed in ice, and shipped to Madison, Wis., on the same day it was removed. Someone received it later in the afternoon that very day.

When donating, it is possible to know who received the kidney, although it’s not always a sure thing. Both parties — the donor and the recipient — have to want to communicate. The first communication is strictly done through the health center coordinators.

I wrote to my kidney recipient and I received a reply. We plan to have further communications, and hopefully we can meet some day.

What I learned about my recipient is that he had been on dialysis for 5 ½ years and now he says he’s doing “great.”

What I also know is my recipient’s wife was willing to donate her kidney to her husband, but she was not a match. My recipient’s wife promised to donate her kidney to a second stranger when her husband received a kidney. And then the chain continued one more time for a third kidney recipient. So, three separate people received kidneys because I started the chain with a donation to a stranger.

I didn’t care what race, religion or sex my kidney recipient was. I am just pleased that person has the chance to live a happy healthy life in honor of my family members with Huntington’s disease.

Quick recovery

I was walking the morning after surgery. I was walking two miles within a week. I was walking four miles within two weeks. I could walk/run four miles within four weeks. A few precautions I now take include not using meds such as aspirin, Ibuprofen, etc., keeping my salt intake low and checking my blood pressure occasionally. Other than that, I feel great and I’m back doing everything I was doing prior to the surgery.

And, yes, I would donate my kidney again in a heartbeat. (If you thought I meant donating my second kidney, that would be a “no.”) I never felt pressured to donate. As a matter of fact, I was assigned a “donor advocate,” who told me over and over that I could back out at any time. I also never felt nervous, even as I was wheeled into the operating room. My surgeon was incredible and the entire operation/post-op team was amazing. Even the hospital food was fantastic.

While donating a kidney may not be an option for everyone, it is worth considering if you are in good health.

FFRF Life Member Steve Pinksi of Colorado owns a small cinematography drone business and is an FAA-certified drone pilot.

Andrew L. Seidel: Secular voters becoming more powerful

By Andrew L. Seidel

G

Andrew L. Seidel

iven the intensity of the news cycle during election week, you might have missed the biggest story of the election: the surge of the “Nones.”

Voters hit two important milestones in the 2018 midterm. First, Protestants were not the majority of the electorate, according to Religion News Service. Second, as white evangelical Christians (who carried Trump into office on a wave of Christian nationalism) are barely maintaining their share in the electorate, nonreligious people are gaining. “Nones” — those who self-identify as nonreligious on surveys like those conducted by the Pew Research Center — sharply increased their share of the U.S. electorate, from 11 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2018. That’s a massive 55 percent increase.

A second, similar metric shows the same growth: The number of people in the United States who enter the voting booth but not church is also surging, from 18 percent in 2014 to 27 percent in 2018. That’s another big jump of 50 percent. Nones are also younger and the fastest-growing religious identification. That means as evangelicals age out, Nones replace them in age groups that are more likely to vote.

In other words, the electorate’s trend away from religion is going to continue and probably accelerate. The shift in the electorate likely means a coming shift in those being elected and in what makes a candidate electable.

The signs are already visible. This year, three U.S. representatives formed the first ever Congressional Freethought Caucus, which is dedicated to four goals, including promoting “public policy formed on the basis of reason, science, and moral values;” and “protect[ing] the secular character of our government by adhering to the strict constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.”

The caucus quickly grew to 10 members, all of whom won their re-election. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., was the principal founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus. Before announcing the caucus and against the advice of friends and family, he courageously came out as nonreligious. Conventional wisdom and several past studies on voting for hypothetical atheist candidates held that doing so would hurt his re-election chances, even in California. But Election Day proved otherwise, with Huffman winning by nearly 50 points. His lack of religion didn’t dent his share of the vote. (Laws on the books in eight states bar atheists from holding public office, though such laws are unenforceable.)

Voters elected more freethinkers — an umbrella term for everyone who rejects religion, be they atheist, agnostic, skeptic, humanist, or simply nonreligious — this year than in any other election. The Freethought Equality Fund, a PAC dedicated to increasing the number of office holders who are religiously unaffiliated, announced that 47 openly nontheists or humanists won elections at the federal and state levels, nearly triple the number currently in office. There are seven new members of the House of Representatives who are religiously unaffiliated: Katie Hill (Calif.), Sean Casten (Ill.), Sharice Davids (Kan.), Tom Malinowski (N.J.), Antonio Delgado (N.Y.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), and Jennifer Wexton (Va). Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona’s new senator, also “ascribes to no religion,” as The New York Times reported.

As this trend continues, religious pandering will be less of a political necessity and it may even become a liability, and we will see its decline. This coming shift will have important policy ramifications, though there will a lag time before we see them. The attempt to redefine religious freedom will be stopped, in the legislatures if not the courts. The political power of the Catholic Church will be checked to an extent, though its money will always buy it influence. In general, the halting and even rollback of Christian privilege might begin.

There are many principled reasons to stand against religious pandering, but politicians do it because it is fruitful. But the more secular “We the People” (and especially we the voters) become, the less politicians will cater to religious sensibilities. Eventually, we’ll hit a tipping point where the pandering is not simply worthless, but actually harmful.

It’s time for politicians to take note: Secular people are a powerful and growing voting bloc. Pander to the evangelicals and you ignore, malign, or offend secular values voters. Politicians who do so may soon find that they are not rewarded with higher office, but relegated to obscurity.

Attorney Andrew L. Seidel is the director of strategic response for FFRF.

Religious groups voted along usual lines

Nones’ made up 17% of 2018 electorate, the highest percentage ever.

Midterms chart

An analysis of the 2018 midterm elections by the Pew Research Center shows that there was strong continuity in the voting patterns of many key religious groups.

White evangelical or born-again Christians backed Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives at about the same rate they did in 2014, while religiously unaffiliated voters (known as “Nones”) and Jewish voters again backed Democratic candidates by significant margins.

About 70 percent of the Nones voted for the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, which is nearly the same as the share of religious Nones who voted for Democratic candidates in 2014 and 2010.

Pew Research analysis of the religious composition of the 2018 midterm electorate shows that 17 percent of voters were Nones, the highest ever. Nones were 12 percent of the electorate in both 2014 and 2010.

Three-quarters of white voters who describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians voted for Republican House candidates in 2018, according to National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll data. That’s close to the share who did so in midterm elections in 2014 (78 percent) and 2010 (77 percent).

The 2018 midterm exit polls showed a small shift in Catholic voting patterns. Catholic voters were pretty evenly split: 50 percent favored the Democratic candidate for Congress, while 49 percent favored the GOP’s nominee. In the past two midterm elections, Catholics leaned toward Republican candidates by margins of roughly 10 percentage points.

Among Protestants, 56 percent voted for Republican congressional candidates and 42 percent backed Democrats. Among those who identify with faiths other than Christianity and Judaism (including Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and many others), 73 percent voted for Democratic congressional candidates while 25 percent supported Republicans.

Voters who say they attend religious services at least once a week backed Republican candidates over Democrats in their congressional districts by an 18-point margin. Those who attend services less often tilted in favor of the Democratic Party, including two-thirds (68 percent) of those who say they never attend worship services.

Meanwhile, 47 percent of voters in 2018 were Protestants, down from 53 percent in 2014 and 55 percent in 2010.

There was little change in the share of voters who identify as Catholic, Jewish or with other faiths. And the 26 percent segment of voters who were white and identify as born-again or evangelical Christians is similar to other recent midterm elections.

FFRF gets holiday displays in Illinois

FFRF has put up an a pair of exhibits during the holiday season in Illinois.

One is set up at an Illinois courthouse honoring the Bill of Rights to counter a Chrstian creche. The display was installed by FFRF Member Will Meyer at the Grundy County Courthouse on Nov. 23 and will be available for public viewing until the end of December.

The mainstay of the tableau is FFRF’s playful Bill of Rights “nativity.” The irreverent cutout by artist Jacob Fortin depicts Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington gazing adoringly at a “baby” Bill of Rights in a manger while the Statue of Liberty looks on. A sign beside the tongue-in-cheek nativity states:

“Happy Winter Solstice. At this Season of the Winter Solstice, we honor reason and the Bill of Rights (adopted Dec. 15, 1791).” At the bottom, it reads: “Keep State & Church Separate.”

The other display is FFRF’s Winter Solstice sign that

This display was installed by FFRF Member Will Meyer at the Grundy County Courthouse.
FFRF’s Winter Solstice display has proudly been on view at the Illinois Capitol for 10 years running.

has proudly been on view at the Illinois Capitol for 10 years running, to balance a Christian nativity display. The exhibit was installed by FFRF Member Kathryn Koldehoff in Springfield  and will be up until the end of December.

The green and red sign contains a secular message, composed by the late Anne Nicol Gaylor, FFRF’s principal founder:

“At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.

“There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

“There is only our natural world.

“Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”