Photos and cartoons (March 2018)

Web extra! Dan Barker’s ‘Free Will Explained’ book-signing event

San Francisco, here we come!

Adam Savage
Bailey Harris
John de Lancie
Debra Deanne Olson
Sarah Haider
Leighann Lord

Join the Freedom From Religion Foundation in the city on the bay for its 41st annual convention!

FFRF’s annual national convention will meet in San Francisco from Nov. 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency, 5 Embarcadero Center, just two blocks from the bay.

The strong lineup of speakers and

View of the bay from the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco.

entertainers already includes “Mythbuster” Adam Savage, who’ll be receiving FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, reserved for public figures who “tell it like it is” about religion.

Future issues of Freethought Today will update convention speakers as they are confirmed.

Confirmed speakers

Adam Savage is co-host of “MythBusters” on the Discovery Channel and is master of many trades. Savage has acted, designed, sculpted, anchored TV shows, and been an educator. Savage’s special effects have been on view in a dozen feature films, including the “Matrix” sequels and “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

John de Lancie, an actor, director, producer, writer, singer, musician, and voice artist, will be receiving FFRF’s first “Clarence” award — a statuette version of FFRF’s 7-foot statue of Clarence Darrow on display in front of the site of the Scopes trial, in Dayton, Tenn. De Lancie spoke at that dedication.

Well-known for portraying “Q” in the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” he has many film credits, including: “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” “The Fisher King,” “Fearless,” “Multiplicity,” “Women on Top” and “The Big Time.” De Lancie has appeared in numerous television shows including “The Librarians,” “Breaking Bad” and “The West Wing.”

Sarah Haider is a co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America. Born in Pakistan and raised in Texas, she spent her early youth as a practicing Muslim. Haider directs EXMNA’s Life Beyond Faith mini-documentaries, a series of video portraits of ex-
Muslim atheists and humanists. She is also heading EXMNA’s Normalizing Dissent tour, and travels the United States and Canada to cover a range of issues related to apostasy in Islam. She is currently a columnist for Free Inquiry magazine. In addition to atheism, Sarah is particularly passionate about civil liberties and women’s rights.

She will receive a Freethought Heroine Award.

Bailey Harris, 12, a sixth-grade student at Salt Lake City’s Open Classroom, will be receiving the $5000 Beverly and Richard Hermsen Student Activist Award. When Bailey was 8, she was watching the episode of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” in which host Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The planets, the stars, the galaxies, we ourselves and all of life — the same star stuff.” Inspired, she immediately went up to her family’s computer and started writing what would eventually become the beautiful picture book, My Name is Stardust. Her father, Doug Harris, gets a co-credit on the book. Her second book in the series, Stardust Explores the Solar System, will be released in the fall.

Leighann Lord, a veteran stand-up comedian, who will do stand-up routine at the convention. Lord has been seen on Lifetime, VH-1, Comedy Central, HBO and “The View.” She is a contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of Dict Jokes: Alternate Definitions for Words You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Will Definitely Never Forget and Real Women Do It Standing Up: Stories From the Career of a Very Funny Lady. Lord was the New York City face of the African-Americans for Humanism outreach campaign sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and its Millions Living Happily Without Religion Campaign. Author Chris Johnson has featured her in The Atheist Book: A Better Life.

Debra Deanne Olson, who, with Dr. Craig West Wilkinson, just authored a book about her atheist grandfather, The Honorable Culbert Levy Olson: Governor of California 1939-1943. She is a political, environmental and peace activist and held volunteer positions on both of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. She was a national senior advisor and a fundraising consultant for the Kucinich for President campaign in 2003. She is founder of Peace Solutions.

Registration

FFRF registration, always a deal, is only $60 per member, $65 per companion, $110 non-member, and students and children free. Take advantage of FFRF’s meal and registration package to save $20 (and get a chance to socialize with other members). Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch are on your own. The menus for the two Saturday meals (with veggie, vegan and gluten-free options) are:

Breakfast Chef’s bakery selection, scrambled eggs, Hobb’s bacon, breakfast potatoes, juice and coffee.

Dinner Potage Parmentier (potato leek soup), crispy shallots, chive crème fraiche, Champagne brown butter chicken, tarragon mushroom fond, Cipollini onion and Comte risotto, steamed broccolini, French pear tart, frangipane, vanilla cream.

Hotel info

Reserve rooms now to avoid disappointment! Rooms (at $230) are being held for Friday and Saturday nights, and a slightly more limited number for Thursday early-birds. Phone directly to make your reservations: toll free 1-888-421-1442 and use the code “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” Or go online at ffrf.org/convention2018 for full convention information or reserve hotel rooms directly at bit.ly/FFRF2018.

General schedule

Arrange your travel schedule for the convention’s expanded hours and to take in a little sightseeing as well. The official starting time is 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, continuing through Saturday night. FFRF’s membership and state representative meetings take place Sunday morning with a noon adjournment.

The convention will include irreverent music, complimentary appetizers on Friday afternoon and a complimentary Friday night dessert reception, plus the popular drawing for “clean” (pre- “In God We Trust”) currency on Saturday night.

Sign up at: ffrf.org/convention2018.

Secular invocation: Joseph Richardson

Joseph Richardson

Joseph Richardson

Eustis (Fla.) Commission

Jan. 18, 2018

This isn’t the first time Joseph Richardson has given a secular invocation to the Eustis City Commission. In 2015, after concluding his invocation, Commissioner Anthony Sabatini took it upon himself to deliver a second invocation, this one highly religious. Sabatini’s invocation was not listed on the meeting agenda.

This time, following Richardson’s invocation, Sabatini could be heard saying, “God bless you.”

Here is Richardson’s invocation:

Mayor and Commissioners,

This past Tuesday was the 232nd anniversary of the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom, a day we’ve come to know as “Religious Freedom Day.” Penned by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Statute was one of his three proudest achievements. We know this because of his specific instructions to include it on his gravestone along with “Author of the Declaration of American Independence” and “Father of the University of Virginia.”

This statute was the prelude to the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, guaranteeing everyone the freedom to believe in the religion of their choice or to reject them all.

Barely two pages long, the statute is worth reading from time to time to remind us of the importance of this freedom and the reasoning behind it.

This is the enacting clause just as he wrote it: “Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”

This is the crux of the natural right that Jefferson asserts: that each of us is free to believe or not; that none is required to support the religious opinions of others; and that all are guaranteed full participation in civil matters regardless of religion or lack thereof.

Jefferson’s radically inclusive statute has stood as a lighthouse for 232 years, directing us toward a successful collective life.

Regardless of our individual beliefs, let us now welcome each other to participate in these communal efforts, respect each other as we work out solutions, and wish each other the best as we go our separate ways.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Secular invocation: Tee Rogers

Tee Rogers

Tee Rogers

Florida Legislature

Jan. 11, 2018

Tee Rogers, the humanist chaplain at the University of Central Florida, delivered an invocation prior to the start of the Florida State House, the first atheist to give a secular invocation in front of that body. Rogers writes, “A note of gratitude to Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith for intentionally inviting an atheist invocation, and to the Central Florida Freethought Community for their support.”

Here is the invocation:

It is an honor to represent your humanist, atheist and other non-religious constituents and colleagues with a secular invocation.

Those you serve, and those around us today, include people of different cultures and races, gender identities, levels of financial stability and backgrounds. They vary in physical and cognitive abilities. They speak many languages. They include people of many faiths and non-faith perspectives.

The deliberations in this chamber are of the highest consequence to the people of Florida. As you work together toward solutions that address challenges facing our state, may you have the fortitude to make difficult choices while holding the needs of the diverse public at the forefront of your decisions.

While we are diverse, we are united by our common humanity.

As we seek to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this month, I am reminded of his words: “The time is always right to do what is right.”

May your leadership be guided by integrity and compassion to uplift all people today and every day of this legislative session.

Thank you for your service and your work today to make a positive, meaningful difference for all.

It Pays to Complain: City moves church polling location

The church marquee in 2016 included attacks on secularism.

While church polling locations are common across the country, FFRF’s hometown of Madison, Wis., has taken affirmative steps to not alienate secular voters. On Jan. 16, the Madison City Council voted to move a polling location from a church to a public library. The council approved moving the Ward 31 polling location to Lakeview Library from St. Paul Lutheran Church.

FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott, who voted in the basement of the church for many years, complained to Madison officials about using the church as a polling location. In 2016, the church’s marquee included messages that attacked secular Americans during the same week that citizens were voting at the church.

Wisconsin law provides that polling places “shall be public buildings, unless the use of a nonpublic building better serves the needs of the electorate.” FFRF asserts that the move to a more inclusive location is best for Madison residents.

They Said What? (March 2018)

(That’s) God showing his grace on me.

Kathy Gilroy, a prominent anti-gambling crusader in Illinois who won $25,000 playing a sweepstakes game at a local café.

The Week, 1-12-18


Day in and day out on the radio, we Christians are bombarded with the bull, baloney and garbage from the atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. . . . It is about time all of us Christians rise up and boycott all atheist-owned businesses. I hope all those who believe as the Freedom From Religion Foundation does and support that organization will have a lousy new year.

Letter to the editor

Lancaster (Pa.) Online, 1-14-18


When God tells me I got to do something, I got to do it.

Texas District Judge Jack Robison, intervening in jury deliberations to sway jurors to return a “not guilty” verdict in the trial of a woman accused of trafficking a teen girl for sex. The jury went against the judge’s wishes, finding Gloria Romero-Perez guilty and later sentenced her to 25 years in prison.

Austin American-Statesman, 1-19-18


[Pence has] very solid evangelical credentials. We consider him to be . . . in our camp.

David Parsons, spokesperson for Christian Zionism’s International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

Associated Press, 1-23-18


My country’s very first settlers also saw themselves as pilgrims, sent by providence, to build a new promised land. The songs and stories of the people of Israel were their anthems, and they faithfully taught them to their children, and do to this day. And our founders, as others have said, turned to the wisdom of the Hebrew bible for direction, guidance, and inspiration.

Vice President Mike Pence’s bible-riddled speech at the Knesset.

Jerusalem Post, 1-22-18


There are people who do not understand and do not believe in the things we’re talking about right now. And there will be all the social media trolls and people that will scorn and mock and will ridicule the fact that we would call out to our creator at a time like this.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Blevin, after a school shooting in Marshall County, Ky., killed two teens and injured a dozen more, calling for a statewide day of prayer, saying he believes God intervenes on behalf “of his people” when they call out to him in prayer.

Associated Press, 1-26-18


I personally feel blessed by the time I have spent serving our great state and would like to observe a time of prayer and fasting before God takes me on to the next part of my journey.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, issuing a proclamation that called for a day of fasting and prayer on his penultimate day in office. Brownback is now ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

Kansas City Star, 1-29-18


When he said, ‘In God We Trust’ — when my father mentioned ‘In God We Trust,’ the guiding principle of this country, no one stood. . . . There are things as Americans we should be united on. And if we can’t be united on God . . .

Eric Trump, talking on “Fox and Friends” the day after President Trump’s State of the Union address, about how Democrats were not standing and applauding enough.

Raw Story, 1-31-18


The bible is different than the Quran. The idea of the bill is because of the specific impact the bible has had on history of our history, our founding, our culture, that the Quran has not had that impact.

Iowa State Rep. Skyler Wheeler, who co-sponsored a now-dead bill that would allow public schools to teach classes on the New Testament, after being challenged to allow other religions and religious subjects.

The Friendly Atheist, 1-31-18


Inoculate yourself with the word of God. ‘Flu, I bind you off the people in the name of Jesus.’ Jesus himself gave us the flu shot. He redeemed us from the curse of flu.

Gloria Copeland, a member of President Trump’s faith advisory council, stating that belief in Jesus is enough to stop anyone from getting the flu.

Yahoo News, 2-1-18


It’s an issue ONLY raised by interlopers fearful of Christian resistance to a homogenous thought-free society full of central control of all aspects of life. These people intend to remove individual liberty as an axiom of America. I’ll tell you that I believe this issue SHOULD be decided by the community in which the people with the issue lives, not interlopers who ride in from other lands to ‘help us blend in with the rest of the land’, or to ‘fix us’, so to speak.

Dennis Wayne Barcuch , City Commission candidate in Hobbs, N.M., on the potential removal of a Ten Commandments monument outside the local courthouse. The “interloper” he refers to is FFRF.

The Friendly Atheist, 2-5-18


God called on them.

James and Betty Turpin, parents of David Turpin, who kept his 13 children malnourished and shackled, on why David and Louise Turpin had so many children.

ABC News, 1-16-18


President Trump has never pretended to be a bible-banging evangelical. He is who he is.

Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, over her lack of concern for Trump’s personal morals because of his support for the anti-abortion movement.

New York Times, 1-20-18

In Memoriam: Pacifist, humanist Dr. Rudy Hecht dies

Rudy Hecht

Longtime FFRF Member Rudolph “Rudy” Hecht, 90, of Madison, Wis., died on Jan. 23 of “complications from having too many birthdays,” as his obituary humorously stated.

Rudy’s obituary called for donations to be made to FFRF, among other worthy nonprofits.

Rudy was born on April 16, 1927, in Hamburg, Germany, to Otto Hecht and Rose Caro Hecht. At age 6, the family left Germany to escape the Nazis as German-Jewish Holocaust refugees. They landed first in Jerusalem, then Caracas, Venezuela, and finally Mexico City, where Rudy completed college and medical school at the National University of Mexico.

In 1958, he married Ilse Heilbronn and settled in La Feria, Texas, where he began his private medical practice as a general practitioner and surgeon. In 1973, the Hecht family moved to Madison, where Rudy was a physician for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. He was one of the pioneers in the Department of Family Medicine, where he trained many residents as the medical director of the Northeast Family Medical Center.

Rudy was the honorary consul for Mexico to Madison and Dane County from 1973 to 2016. Rudy had a passion for secular humanism, pacifism, equality and social justice, making many volunteer medical trips to Latin America and elsewhere. In 1990, Rudy traveled to Iraq with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, carrying more than $600,000 worth of donated medical supplies destined for the Children’s Hospital in Baghdad.

His obituary ends with: “In accordance with his wishes, he will be going back to medical school,” as Rudy had donated his body to the UW body donor program to further the education of future doctors.

FFRF ad airs on Anderson Cooper, Colbert shows

Ron Reagan isn’t afraid of burning in hell.

FFRF’s most popular television commercial was featured several times in February on one of CNN’s most high-profile shows.

FFRF ran its memorable ad featuring “unabashed atheist” Ron Reagan on “Anderson Cooper 360°.” The spot aired twice on the show Mondays and Wednesdays from Feb. 5 to Feb. 25.

FFRF’s commercial says: “Hi, I’m Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist, and I’m alarmed by the intrusion of religion into our secular government. That’s why I’m asking you to support the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest and most effective association of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate, just like our Founding Fathers intended. Please support the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”

The ad also ran Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” for three weeks. Unfortunately, due to network censorship, the ad was limited to 10 markets:

• Washington, D.C.

• Tampa, Fla.

• Phoenix

• Seattle

• Portland, Ore.

• Columbus, Ohio

• Milwaukee

• Austin, Texas

• Las Vegas

• Madison, Wis.

These are CBS-affiliated stations not owned by CBS. CBS Network, ABC, NBC and Discovery Science have all refused to air the 30-second spot. Although the Reagan ad ran last year on several regional CBS-owned stations, and was contracted to return, national CBS has clamped down.

The audio version of the Ron Reagan ad is broadcasting on a major New York-area radio station: WCBS News Radio 880, which covers New York City and the surrounding region. It aired 75 times between Monday, Feb. 5, and Sunday, Feb. 25.

“We’re pleased to present our message to so many different audiences, in spite of the constraints of censorship,” comments FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

The ad has been a major fount of publicity for FFRF and has helped bring in thousands of new members.

“We’re delighted at how many folks we’ve been able to reach through this commercial that Ron Reagan kindly recorded for us,” adds Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.