FFRF solstice greetings from around the country

Elaine Stone stands next to the Bill of Rights display sign she made by taking the image and printing it on an outdoor mesh in Walnut Creek, Calif. She writes: “FedEx/Kinko’s did a great job of reproducing it. I just wrote in permanent marker, ‘Solstice is the Reason for the Season.’ I didn’t go for an explanation of what it meant because all I cared about was that there was something there to counteract the large crèche that is there every year. I live in a senior community and the crèche and my sign are on private property. The really good news is that it hasn’t been vandalized (yet), in contrast to our previous three constructions, all of which were knocked down. It makes a real statement without being offensive. The sign has been received very well by the few I have encountered who have mentioned it.”
Dan Barker, right, is joined by other members of the Washington FFRF chapter, Unfettered Freethinkers of South Sound, which put up the sign outside the Capitol.
FFRF Member Paul Novak put up in the Iowa Capitol the Bill of Rights “nativity” display in December. The exhibit made its debut in 2016 in direct response to a nativity scene that went up for the first time in the Capitol. Among those who spoke at the nativity inaugural was then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who lent an official air to the proceedings. Branstad appeared to endorse the religious exhibit by remarking, “We are especially honored and pleased to have the nativity scene here in the Capitol building.” In December, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds attended the opening ceremony of the Thomas More Society-installed nativity for its repeat run, as did a state representative. The impropriety of such piety in the heart of Iowa’s legislative body has obliged FFRF to put up its own “nativity.”
Members of the Greater Sacramento Chapter of FFRF were able to put up the “nativity” display outside the California Capitol in December for the second straight year. From left to right, chapter president Judy Saint, Kathy Johnson, Janet Thew, Karrie Lucas and John Lucas.

Brent Michael Davids at FFRF convention

“I was going through old photos my grandmother had, and I found one of me at age 4,” Brent Michael Davids writes. “And amazingly, in the background, is the very field I could not reach, across the very road I was prohibited from crossing, though it’s not visible in this photo. Someone took a photo of me at the time I still had my imaginary cornstalk friend.”
Brent Michael Davids is a citizen of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation. (Photo by Ingrid Laas)
Brent Michael Davids (Photo by Ingrid Laas)
In his speech to the FFRF convention audience, Brent Michael Davids said, “I came to realize that the church was being run by old white men in the back of the sanctuary, basically making things up as they went along.” (Photo by Ingrid Laas)

Julia Sweeney at FFRF convention

FFRF Honorary President Steven Pinker bends over to give Julia Sweeney a hug following Pinker’s speech at the convention on Sept. 16. (Photo by Ingrid Laas)
FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert, left, stands with Julia Sweeney and Julia’s daughter, Mulan, for a quick photo during the convention. (Photo by Ingrid Laas)
Julia Sweeney has been a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” and has authored several books and written and performed several one-woman monologues. (Photo by Ingrid Laas)
Julia Sweeney hams it up for the camera at FFRF’s convention. (Photo by Ingrid Laas)
Comedian and actress Julia Sweeney, an FFRF honorary director, regaled the FFRF convention audience with humorous takes on religious movies.
(Photo by Ingrid Laas)

Caption contest (January/February 2018)

Caption contest

This month’s caption contest picture is the painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World), which sold at auction for a record $450.3 million in November. To enter, please write a humorous or witty caption to go along with this picture. Email your response to [email protected] by Feb. 9. The winner, chosen by FFRF staff, will receive an “Unabashed Atheist” T-shirt! We will announce the winner and top runners-up in the March issue.

Photos and cartoons from January/February 2018 issue

Volunteers and Columbia Market owner Albert Choi, right, load up food for transport to food bank freezers in Hood River County, Ore., on Dec. 1, 2017. FFRF’s Portland chapter, headed by Cheryl Kolbe, granted the local food bank $1,000 worth of meat. Chapter members went on a shopping trip to Columbia Market to stock up on the requested donation of meat that will go to clients of the FISH (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help) food bank. “It should last the food bank several months,” said Kolbe, who worked with FISH’s Martha LaMont and Choi to complete the donation, which had been approved by the FFRF Board via FFRF’s Nonbelief Relief fund. Kolbe told the Hood River News that the donation wasn’t timed for the holiday season, but rather to help people after a three-month fire that consumed 50,000 acres in Oregon and Washington. “We particularly wanted to help out as a result of the Eagle Creek fire,” Kolbe said. “We knew there are still many needs.” (Photo by Barry LaMont )
“No wedding cake for you.”
“We offered you our souls.”
Say your prayers…
“It’s against my religion.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne taught constitutional law, “know your rights,” and Bill of Rights law (with emphasis on state/church separation) to five high school classes (about 150 total students) at Monroe High School in Monroe, Wis., on Jan. 4.

Photos and cartoons from December 2017 issue

This photo ran on the cover of the December 2017 issue of Freethought Today, showing Freethought Hall in Madison, Wis., in a holiday card format.

This sign was spotted by FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert in the small town of Rosendale, Wis. If you see an unintentionally humorous church marquee, please take a photo and send it to [email protected] We may publish it in Freethought Today!
FFRF Lifetime Member Rolf Carlsten recently visited the Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, Tenn., where the newly installed statue of Clarence Darrow stands. The courthouse was the site of the 1925 Scopes trial, where Darrow faced off with William Jennings Bryan over the teaching of evolution in a public school. FFRF commissioned sculptor Zenos Frudakis create the bronze statue to balance the statue of Bryan on the courthouse lawn.
Nonbelief Relief gave $2,500 to Atheists of Puerto Rico. Ricardo Santiago, left, stands with an unidentified freethinker among the many bags of food and water that were delivered directly to needy families. Santiago writes, “Thanks to your foundation and others, we were able to distribute food and water to an area in the countryside of Puerto Rico in much need of help after the hurricane.”

Standing outside the Everett McKinley Dirks Courthouse in Chicago are the FFRF (and ACLU) lawyers who were there for the oral arguments in FFRF’s case against the Concord High School live nativity pageant in Elkhart, Ind. Pictured, from left, are FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line, ACLU of Indiana’s Gavin Rose, FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne, FFRF Legal Fellow Colin McNamara and FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover.
This church marquee from the Bella Vista Baptist Church in Edgewater, Fla., made some jaws drop for its seemingly overt sexual connotation. Representatives of the church told WKMG in Orlando that the sign was “completely innocent” and was “intended as encouragement to forgive.” Church officials apologized for potentially offending anyone and the message was changed shortly thereafter.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor participated in a panel discussion about religion and politics at the French Embassy’s annual Festival Albertine in New York City on Nov. 4, held in the embassy’s Albertine Bookstore. This year’s event was curated by legendary feminists Gloria Steinem (pictured above, signing a copy of her book My Life on the Road for Annie Laurie) and Robin Morgan, an atheist and honorary director of FFRF. The festival took place over five days, including a panel with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards. Annie Laurie’s panel was chaired by Clemence Bouloque, who teaches at Columbia. Other panelists were: Algerian-born feminist, writer and lawyer Wassyla Tamzali, French rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, and Daisy Khan, founder of WISE (Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality). Annie Laurie thanks Gloria, Robin, the French Embassy and its staff, including Benedicte de Montlaur, for gracious hospitality, a scrumptious post-panel dinner, and for ensuring that a feminist atheist perspective was included. (By the way, Julianne Moore will star as Steinem in a feature film version of My Life on the Road.)

A trip to Honduras and Guatemala

The Guatemala Humanists include, from left, political scientist Carlos Mendoza, Ana Raquel (no last name given), founder Oscar Pineda, Dan Barker, president David Pineda (no relation to Oscar), psychologist Natalia Marsicovetere, and Daniela (no last name given).
Barker chats with Susanna, host of “Hoy Mismo,” a popular morning talk show in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Barker stands with the editor of El Libertador, Johnny Lagos, who has been persecuted for publishing a liberal monthly newspaper in Honduras. Lagos survived an assassination attempt; when the gunmen entered his office (where this photo was taken), they did not recognize him because he was unshaven and wearing a casual shirt. He refused tens of thousands of dollars from the government that wanted to control three months of his newspaper during election time. “Integrity is not cheap,” he said.
Barker did a 90-minute interview on live national television on CHTV in Honduras. The host on the left is Armando Villanuevos, and on the right is Carlos Portillo, former minister of religion for the Honduran government.
FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, who is fluent in Spanish, was a guest on a popular national morning talk show in Honduras called “Nos Vemos!”
Barker appeared on National Radio Globo, a liberal station in Honduras.
Barker was interviewed by “Chano” on SiTV, which has been called the “Fox News” of Honduras, very right-wing and religious.

Caption contest winner (December 2017)

Congratulations to Joe Todaro for winning FFRF’s caption contest from the November issue.

The winning caption is: “It looks like our prayers have been answered.

The top runners-up, in no particular order, are:

• I pity the poor bastard who had to deliver the eulogy. — Wayne Stafford

• This is why we haven’t heard from God in 2,000 years. — Robert Kerr

And these two, which are similar:

• So, Nietzsche was right! — Tom Drolsum

• I always thought that Nietzsche quote was metaphorical. — Jacob Dowd

Thanks to all who participated. We will have another contest in an upcoming issue. If you have any non-copyright-protected images (most likely that you took yourself) that you think would be good for a caption contest, please send them to [email protected].

Illustration by Kati Treu

Winter solstice and Bill of Rights ‘nativity’ displays 2017

FFRF is again proud to be celebrating the winter solstice season by placing signs and “nativity” scenes on public property to counter Christian displays.
At the Wisconsin State Capitol, FFRF’s Andrew Seidel, Annie Laurie Gaylor and Sam Grover stand with the FFRF’s Winter Solstice sign, which is being displayed for the 22nd consecutive year. The sign features FFRF’s traditional message by its principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor. It reads:
“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.”
FFRF erected for the first time a lighted “A” (for atheist, agnostic) display outside its office in downtown Madison, Wis., in early December.
The 8-foot display is in the Rose Zerwick Memorial Courtyard and Garden visible from the street. FFRF thanks staffers Roger Daleiden, graphic designer, and Colin McNamara, legal fellow, for putting up the eye-catching display.
The Bill of Rights “nativity” and winter solstice sign was set up by FFRF Member Will Meyer at the Grundy County Courthouse in Illinois on Nov. 26 and will be up until the end of December.
For the first time, FFRF’s Bill of Rights “nativity” display went up in the Public Square in Cleveland. FFRF Members Marni Huebner-Tiborsky (in the open blue coat) and Sam Salerno (far left, kneeling), director and secretary/vice president of the Northern Ohio Freethought Society, respectively, sponsored the display.
For the third year in a row, the “May Reason Prevail” statement by Anne Nicol Gaylor is displayed at the Reason Station in the atrium of the Warren, Mich., City Hall.
In 2011, the city of Warren banned the sign. After two court cases, Reason Station director Douglas Marshall was allowed to place the wording on the Reason Station table as a display.
FFRF’s Metropolitan Chicago Chapter, directed by Tom Cara, set up a solstice display at the Daley Center Plaza. It was erected Nov. 21 and will remain up until Dec. 28. The display includes the light-up “A,” which sits above the Winter Solstice/Founding Father “nativity” signs. This is the fourth year for the display, countering a Christian nativity scene on display since 1984.
On Dec. 1 in the Atlanta area, FFRF placed a “Reason’s Greetings” message on a lighted 14-by-48-foot digital billboard on Interstate 75. FFRF member Jack Egger was pivotal in getting the billboard up, paying the cost.
This Bill of Rights “nativity” display was put up at North School Park in Arlington Heights, Ill., and will remain until Dec. 30. “FFRFMCC has been placing a display each year since 2012 in the public forum area of the park to counter a privately-erected creche by the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee,” Tom Cara noted. “This is an organization which had pressured the Arlington Heights Park District to allow them to place a nativity in the public park, threatening the Park District with a lawsuit if they tried to prevent them from doing this.”
FFRF’s Winter Solstice display is back at the Illinois Capitol for the ninth year in a row. The exhibit was installed by FFRF Member Kathryn Koldehoff in Springfield on Dec. 1 and will be up until Dec. 31.
In 2008, Illinois members asked FFRF to erect an equal-time display in protest of a decision to permit a religious group to plant a nativity scene in the Capitol during the holiday season. A manger scene and Christmas tree were already set up in the Capitol when FFRF installed its display this year.