FFRF is proud and excited to announce that it has reached an agreement with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson to provide custom-drawn cartoons for FFRF.
FFRF will use the cartoons for a variety of purposes, including to run with press releases and action alerts, on social media posts and, of course, in Freethought Today. (For more Benson cartoons, turn to page 23.)
Benson, the oldest grandson of the late head of the Mormon Church, Ezra Taft Benson, had been an editorial cartoonist with the Arizona Republic for 38 years, until he was let go earlier this year due to budget cuts.
He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 and the Golden Spike Award in 1997 for the “best cartoon an editor killed.” He was a Pulitzer finalist in 1984, 1989, 1992 and 1994. In Arizona, he was the proud recipient of the “Parched Cow Skull Award,” for the “least positive contribution to Arizona tourism” for his cartoon takes on the state’s snowbird industry.
Benson has been president of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists and has also been an amusement park caricaturist at Six Flags over Texas and former reserve police officer.
He was an Eagle Scout and graduated cum laude in 1979
from Brigham Young University.
“I was on track to eternal Mormon stardom, reserved especially for faithful men in a church run by men,” he has written.
However, he and his then-wife, Mary Ann, left the Mormon Church in a highly publicized break in 1993.
“The last letter I got from my grandfather urged me to go easy on the Mormon Church in my cartoons,” Benson said. “I decided not to follow that advice, given that it had persistent historical problems with equal rights for women, racial equality, intellectual honesty, academic freedom, gay rights and individual freedom of speech. Plus, I didn’t like wearing its funny secret Masonic underwear, defending Mormon polygamy or believing that the Book of Mormon was an account of where Native Americans actually came from or that a white Mormon Jesus visited America after he was crucified.”
His cartoons are nationally syndicated, and at one time appeared in more than 120 newspapers.
Following a cartoon barb at then-Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson, the city leader wrote to Benson: “Your editorial cartoon was rude, crude, outrageous, inaccurate and poorly drawn. Could I have it for my office?”
Benson has also talked political cartooning and portrait-painting with former President George W. Bush.
“I like the cartooning, W. likes the portraits,” Benson said. “We both agreed that the key to doing each is capturing the eyes. Other than that, we pretty much disagreed on everything else.”
Benson, who says his motto is “I don’t aim to please, I just aim,” has appeared at several of FFRF’s annual conventions, where he received a “Freethought in the Media: Tell It Like It Is Award” (1999), an Emperor Has No Clothes Award (2002) and the Friend of Freedom Award (2003).
Beginning in 2001, he also teamed up with Dan Barker, now FFRF co-president, for the inimitable “Tunes ’N ’Toons” production, a look at freethought and religion in the news, combining cartoons, music and satire. Some of their jointly-written parodies, “Godless America” among them, are recorded on FFRF’s “Beware of Dogma” CD.