Freedom From Religion Foundation

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Annie Laurie Gaylor is an atheist feminist. She is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Gaylor’s husband, Dan Barker, who heads the organization along with her, is usually the person invited to speaking engagements, despite her longer tenure as the organization’s leader and her many books on atheism.[1]

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is an American atheist/humanist organization in Madison, Wisconsin. Its purposes are to censor or prevent:[2]

  • "Prayers in public schools"
  • "payment of public funds for religious purposes"
  • "government funding of pervasively sectarian institutions"
  • "the ongoing campaign against civil rights for women, gays and lesbians led by churches"

It describes its agenda has promoting "freethought", when in practice it amounts to censorship of religious truths.

The Foundation publishes a newspaper called Freethought Today, broadcasts Freethought Radio (also carried on Air America), engages in litigation (it has lost nearly double the number of cases it has won) and sponsors and hosts other activities to educate the public about atheism, humanism, and "freethought." The Foundation often demands that taxpayers pay its own legal fees in its lawsuits against governmental entities.

Leadership

The atheist Dan Barker and his wife Annie Laurie Gaylor serve as co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Gaynor's complaint about speaking engagement invitations

Writing on the sexism within the atheist community, atheist Victoria Bekiempis wrote in a Guardian article entitled Why the New Atheism is a boys' club:

Annie Laurie Gaylor, who founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation with her mother, Anne Nicol Gaylor, in 1978, sums it up succinctly: “One word — sexism.” Gaylor’s husband, Dan Barker, who helms the organization along with her, is usually the one invited to speaking engagements, despite her longer tenure as the organization’s leader and her numerous books on atheism.[3]

The name of the Foundation

The Constitution guarantees us rights to free exercise, such as free speech, freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms. The name of the Foundation, "Freedom From Religion Foundation," does not reflect a Constitutional right. For example, no one has freedom from speech; likewise, the idea of freedom from religion is fallacious.

Freedom From Religion Foundation and the War on Christmas

Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says his group is opposed to the nativity scenes and other Christian symbols that appear on public spaces during the holiday season.[4]

The War on Christmas refers specifically to the controversy surrounding the celebration or acknowledgment of the Christmas holiday in government, media, advertising and other secular environments.

The Telegraph reported about the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the War on Christmas:

Across the United States, many of the FFRF’s 23,000 members have mobilised to ban Jesus from classroom plays, silence school choirs and take down nativity scenes.

At this time of year, Mr Barker said, his office is transformed into a war room: "It really ramps up. Our legal staff get ready, writing template letters for each state and district, ready to deploy them at any moment."[5]

The Horn News reported:

For the seventh year in a row, the anti-religion activists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) have erected an outrageous sign outside the Illinois state house denouncing Christmas and Christianity.

Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, said his group is opposed to the nativity scenes and other Christian symbols that appear on public spaces during the holiday season. So the atheist organization wants equal space to spread its anti-religion rhetoric during the Christmas season.

The Illinois state house grounds now feature an offensive red and green sign that 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.”

And the FFRF is not stopping at Illinois.

FFRF has announced plans to erect similar signs at the Texas and Florida state houses.

This isn’t the only attack to remove Christmas from the public view, either. Already this month the anti-religion organization put up a “Reasons Greetings” (an attack on the term Season’s Greetings) display at the Warren, Michigan city hall. The organization also recently announced a lawsuit that has banned the Concord Community Schools in Indiana from performing their traditional live nativity scene at the school’s 2015 Christmas Spectacular holiday concert.[6]

Misleading information on website

The "Our Purposes" page on the Freedom From Religion Foundation website [7] contains several incorrect or misleading statements. The statements, along with rebuttals, follow.

"The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion."

  • Actually, Western civilization is built upon the Judeo-Christian ethic and the accomplishments of ancient Greece and Rome. The great Greek philosophers (Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) all believed in the existence of a supreme being, even Aristotle, who was a deist. Social and moral accomplishments have actually been made almost solely by religious people. The great scientists Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Pasteur, were all devout Christians. The great artists such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and other Renaissance artists were motivated by Christianity. It was the Christian monasteries which preserved the ancient learning, and Christian orders such as the Jesuits which served as educators. The founders of America, especially George Washington, were either deist or Christian.

"In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women's right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery."

  • The bolded "accomplishments" are not accomplishments at all. In America, abolitionists and early feminists were largely Christian. The early feminists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were pro-life. In Britain, the anti-slavery activists were mostly deist or Christian.

There is a reference to the religious right "...attacking our secular public schools."

  • The public schools were not secular until 1963, when not the people but the Supreme Court banned school prayer. Since then, education quality has suffered, and fewer notable people have used the public school system.

"Our Constitution was very purposefully written to be a godless document, whose only references to religion are exclusionary."

  • America was built upon the Mayflower Compact which began with the words "In the name of God, Amen," and the Declaration of Independence, which acknowledges God as the source of rights and freedom. The Constitution is not "godless" but secular, and its major reference to religion is to say that the state shall not interfere with religious practice. The only other reference to religion is one that states that the President shall not be held to a religious test. This means freedom of religion.

"It [The Constitution] is vital to buttress the Jeffersonian "wall of separation between church and state" which has served our nation so well."

  • The "Jeffersonian 'wall of separation between church and state'" is not in the US Constitution at all! In fact, it was written in a letter by Jefferson over ten years after the First Amendment was ratified, and furthermore, Jefferson was the least religious of all the early Presidents. Jefferson himself played no role in the formation of the Constitution. A better guiding principle is that expressed in George Washington's Farewell Address: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

Wisconsin and Washington State Capitol signs

SigninCapitol.png

In the mid-1990s, the Foundation began displaying a sign at the Wisconsin State Capitol during the Christmas season. 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.

In fact, the great figures of history have been religious, and charitable giving by theists is significantly higher than giving by atheists, even when church giving is excluded.[8][9]

In response to the display of a nativity scene at the Washington State Capitol, the Foundation placed an identical sign there as well.[10]

Billboard and bus sign campaigns

In many cities across the nation, the FFRF has sponsored the display of "thought-provoking,"[11] anti-Christian billboards. Some of the slogans on these billboards include:

  • "Beware of Dogma"[12]
  • "Imagine No Religion"[13]
  • "Praise Darwin. Evolve Beyond Belief."[14]
  • "Don't believe in God? You are not alone."[15]
  • "Sleep in on Sundays."

In late 2008, the FFRF began sponsoring the display of anti-Christian signs on and in Madison, Wisconsin, buses. These signs included quotations from famous atheists like Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain and Richard Dawkins.[16] This sign campaign was inspired by a similar campaign begun in Europe.

A church in Monroe, Wisconsin, responded by sponsoring its own signs, which read (from Psalms 14:1): "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."[17] The Foundation refers to this psalm quotation as a "biblical insult to atheists",[18] yet their slogans, especially "Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief," contain implicit insults.

See also

References

  1. Bekiempis, Victoria (Summer 2011). "Why the New Atheism is a boys' club". Bitch Magazine, no. 51. Retrieved from September 26, 2011 edition of The Guardian/CommentaryIsFree.
  2. http://ffrf.org/purposes/
  3. Bekiempis, Victoria (Summer 2011). "Why the New Atheism is a boys' club". Bitch Magazine, no. 51. Retrieved from September 26, 2011 edition of The Guardian/CommentaryIsFree.
  4. You won’t believe this atheist attack on Christmas, The Horn News]
  5. [American atheists go to war against Christmas], The Tegraph
  6. You won’t believe this atheist attack on Christmas, The Horn News]
  7. http://ffrf.org/purposes/
  8. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/102-atheists-and-agnostics-take-aim-at-christians
  9. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/102-atheists-and-agnostics-take-aim-at-christians
  10. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,461424,00.html
  11. http://www.ffrf.org/news/2009/sleep_madison.php
  12. http://www2.arkansasonline.com/news/2009/jan/10/atheist-organization-lands-billboard-nlr-20090110/
  13. http://www.oregonlive.com/living/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/living/123199170457020.xml&coll=7
  14. http://www.madison.com/tct/news/stories/435401
  15. http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A63903
  16. http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/02/25/new_anti-religion_ad.php
  17. http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/41142042.html
  18. http://www.ffrf.org/news/2009/sleep_madison.php