Interview with Ellen Johnson Follow-up

After my interview with Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, VJack asked this question:

My main question for Ellen concerns the relationship of American Atheists with other freethought organizations such as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State or the Freedom From Religion Foundation. If she is right about political clout through numbers (and I believe she is), wouldn’t we be smart to combine as many of these organizations as possible?

Here is Ellen’s response to this question:

We can’t “combine” organizations. We are all different and we should respect our differences. But it is important to work together where and how we can. American Atheists has been leading the way on this for years. We have found that the best way is to work together on an ad hoc basis.

We have held press conferences on various national issues at The National Press Club in Washington DC and invited representatives of any group that agrees with us to be part of that press conference — on our dime.

We did this when Michael Newdow appeared before the Supreme Court. We had many speakers from many groups speak with us in front of the Supreme Court. We did this when we formed the GAMPAC [Godless Americans Political Action Committee]. Our board of advisors is composed of representatives of many other groups. We did this when we organized the Foxhole Atheists March on Washington. We did this when we organized the March On Washington. We paid for the whole thing and then invited representatives of all the groups to come and stand together with us, shoulder to shoulder in unity. They made it onto C-SPAN.

We think this works best, respects our differences and combines our strengths. Over and over and over American Atheists has brought together all these groups and we will continue to do so.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer the question.

Ellen Johnson

Thanks for responding, Ellen.

Incidentally, working with the Secular Coalition for America (SCA), the Washington D.C.-based lobbying group for non-religious people, I have seen many like-minded organizations working together. Currently, the coalition includes:

More groups may be joining in the next month, and hopefully, American Atheists will consider joining the SCA in the future as well.

[tags]atheist, atheism, American Atheists, Ellen Johnson, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance International, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Institute for Humanist Studies, Secular Student Alliance, Secular Web, Internet Infidels, Society for Humanistic Judaism[/tags]

  • secularizer

    Her reply is lengthy, but lacks certain content. Why is it that American Atheists don’t want to join the secular coalition?

    Is there something in the charter they disagree with? If so, please list the points you disagree with.

  • vjack

    Thank you. I certainly appreciate your role in obtaining her reply. I understand her point about respecting the differences of the various organizations. The problem is that I don’t think most atheists have any idea what these differences are. In fact, even after having read the mission statements of many of these groups, I don’t find many notable differences. If there are valid differences which should be respected, it seems like a PR failure not to publicize them. Still, she is right about the value of their ad hoc collaborations.

    As you point out, I’d like to see American Atheists join the Secular Coalition. I think this would make them more attractive to me and other potential members.

  • txatheist

    This is just my view. I could join American Atheists as I am an atheist but some people don’t attach themselves to that label or are afraid to actually commit to membership. FFRF has people who call themselves freethinkers, agnostics, atheists , brights, naturalists and many other labels so it’s not so confining depending on how you label yourself. I’m also a member of TFN, Texas Freedom Network, and the vast majority are liberal or moderate xians. I joined because the counter the religious right but I’m sure there are few atheists in membership. I’m not a member of the Atheist community of Austin because I didn’t feel at home there. The membership community was inviting but the members had little cliques. They had a tv show on the Austin access tv channel and it was a good show. They later started up a podcast on Saturday afternoon and the level of cursing was worse than when I was a sailor. I run into them at functions but it’s not my type of crowd as they are way more blunt than I am with regards to religion/xianity. Not all of them but several of them are very vocal.

  • Mojoey

    One good thing to come of this, at least for me, is that I’ve finally decided to become a “joiner”. American Atheists and FFRF are both on my list. Thanks for taking the time to post the interview and subsequent follow up questions.

  • txatheist

    That’s great. When I joined FFRF 8 years ago they had less than 4000 members and I think they are now near 8000. The more the merrier.