Yesterday, I mentioned that the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s ad in the Unitarian Universalists’ magazine UU World garnered several complaints.
Business manager Scott Ullrich even issued an apology to the magazine’s readers.
I have come to the conclusion that it was a mistake to run this particular ad. While the stated mission of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is entirely consistent with UU values, this ad seems hostile to all religion. To be more specific, I believe that I failed to help the advertiser match their message to our readers. An ad spotlighting FFRF’s purpose of “working for the separation of state and church” would have been more appropriate than one that for many appears to be condemning religion in general.
Guess how many complaints they received about the ads?
Ullrich said as much when he informed FFRF that he had written an apology to readers because of the swift reaction from the UU blogosphere.
So how is the FFRF responding?
Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor sent the following email to Ullrich:
I guess my reaction is: 8 emails doth not a crisis make! (At FFRF we pay no attention to the nonbonafide blogosphere–I mean personal bloggers who so often engage in personal polemics, as opposed to bonafide news and opinion bloggers, such as Salon.com).
I hope you will let these e-mailers know that we are getting very good reaction from the ad. It’s too early to see whether the ad will pay for itself (always our object) but the response is healthy and we have had no nasty responses to date. We were aware of one blogger going after the ad only because a UU member (who wanted info on FFRF but is not a member) e-mailed to tell us he was responding in our favor.
My reaction is that if UU World or the UU officialdom take any further action to criticize, apologize for or officially distance itself from our ad, that we be refunded our advertising money. It simply does not seem professional to take our money, then diss our ad, however politely you are putting it.
But what truly concerns me is the lack of open-mindedness reflected. The thoughtful words of great thinkers and artists are too much for your readership? Emily Dickinson’s and Mark Twain’s genius summations about faith can’t be tolerated? The words of actresses Katharine Hepburn — “I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe that there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people” — are too hot for the UU? Being kind is controversial if someone also identifies themselves as an atheist?
You know and we know that the UUA is creedless. That means you have theists, deists — and many agnostics & atheists in your membership, including among your ministers. Two of our founding members, Jo and Charline Kotula, also founded, funded and co-directed one of the UU’s New Jersey chapters for many years; likewise our officer Blanche Fearn in the Daytona area in the 1980s, and those are but 2 examples of many. Countless FFRF members are active UUA members and vice versa. For 30 years we have received invitations to speak at UU congregations or societies around the country by people, and it has always been an amicable relationship.
While we might have been glad to work with you on a different ad, FFRF in fact has 2 joint purposes: it acts as a national membership organization for freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) AND it works to keep religion out of government. If we were not upfront about our other purpose, we could rightly be criticized by someone who joined us and felt it was false advertising not to state our clear nontheistic purpose as well.
There cannot simply be open-minded discussion of everything except atheism if UU is to consider to advise its members to “keep open minds.”
With best wishes,
Annie Laurie Gaylor
I look forward to hearing Ullrich’s response.