Gage Pulliam: Oklahoma’s Defender of Separation of Church and State

Anne here …

FFRF's Permanent UpvoteThe Freedom From Religion Foundation does more than write letters and file lawsuits.

Last Monday the Muldrow, Oklahoma public schools confirmed that it has permanently removed Ten Commandment plaques from all of its classrooms. Theocratic parents, of course, complain that after allowing the signs to stay up for twenty years, taking them down now is just silly. The logical fallacy of the appeal to tradition rears its ugly head yet again.

Sixteen year old Gage Pulliam is the Muldrow student who called foul. He contacted FFRF, which sent a letter  demanding the plaques be taken down. FFRF said it was acting on behalf of a student who wanted to remain anonymous., and, indeed, Gage fully intended to remain anonymous. But, when accusing fingers were pointed at other students, who were then harassed by their religious classmates, Gage decided to set the bullies straight. He demonstrated two things: the courage to blow the whistle, and the courage to prevent others from being victimized by mean peers.

Gage, his parents, and his little sister suffered angry retaliation from other parents and students. The Pulliam family went to the school board meeting, knowing they would face an angry crowd. Gage spoke to local news stations to explain why he had contacted FFRF for help. “This isn’t me trying to attack religion,” he said. “[I’m] trying to create an environment for kids where they can feel equal.”

Our religious opponents sneer at atheists who want to remain anonymous in these battles, insinuating that we are either afraid to speak up for ourselves or that organizations like FFRF are taking it upon themselves to make complaints out of the blue. Given the response Gage and his family received, it is no wonder atheist plaintiffs want to remain anonymous. They do so to protect themselves.

FFRF noticed Gage’s courage and grace under pressure and created a “Strong Backbone Student Activist Award” just for him. The award comes with a cash scholarship of $1000, which was endowed by an anonymous donor from New York. FFRF says that the donor specified that the funds should go to a high school student who has “showed uncommon strength in standing up for his or her freethought sentiments.”

Congratulations, Gage. You deserve this award!



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About Anne

Civil rights activist Anne Orsi is one of the spokespeople for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and is the primary organizer of Reason in the Rock, a conference on science, secularism and skepticism. Got a question? Email her at She's a lawyer but may not be licensed in your state. Sending her an email or reading her blog posts does not create an attorney-client relationship. Find Anne on Twitter as @aramink, and read her regular blog at