June 24 in freethought history…

ambrosebierceJune 24, 1842 – Writer Ambrose Bierce is born in Ohio. Bierce wrote many celebrated short stories, perhaps most notably the Civil War tale “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” His most enduring work is The Devil’s Dictionary, a satirical lexicon that pokes fun at orthodoxies of all sorts. Bierce (an agnostic) defines “Christian” as “one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.” Bierce disappeared in December 1913 (his last know communication was December 26, 1913 from Chihuahua, Mexico). The circumstances of his death remain a mystery. He is presumed to have died in early 1914.

June 24, 1942 – Atheist activist Erkki Hartikainen is born in Finland. He has been the chairman of the Atheist Association of Finland since its establishment in 1985.

June 24, 1953 – Atheist activist, physician and attorney Michael Newdow is born in New York City. He is best known for his unsuccessful lawsuits to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” from coins and bills, and “so help me God” from the presidential inauguration ceremony. Newdow has been celebrated for his efforts, receiving awards from the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association. He has also been criticized for representing himself in his lawsuits, resulting in poor outcomes, and creating judicial precedents that future freethinkers will find difficult or impossible to overcome.

June 24, 1992 – The US Supreme Court rules, in Lee v. Weisman, that clerical prayers as part of public school graduation ceremonies are unconstitutional.

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