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In Memory
of Atheists in Foxholes

No Atheists in Foxholes claim simply not true

"I thought [combat] would change them, because there's that saying that there are no atheists in a foxhole, and I find that's not true. Even in a battle zone there's still a fairly large number that's not practicing a faith, . . ." Army Chaplain Joe Angotti - Tikrit, Iraq

In Memory of Atheists in Foxholes

The "Atheists-in-Foxholes" monument is adjacent to the Willa Mae Whatley Auditorium in Fearn Park, overlooking Lake Hypatia, Alabama.

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Photo credit and article below by Hank Shiver

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Timothy McVeigh would be allowed into the VFW, but an atheist wearing the Congressional Medal of Honor wouldn't be. Does this make any sense? President George Bush said that atheists shouldn't be considered citizens of the United States. Bush saw people such as McVeigh as good citizens because they believe in a god. The time has come to honor those veterans who do not believe in a god.

The on again / off again "Atheists-in-Foxholes" monument projects have been around since World War I. Many organizations have attempted to raise money for the project, but until recently, the project never got off the ground. A freethinking veteran gave a generous donation to the Freedom From Religion Foundation for the sole purpose of an "Atheists-in-Foxholes" monument to be located somewhere in the United States.

In December 1991, San Diego, California, lost a lawsuit to keep a cross in Mt. Soledad Park. In September 1998, the Freedom From Religion Foundation attempted to purchase the property the cross occupied. To prevent the destruction of the cross, the local churches arranged with the city fathers to bid just above the price of anyone wanting to take down the cross. Needless to say, Freedom From Religion was not the high bidder and had no place to put their prepaid "Atheists-in- Foxholes" monument.

Attempts to place the monument in a National Cemetery was defeated because FFRF was not a veterans organization. The places narrowed down to Madison, Wisconsin, the Headquarters of FFRF, or a place Dr. Wayne Flint of Auburn University said was worse off than many third world nations: Alabama. The land was available and the natives were docile.

Alabama Freethought is an oxymoron and also the name of a very powerful organization. The Alabama Freethought Association is very active in church-state separation in Alabama and in the South. Alabama Freethought Association took legal action for the removal of state sponsored religious symbols from Alabama State Parks and opened the park chapels to public use, and not just church use. AFA members were leaders in the legal actions against the Judge Moore/Ten Commandments case. From churches using forced child labor at the State Docks in Mobile, to state persecution of the Jews in Troy, to state denial of equal rights to freethinkers in Pelham, to public money being used to establish a state religion in Montgomery, etc., Alabama Freethought has been on the front lines defending the separation of church-state. Many of the people in the forefront of AFA battles are veterans. Their service dates range from WWII to the Balkans. It was for these reasons the FFRF decided to place the Monument on Freethought property at Freethought Hall/Lake Hypatia near Talladega, Alabama.

Patricia Cleveland: Director of Alabama Freethought Association, along with her husband, Roger and Roger's sister, Melody Cleveland own sixty-nine acres of land that joins the Talladega National Forest. On this property is a twelve-acre lake named Lake Hypatia. The lake front has a pavilion named Sarah's Place, named after Sarah Howard, a supporter of FFRF, AFA, and Lake Hypatia. Nestled in the pines and overlooking the lake is Freethought Hall, the Willa Mae Whatley Auditorium, Fearn Park, and the "Atheists-In-Foxholes" monument.

Fearn Park is named for Blanche Fearn (1911-1995) who was a major supporter of the original hall after Melody, Roger and Pat donated property to FFRF for the purpose of building a Freethought Hall. Ms. Fearn was born in the South Bronx, NY, and was a public school teacher, author, and freethought activist. The original hall was opened in 1991 and was filled to overflow during the Fourth of July 1991. Expansion was needed, but the money wasn't there. In 1998, a memorial for Edyth Aryant Rizzo in the amount of $500.00 was given. Roger and Pat Cleveland matched the amount. The expansion was approved and a national fund-raiser was approved. Roger had the faith.

Dr. George Whatley gave a very generous donation that meant we were on our way. Dr. Whatley, a retired physician and a great Alabama freethinker allowed us to name the auditorium for his late wife, Willa Mae Whatley. The auditorium was built under the guidance of Roger Cleveland. Fearn Park has a large concrete five pointed star built by Bill Teague, a WWII vet. The star is to honor modern women of freethought. The names from Alabama are: Ileen Sparks, Rachel Doughty, Michelle Wilson, Eula McGill (National Labor Organizer from the thirties through her retirement in 1982), and Pat Cleveland. Annie Laurie Gaylor and Anne Gaylor from Wisconsin have their names there. The famous Texas atheist, Catherine Fahringer, is included. The names of Blanche Fearn and Dot Drake complete the freethought star tribute.

The "Atheists-in-Foxholes" monument is adjacent to the Willa Mae Whatley Auditorium in Fearn Park, overlooking Lake Hypatia. After all the decisions about how it was to be shaped and what was to be on it, Bill Teague volunteered to coordinate the monument project. After all the preparation of the design, Bill had the monument cut, the foundation laid, and the monument placed on the foundation. On one side is the emblem of the US Air Force and the US Army, on another is the emblem of the US Navy and the US Marine Corps, on another the emblem of the US Coast Guard and the US Merchant Marine. On the front of the monument is:


Willa Mae Whatley Auditorium, Fearn Park and the "Atheists-in-Foxholes" monument were all dedicated on July 4, 1999, during the annual Freethought Homecoming. Alice Shiver wrote a poem for the celebration entitled:

Atheists in Foxholes.

Atheists in foxholes, some say they are myths,
Creations of the mind who just don't exist.

Yet, they answered the call to defend, with great pride.
With reason their watchword, they bled and they died.

They took Saratoga from the British crown,
Secured America's freedom at the Battle of Yorktown.

From Sumter to Appomattox, fields flowed with their blood.
When the cannons grew silent, the flag proudly stood.

From the Marne to the Argonne, in trenches and tanks,
They defeated the Germans -- the whole world gave thanks.

They were bombed at Pearl Harbor, fought on to Berlin.
Many freethinking women served along with the men.

Still war keeps erupting -- Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo.
Where is the peace that eludes people so?

It is broken by tyrants who bear crosses and creeds,
That overshadow reason with hate and cruel deeds.

So atheists prevail until your work is complete.
Mothers mourn, children cry, and bigots plan your defeat.

By air, land, and sea, you answer freedom's call.
Without god or faith, you seek liberty for all.

All atheists, humanists, freethinkers, born-again-deists, etc., are invited to visit Lake Hypatia, Freethought Hall, Fearn Park, and of course the Atheists-in-Foxholes Monument. The Fourth of July is a special event. There is good food, swimming, sports events, boating, hiking, camping, poetry readings, music, and speeches by some of America's greatest freethinkers, and an array of the greatest Americans who have ever lived. Consider making it part of your summer.

Contact Information:

Pat Cleveland @Alabama Freethought
POB 571
Talladega, AL 35161-0587
FAX 1-256-761-1105

Email:Pat Cleveland

Web page:     Alabama Freethought

An excellent article written by an Atheist that was in a foxhole: I Was an Atheist in a Foxhole by Philip K. Paulson, in the September/October 1989 issue of THE HUMANIST magazine

Bill Jager