2016 Press Releases
September 27, 2016
Federal Court To Hear Brevard County Prayer Case
In Orlando Courtroom October 5th
Orlando, FL – A federal court on Oct. 5 will hear oral arguments in an important lawsuit challenging legislative prayer practices in Brevard County.
Alex J. Luchenitser, associate legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, will argue the Williamson v. Brevard County case before the court, together with legal fellow Bradley S. Girard. Luchenitser will be available to speak to the media after the argument along with David Williamson, lead plaintiff in the case.
The hearing will take place Wednesday, 5 October at 10 a.m., in Courtroom 6B, at the U.S. Courthouse, 401 West Central Blvd., Orlando.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed the lawsuit in July 2015 on behalf of multiple plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs include the Central Florida Freethought Community (a chapter of FFRF) and its chair Williamson; the Space Coast Freethought Association and its president Chase Hansel; and the Humanist Community of the Space Coast and its president Keith Becher.
The groups assert that the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners’ persistent rejection of atheists, humanists, and other nontheists who want to deliver solemnizing messages at the commencement of board meetings violates the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.
July 24, 2016
Central Florida Freethought Community Donates
$4,000 to Equality Florida and The GLBT Community Center
Orlando, FL – In response to the tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12th, the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC) raised funds to provide certified secular and humanist celebrants and to pay for secular venues for the families of the victims to hold memorial services and celebrations of life.
Atheists, humanists, and non-theists from 31 states, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom donated more than $4,000 to the GoFundMe campaign which accepted donations beginning June 14th, just two days after the shooting of 49 innocent victims. Thanks to this financial support, the CFFC donated $2,000 to both Equality Florida and The Center, on July 19th. This was 100% of the funds raised minus the transaction fees paid to the host website. A complete accounting of the campaign funds is below.
More than friends and allies, many LGBTQ Americans are also members of the secular community. 4 out of 10 LGBTQ Americans are religiously unaffiliated, with almost half of those individuals openly identifying as atheist or agnostic. The CFFC is proud to play a role in helping the two primary LGBT advocacy organizations which were instrumental in assisting victims right here in the Orlando area.
Jocelyn Williamson, CFFC Director said, “This was a way we could help that was unique and that would speak to our allies in freethought communities across the nation. While we made sure that our offer of assistance was shared in as many ways as possible locally, we were not asked by any families to provide assistance.” Williamson noted that the CFFC remains ready to assist should requests be made at a later date.
Secular memorial services focus on the person, without mention of religion, and can occur many months after burial or cremation services are complete. These services seek to celebrate, remember, and honor their life. They can include readings, poetry, music, including contributions by the person being honored, as well as stories shared by loved ones.
Funds raised $ 4,269.00
Fees paid to WePay $ (365.63)
Net Total $ 3,903.37
CFFC Donation $ 96.63
Grand Total $ 4,000.00
To Equality Florida $ 2,000.00
To The Center $ 2,000.00
June 14, 2016
CFFC Partners with LGBT Organizations to Provide
Free Secular Memorial Services for Families of Pulse Victims
Orlando, FL - The Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC), together with city of Orlando and the world, continues to grieve and search for ways to lend support after the tragic events at Pulse nightclub.
More than friends and allies, many LGBTQ Americans are also members of the secular community. 4 out of 10 LGBTQ Americans are religiously unaffiliated, with almost half of those individuals openly identifying as atheist or agnostic. To support the particular needs of this sizable cross-section of secular LGBTQ individuals and their families hurt by this tragedy, the CFFC is proud to offer free secular and humanist memorial services or celebrations of life.
“Our LGBT allied organizations are working hard to assist the families and the community, and we continue to support their efforts, “says David Williamson, Founder of CFFC. “We are proud to lend our support to fill this unique and important need for both secular and LGBT communities.”
“There are so many details that need to be handled after a tragedy like this happens,” said David Costa, Director of Operations with Equality Florida. “It is so comforting to have so many organizations, like Central Florida Freethought Community, stepping up and offering to provide such needed services and support.”
Secular memorials services focus on the person, without mention of religion. They seek to celebrate, remember, and honor their life. They can include readings, poetry, music, including contributions by the person being honored, as well as stories shared by loved ones. “There are no words to say that will quell the sadness of this tragedy,” said Keith Becher, a local certified Humanist celebrant, “but those who turned to family and friends, but not religion or God, deserve the opportunity for remembrance as they lived.”
CFFC will cover the costs and fees of secular venues, provide certified Secular and Humanist Celebrants at no charge, including covering the travel and lodging costs of the celebrants. Families in need of secular memorial services can call 321-804-3373 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations to support this effort are being accepted through the Orlando Humanist Memorial Services GoFundMe campaign. All funds not used to directly support the above-listed goals will be donated to Equality Florida and The GLBT Center in equal shares on July 15th, 2016.
More information on the many, and varied, organizations coming together can be found at http://www.eqfl.org/news/pulse.
June 12, 2016
Central Florida Freethought Community Condemns
Senseless Murders, Stands with Community Leaders
After Shooting At Orlando Nightclub
Orlando, FL - The Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC) is shocked and saddened by the shootings at Pulse nightclub on Sunday morning. CFFC extends its sincerest condolences to the victims, their families, and friends.
CFFC Founder, David Williamson said atheists, humanists, and freethinkers in the CFFC stand with their allies, friends, and family members who are part of the LGBTQ community and the Muslim community and urges peace and encourages members and others to assist with their efforts to provide support to the entire community.
“We are truly outraged by this senseless act of violence,” Williamson said. "The possible motivations of the perpetrator and the targeting of LGBTQ Americans only deepens the need for our community to come together. We strongly support our LGBTQ friends in grieving and urge those who are able to donate blood and other needed resources to begin the healing."
The Central Florida Freethought Community strongly condemns this heinous act. Regardless of the motivation, this act of violence is unacceptable and inconsistent with secular and humanist values. It encourages local residents to contact OneBlood.org to coordinate a donation visit and support the Equality Florida fundraiser for the victims’ families.
May 10, 2016
New Florida Law Notifies Students
They Can Opt Out of Pledge of Allegiance
The Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC), a local organization, in partnership with American Atheists, a national organization that defends civil rights for atheists, freethinkers, and other nonbelievers, will ensure all Florida public school students are aware they have the right to opt out of the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
In response to a letter sent by American Atheists to the Santa Rosa County School Board in September 2015, the Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott changed a 70-year-old law to ensure Florida students will now be notified in their student handbook that they have the right not to participate in the Pledge. The CFFC and American Atheists notified each of Florida’s 67 school superintendents of the law and their intention to request a copy of each school district’s student handbook when school begins in August.
You can read the entire letter to the 67 county school districts at tinyurl.com/2016pledgeletter
“We are putting the school districts on notice that we are paying attention, and we want to ensure students are fully informed of their rights not to participate. Students’ constitutional rights do not end when they step through the school door,” said Amanda Knief, National Legal Director of American Atheists. “The law is clear on this issue. Students have a constitutional right to refuse to participate in these sorts of ceremonies and Florida law requires districts to inform students of their right to opt out.”
David Williamson, CFFC Founder and Director said of the collaboration, “Our organization is fortunate to have allies in national organizations like American Atheists. In this case, our collaboration will ensure that school districts are notifying students from the Florida Keys to the Panhandle of their right to opt out of the religious pledge if they choose to.”