Claudette St. Pierre is the President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation Metro Denver Chapter. Here we talk about her life, views, and work.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you, e.g., geography, culture, language, religion or lack thereof, education, and family structure and dynamics?
Claudette St. Pierre: I was born and raised in southern California, one of three sisters. My parents were both French Canadian, born and raised in Quebec, Canada in large catholic families.
We were raised Catholic and I went to private catholic school for 12 years, graduating from an all girls catholic high school. We went to church every Sunday, but as my sisters and I grew older and went off to college we went less frequent.
Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of life for you? How have you informally self-educated?
St. Pierre: I graduated from college with a bachelor of science in Nursing. I have read many books on freethought and atheism and that is how I finally knew I was an atheist.
Jacobsen: How did you come to find the Freedom From Religion Foundation? How did you take on the leadership role within the Freedom from Religion Foundation Metro Denver Chapter?
St. Pierre: My younger sister introduced me to FFRF and we went to see Dan Barker (co-president of the national organization) debate other religious leaders.
It was thought provoking and enlightening. When I learned there was a group of interested individuals working to start a chapter in the Denver area, I went to the first meeting and was on the founding leadership board. I have been involved in the leadership of the group from the beginning and continue now.
Jacobsen: How are you work to build a robust community locally through Freedom from Religion Foundation Metro Denver Chapter?
St. Pierre: Our chapter affiliate focuses on educating the community about freethought, athesism and the separation of state and church. We participate in several local events by hosting an informational table to provide interested individuals basic information about what we do and how to get involved.
We also hold our meetings at the Secular Hub, a local Denver meeting location for secular groups. We get many members thru these avenues.
Jacobsen: What are the challenges of community there?
St. Pierre: Our membership demographics are unfortunately not diverse. Mostly white older males but getting more women and younger (<40 years) individuals slowly as well as people of color.
Jacobsen: Who has, typically, been opposed to the operations, and mission and mandate, of Freedom from Religion Foundation Metro Denver Chapter?
St. Pierre: Evangelical Christians who have the incorrect belief that our country and government were founded on christian principles. Many religious individuals want more religion in schools and government.
Jacobsen: What are the local problems in the past right into the present? What has worked as solutions, partial or complete? How can other secular advancement organizations learn from the successes there?
St. Pierre: FFRF’s primary focus is to educate thru letters and follow up when someone files a complaint/violation. If you go to the national website www.ffrf.org you will find a great list of the “wins” that the organization has had.
Most from writing letters and when that doesn’t work, thru filing court complaints and using those legal means. I think other secular groups have learned the importance of fighting these violations, even if they seem mundane. If we don’t address them, its sets a precedent that would not bode well for state church separation.
Jacobsen: What are some books or thinkers who best represent the aims of the Freedom from Religion Foundation Metro Denver Chapter?
St. Pierre: The two co-presidents of our national organization, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, have great books they have written. Dan Barker has several written in the past few years that really exemplify what it means to be a freethinker.
Jacobsen: How can people become involved through the donation of time, the addition of membership, links to professional and personal networks, giving monetarily, exposure in interviews or writing articles, and so on?
St. Pierre: I believe that the best way people can become involved in secular ideals is to educate others on what it means to be secular and the importance of the separation of state and church.
People need to know that there is a movement on the “right” to destroy the wall of separation that has ensured success in the democracy of the US and it is at risk.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts based on the conversation today?
St. Pierre: FFRF has been in existence on the national level for 40+ years fighting for our first amendment rights and will continue to do so. What we do is more important now than ever.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Claudette.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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