President’s Notes

FFRF – Valley of the Sun Chapter – President’s Notes – June 7th, 2023

Members and supporters of the Freedom From Religion Foundation,

I am thrilled to step into the role of President of our local FFRF Valley of the Sun Chapter. I am excited to collaborate with each of you in our shared mission of protecting the constitutional separation between religion and government and defending the rights of nontheists.

First and foremost, I extend my enthusiastic appreciation to our Board of Directors and newly elected officers for their unwavering determination and leadership. It is an honor to serve alongside our Vice President, Whit Johnson, our Secretary, Janet Johnson, and our Treasurer, Philip Lentz. My intent is to build upon their past accomplishments and expand our influence within our community.

Our nation’s founders considered the freedom of individuals to practice their own religious beliefs or to recognize no beliefs at all, without fear of discrimination or marginalization from the state, to be one of our greatest ideals. Upholding and securing this freedom remains one of our greatest challenges.

At the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we firmly assert that no religion should receive preferential treatment from the government. However, we are confronted with book bans, LGBTQ+ erasure, school prayer, and purity culture which erode the progress made toward human rights and the development of compassionate, inclusive local communities. It can be disheartening to witness science, reason, and evidence-based decision-making continually take a back seat to religious doctrine in so many aspects of public life.

Persistence and active participation are crucial. Together, with the support of our board, membership, and the wider secular community, we will focus on several significant initiatives and projects in the months ahead.

  • Coalition Building:
    • Strengthening alliances with like-minded organizations and individuals who share our commitment to secularism and religious freedom.
    • Collaborating on joint efforts to amplify our collective voice and accomplish common objectives.
  • Education and Activism:
    • Providing resources and organizing events that foster constructive discussions.
    • Highlighting current political and social issues to inspire civic engagement, reinforce participatory democracy, and enhance the quality of life in our communities.
  • Secular Student Scholarship:
    • Establishing a scholarship for Arizona high school or college students that encourages critical thinking and evidence-based approaches to societal challenges.
    • Supporting the next generation of freethinkers and leaders who have demonstrated dedication to secular values and community service.
  • Community Outreach:
    • Bringing attention to religious symbols or messages exhibited in government-owned or public spaces, stressing the need for neutrality and respect for diverse beliefs.
    • Raising awareness, disseminating information, and sparking conversations through bulletin boards and public displays that underscore the critical need to keep religion out of government.

I hope that you will find our upcoming schedule of activities engaging and purposeful, and that it will inspire you to take action. I encourage everyone to participate in our initiatives that address social issues, promote secular values, and protect the rights of all individuals. If you have any suggestions, questions, or ideas to enhance the impact of our chapter, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or any of our dedicated board members.

Thank you for your support of the Freedom From Religion Foundation Valley of the Sun Chapter. I eagerly anticipate a productive and successful year ahead.

With humankindness,

Mars de La Tour [they|them]
President, Freedom From Religion Foundation Valley of the Sun Chapter

FFRF – Valley of the Sun Chapter – President’s Notes – May 2022

Hello everyone! 

It is truly an honor to serve as the new Chapter President of FFRF-VS. Many thanks to the indefatigable Philip Lentz for his leadership during a very tough time for non-profits as we all navigate through this pandemic.

I’d also like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our chapter’s founder, the late Ann Mardick and the members and leaders that followed after her death: Zenaido Quintana, Richard Dewey, Tory Roberg, and Michael Steiner; just to name a few.

I’m a tech guy (read nerdy introvert) at heart. In the past I haven’t been very interested in socializing or leading – perfectly happy being the man behind the curtain for the rest of you Wizards & Wonder Women. But now I’m forcing myself out of my comfort zone. Even before “The Leak”, I realized it was time for me to do whatever I can to help keep our amazing and complicated civilization moving in the right direction – toward maximizing justice, life, liberty, and happiness for EVERYONE!

“The Forces of Good”, as my parents used to sarcastically call them, have been working for decades to insert themselves in our governing and judicial institutions. They did this for the express purpose of codifying their religious dogma into our laws. I know you’ve all heard of Project Blitz.

Honestly my friends, it looks like they’ve won the first round. They’ve out planned and out maneuvered us. Welcome back to the world of book burning, conversion therapy, and forced child birth.

In the past, humans did create a civilization governed by the pious and the wealthy. We all now call that time The Dark Ages.

Been there. Done that. No thanks.

This is our watch people. WE have to turn this ship around. Here is a short list of actions you can take:

  • Run for office or back some reason-based candidates with $$ and/or time.
  • Join and support other secular groups.
  • Join the board or a committee in your current secular group.

I’m optimistic that we can get this country back on course.

Thank you all for everything you do, have done, and are going to do!

Warm regards,
Whit Johnson, Chapter President

FFRF – Valley of the Sun Chapter – President’s Notes – April 21, 2022

In past notes, I’ve encouraged everyone to consider becoming a part of the FFRF-VS Board of Directors.  I am so pleased to be able to tell you that three people have stepped up and agreed to help.

Officially, this is a “past president’s note” because, during our 2022 Annual Meeting last night, Whit Johnson was elected to the Board and also elected President of our Chapter. Other new Board members are Janet Johnson who was also elected Vice-President and David Stobberingh who has taken over the Programs Chair role.  I was elected Treasurer, replacing Tory Roberg, and Eniko (Enci) Lajos Nolan was re-elected Secretary.  You can read the board members’ bios at

I want to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation for all of the work that Tory Roberg did to keep this chapter alive.  Most of the great ideas that have made us successful recently came from Tory. Her contributions were significant, and we will miss her being part of the Board.

I am eager to see where our new Board takes us. I hope we can get back to in-person events in the near future but also aware that the Zoom Socials that Tory led have been a huge success and have allowed FFRF members outside the Phoenix area to participate in our events. We will work to keep this channel open.

Please welcome your new leadership team and, as always, if you would like to get more involved, please let us know. The opportunities for events, etc. are limited only by how much help we have.

Philip Lentz, immediate past president

FFRF – Valley of the Sun Chapter – President’s Notes – December 2020

I think children start looking forward to Christmas in about February. It didn’t start out that way. Before Christians appropriated it, there was Saturnalia, the celebration of the end of one year and the birth of a new one.      Saturnalia

Since finally coming to grips with my own belief that there never was a God and therefore, the whole Christ story is a ruse, I’ve struggled with the loss of the year-end festivities. I think that may be why so many “nones” continue to celebrate Christmas.  Santa Claus is certainly a ready substitute for Jesus and all the movies with elves and Whos (down in Who Ville) can stand-in for the concept of angels. But why take that path?

This year, December has brought us much for which to be thankful. Today alone, the Electoral College set the end to a long nightmare, the first recipients of the new vaccine rolled up their sleeves and the President’s Cabinet began to fray. The people have spoken and the Christian Nationalists fell to defeat. Those of us who put our faith in Science must remember how close we came to losing the war. We are all wounded and that is exactly why we need to celebrate.

I want to wish each and every one of you a 2021 that will make the sacrifices of 2020 well worthwhile. Soon we will again be able to see and hug our grandchildren, enjoy a long evening in a restaurant together and meet to debate politics face to face. On behalf of all the scientists who have spent more than the usual hours in the lab, the medical workers who worked until they were fully spent and then worked another shift, and all the people who had to go to work this year, let’s celebrate.  This year, it is at home. Next year let’s do it together.

Love.      Philip Lentz,  Chapter President

The e-mail for the FFRF – Valley of the Sun Chapter is  Contact us if you are passionate about making this group a success.

FFRF – Valley of the Sun Chapter – President’s Notes – October 2020

In this note I’m asking you to consider volunteering to serve on the FFRF – Valley of the Sun Chapter Board of Directors.  You can read the history of this organization under the “About” tab on our webpage.  Many people have stepped up over the past several years to help the Valley of the Sun Chapter establish itself.  But today, like so many groups in the age of Covid 19, we are short on help.  If you have a little time and any of the needed skills, your help will make a big difference.

I believe that having an FFRF presence in Arizona is important.  If someone is a “believer”, they have no trouble finding a thousand different flavors of religious communities to join.  But, for those of us who find truth in science, there are far fewer opportunities.  What is unique about FFRF is the focus on making sure that children who put their trust in science are not humiliated in their public-school experience.  We provide community for those who want to make sure that church does not take over the state.

If you’ve never served on a board before, you should know that it does take some time; usually not more than three or four hours a week.  The skills that make a board effective are the same as those that make any business successful.  The hardest to find are people with good accounting skills.  Keeping the financial records is essential.  Next is people who know how to throw a party.  Planning fun and engaging events is what makes participants want to come back.  Some people come to the board with good management skills and the ability to develop plans.  Finding someone who is good at fundraising is a must.  Once in a while you’ll see a volunteer who wants to do a “drive-by” (come in, tell everybody else what to do and then leave).  Drive-bys are not really helpful.  We need board members who are willing to roll up their sleeves and, if necessary, “get dirty”.  What skills can you contribute – IT expertise, Social Media, manning a booth?  We’re a good group and we’d love to have you work with us.

The e-mail for the FFRF – Valley of the Sun Chapter is  Contact us if you are passionate about making this group a success.

Thanks.      Philip Lentz,  Chapter President