- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

Thousands of nonbelievers converged on the Mall yesterday to demand equal rights under the Constitution and separation between politics and the pulpit during the first-ever Godless Americans March on Washington.
The roughly 2,000 demonstrators from around the nation self-proclaimed atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and secular humanists toted cardboard signs that read, "One Nation Under the Constitution," "Religion Kills" and "God is a Fairytale." Fewer than a dozen counter-demonstrators standing nearby taunted them by reading Scripture through a bullhorn.
The nonbelievers marched on the National Mall from 14th Street to the Capitol, where more than 20 speakers addressed the audience from a stage for almost four hours on a sunny but chilly day.
"This is a class in Activism 101. … We Godless Americans are everywhere. Nonbelievers comprise 14 percent of the population. … We are your husbands and friends. … We work for corporations, and we, too, served in the recovery after 9/11," said Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, the Cranford, N.J., group that organized the march.
"We still need to keep marching and protesting," Ms. Johnson told the crowd. "I'm asking you today … to work with Godless Americans Political Action Committee. Some of you came thousands of miles to be here. You care about the separation of church and state," she said. She encouraged the group to become more politically active.
"We are on the move to becoming a well-oiled machine who knows how to play the game," Ms. Johnson said.
The speakers included Michael Newdow, the West Coast physician whose lawsuit led a San Francisco federal appeals court to rule in June that "under God" be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance a ruling widely expected to be reversed on appeal.
Dr. Newdow, 49, was roundly applauded when he appeared on stage. To a howl of laughter, he joked that he had to pray to a higher power to find a parking space near the Mall.
Demonstrators who were not near the stage watched the speeches on a large screen. Some had a fall picnic. Alice Mitchell, 27, of Gloversville, N.Y., relaxed on her red blanket and said she's always been a freethinker and is a lifelong atheist.
"There was no evidence, no proof of God. Every time I asked, they would say, 'It's felt in the heart'. It's pretty evident that it was made up," she said.
Jerry Fennell, 31, from Denver, Pa., who said he was raised Roman Catholic, was among the counter-demonstrators. He held up a sign that read, "Prepare to meet thy God."
"It's interesting," Mr. Fennell said. "At some point I feel really bad for these people, and at other times their open blasphemy makes me cringe."


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