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Mailbox, Winter 2009

One in three letters responds to a controversial ad.
By Jane Greer
Winter 2009 11.1.09

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Over the last two years, we received 59 letters per issue on average, with letters reacting to articles, ads, current events, and covers. But this is the first time that an ad has drawn more response than any other part of the magazine. Out of a total of 76 letters, 27 addressed the Freedom From Religion Foundation ad on the inside front cover of the Fall 2009 issue. The ad also provoked a flurry of blog posts (see page 12, Blog Roundup, for a summary).

Joel Monka of Indianapolis, Indiana, wrote, “I have nothing against the Freedom From Religion Foundation buying ad space in concept, but that specific ad had no educational value at all. It consisted purely of quotes insulting any person of faith.” UU World Business Manager Scott Ullrich issued an apology September 4, writing, “While the stated mission of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is entirely consistent with UU values, this ad seems hostile to all religion” (see an updated version of Ullrich’s letter, page 10).

Then reactions to the apology started to arrive. Keleigh Hardie of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, wrote, “I thought UUs weren’t afraid to have their beliefs questioned or challenged. I’m a member of both the UUA and the FFRF. I don’t see any contradiction.” Of the 27 letters, 14 criticized the magazine’s running the ad; 13 defended the ad’s presence in the magazine.

Michael Durall’s “Forum” article “Reach Out to Become a ‘Public’ Church” drew six mostly critical letters. Wrote Rob Briner of Santa Monica, California, “Several years ago my congregation directed the largest bequest it has ever received toward its building program rather than giving it away. Were we greedy to provide for ourselves in this way? Durall seems to be saying ‘Provide only for others, never yourself.’” Wrote Catherine Glick of Columbus Minnesota, “Durall equates ‘a free and responsible search for truth and meaning’ with a ‘private spirituality,’ and of no relevance to community outreach, involvement, and social action. They are not mutually exclusive.”

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