In the late 1980s, a series of informal groups of secular San Antonio-ans laid the groundwork for the organization that would eventually become FACT. One of these discussion groups were started by Ms. Catherine Fahringer and the other by Ms. Beni T. Dean. Ms. Fahringer's discussion group and Mr. Dean's book club joined forces to form the nucleus that ultimately became FACT. Together, the groups adopted a set of Rules & Bylaws on September 17, 1990, marking the official beginning of the Secular Humanist Association of San Antonio (SHASA). Then, on January 1st, 1999, the membership elected to change the name to the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas (FACT) and amended the bylaws to reflect that decision.
When was FACT established?
The foundations for our organization were laid nearly thirty years ago in a discussion group formed by Catherine Faringer and Benni Dean. The group was later incorporated as “Freethinkers Association of Central Texas” in 1999.
What is a “freethinker”?
A person who forms opinions on the basis of reason independent of authority, dogma, or tradition is called a freethinker, especially a person whose religious beliefs differ from established belief.
Where does that name come from?
The term first came into use in Europe late in the 17th Century. FACT is proud to point to the legacy left by the German Freidenkers who settled in the Texas Hill Country.
How is FACT organized?
Under a formal set of by-laws, FACT members elect a set of officers as well as members-at-large to govern the organization. All officers are unpaid volunteers. We have a president, two vice-presidents, treasurer, secretary, and two members-at-large. We also have unofficial positions such as Newsletter editor and a librarian. The Freethinkers Association of Central Texas is a non-profit organized for charitable and educational purposes under Sections 501(c)(3), 170, 2055, 2106, and 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. FACT's tax identification number is 31-1714122.
How is FACT funded?
Since all of our events are free and open to the public, we rely on membership dues and donations to pay for speaker travel, lodging and honoraria. (See the “Membership” page to become a member).
What does FACT do?
We hold formal meetings on the third Saturday of most months. Those meetings often include nationally-known speakers on a wide range of secular topics. There is also a monthly Discussion Brunch on last Saturday of the month, and several luncheon meetings throughout the month. Our members have been involved in such community projects as building handicap access ramps at private homes, and volunteering at the San Antonio Food Bank. For more than 20 years FACT hosted a weekly program on Public Access TV. We occasionally hold family-friendly pot-lucks and we celebrate the Winter Solstice annually. See the “EVENTS” page for current schedule or join our Meetup group.
On this date in 1922, Catherine Fahringer was born in Utah to a military family. After living in various places in the United States and abroad, her family settled in San Antonio, Texas, when Catherine was 12. Raised as an Episcopalian, she was urged by family members to introduce her children to religion. While living in England, where her husband was stationed, Catherine dutifully purchased The Golden Book of Bible Stories. Perusing it before she read the stories to her children, Catherine had an epiphany: "I said to my husband, 'I can't teach this stuff to my kids. I'm nicer than God" (San Antonio Express News, March 24, 1991). Catherine found a venue for activism when she hooked up with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1987. She created and hosted "Freethought Forum," a cable TV show. Catherine became a well-known public figure in San Antonio, monitoring and challenging numerous, egregious state/church violations there. An officer with the national Foundation, she served on its governing council. With wit and aplomb, Catherine protested city prayer breakfasts, the presence of religious symbols on public property, and kept freethought in focus with numerous op-eds, letters to the editor and educational letters to government officials and media. In the 1990s, she even managed to persuade then-Gov. Ann Richards and city officials to make proclamations commemorating freethought. Catherine's media appearances included being featured on TV's Sally Jessy Raphael Show, where she quipped about rejecting the idea of a "Big Spook in the Sky." Catherine died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 86. Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said of Catherine: "We loved [her] and miss her. She was not only one of FFRF's best activists, but she was one of our best friends, best boosters and best advertisements for freethought." FFRF offers the Catherine Fahringer Youth Activist Memorial Award in her honor. D. 2008.
“We would be 1,500 years ahead if it hadn't been for the church dragging science back by its coattails and burning our best minds at the stake.”
—Catherine Fahringer, Interview, San Antonio Express News, Portrait of an Atheist by Craig Phelon, March 24, 1991.
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Robert McLeroy. © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.