SLVA -  1979 - 2013   
Salt Lake City, Utah

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"Only a Fool would have a False religion"

Our People... Salt Lake Valley Atheists

Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who was murdered in 1995 at age 76, was an atheist activist. She founded the American  Atheists and served as the organization's president from 1963 to 1986. She is perhaps best known for her role in the 1963 Supreme Court ruling that ended Bible reading in public schools. Life magazine once called her "the most hated woman in America."

Utah Atheists -

RICHARD ANDREWS - Founder of the Utah Chapter of American Atheists in March of 1979.  He was the Chapter Director until 1982, and then served as Co-director with Chris Allen until the chapter closed in November of 1993. In those early, heady days, Richard Andrews set up a booth for Atheism at the state fair, a lecture on Atheism at the city library, a regular radio talk show on Atheism and the inauguration of its Dial-an-Atheist service.  In 1983 he worked with Chris Allen on a project that put 400 advertisement posters for Dial-an-Atheist in Utah buses.

Rich has been actively involved in Utah’s tax exemption issues since 1979. In 1980, he and Chris Allen stopped a Tax Article Revision constitutional amendment to broaden religious tax exemption.

In 1986 Andrews, working with Dan Favatella, stopped an attempt by religious hospitals to gain constitutional exemption from property taxes. Andrews and the Utah Chapter of American Atheists defeated the constitutional amendment.  The Catholic and Protestant hospitals were later sold to for-profit hospitals.

In 1991 he was the principal plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the practice of opening Salt Lake City council meetings with a prayer.  In that same year Andrews was also a plaintiff in two other S.O.S. cases that sued the Utah Attorney General and the head of the State Board of Education for spending public funds in the legal defense of prayer at public school graduation.

Richard Andrews has written and spoken about the books of the author Vardis Fisher. His articles have appeared in American Atheist Magazine and on the Internet.

He has appeared on C-SPAN.  In November of 2004, on the Boise TV cable program Uncommon Sense, produced by Idaho Atheists,  and most recently in Morgan Spurlock's 30 DAYS, he was featured several times on the television program Hannity & Colmes.

He was the principal plaintiff in a legal case against the Utah Highway Patrol Christian Crosses. He was actively involved with the Utah Education Association's (Utahns for Public Schools) campaign against vouchers. He currently serves on the boards of directors for the Society of Separationists, American Atheist GHQ, and United Secularist of America, Inc.

Utah Chapter to American Atheists Triumphs in the Face of Adversity - 1980


CHRIS ALLEN    Director of the Utah Chapter of American Atheists from 1982 to 1993; from 1994 to 2001 leader of Utah Atheists. 

  Has been a member of American Atheists since 1973 and a board member since 1991. He served as director of the Utah Chapter of American Atheists for 13 years, and currently hosts monthly meetings for the Utah Atheists.
As an activist, Chris campaigned, with Richard Andrews, against tax exemption for church-affiliated "nonprofit" hospitals to protest their diversion of funds to churches. As chapter director, he filed four law suits in Utah challenging graduation and city council prayer.

Chris has written
articles (more) for the American Atheist magazine and newsletter and for several newspapers in Utah. He is also the voice of Dial-an-Atheist in Utah.

Utah Chapter to American Atheists Triumphs in the Face of Adversity - 1980

War Won, No. 1 Atheist Bids Adieu to Utah
Allen led the battle for church-state separation

   For 19 years, Chris Allen has been the lightning rod for Utah's atheist community, the bane of what he perceives as a Mormon theocracy -- one he regularly battled with vitriolic wit.

   During those nearly two decades, Allen has never had a paucity of arenas in which to air his views. He battled prayer in schools, at graduation  ceremonies and during city council meetings; challenged Ten Commandments  monuments on public property; and attacked the presence of LDS missionaries in classrooms -- a move that led the church to ban missionary tutoring in public schools in 1998.

   Most of his battles ended in defeat, Allen admits. Still, as he steps down as Utah's chief disciple of disbelief, the 55-year-old, soon-to-retire computer programmer insists he won his protracted philosophical war.

   "We did a good deal of educating the people about separation of state and church, and I believe the majority in Utah have come to accept that concept," said Allen, who plans to return to his native Texas this fall. "So, I feel justified, that there is something of a victory."

   Civil libertarian colleagues, and even an ardent foe, agree Allen was an effective, persistent voice for often unpopular causes in a state where seven out of 10 Utahns are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day  Saints.

   "Chris is a zealot for his cause. He might not like the religious comparison of his fervor, but I think it is accurate," said Salt Lake City civil rights attorney Brian Barnard. "[He is] a strong advocate of keeping government out of the business of religion . . . even against a sea of opposition."


   Carol Gnade, executive director of the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Allen deserved praise for "educating people on church-state separation issues in a culture which is quite unaccepting of other points of view."  
   Then there is Gayle Ruzicka. The president of the ultra-conservative Eagle Forum said she has come to like Allen, despite their frequent clashes over the years on political and public religious expression issues.    "Chris has always been willing to offer his side and been articulate in doing that," she said. "He is a very nice man and polite -- he's just wrong."

   Ruzicka's characterization elicits a smile from Allen, who chooses not to respond, at least directly. Instead, he launches into a lecture on the evils of religion in general, and the downside of the influence of Mormonism in Utah in particular.    "Religion is bad. It is mental slavery," said Allen, raised a Houston Episcopalian before doubts about the existence of God stirred during his years at Rice University and blossomed into full-blown atheism during a 1969-72 stint in the Navy.
   He moved to Salt Lake City in 1975, taking over for Utah Atheists founder Richard Andrews in 1982. By then, Allen and his 100-member organization had the LDS Church on their radar, blaming its support of large families for many of Utah's social ills -- among them an inequitable tax structure that favors multiple dependents, which he says leads to anemic school funding and the poor quality of education that comes with it.

   "I won't miss that," he said. "I will miss the good skiing, lovely weather, beautiful mountains and my friends."

   Michael Rivers, an engineer who recently transferred to Utah from Los Angeles, said he and his wife, Julia, share both directorship duties and the determination to maintain a strong voice for the state's nonreligious minority.     "We continue to try to explain ourselves; why we believe what we do, "Rivers said. "I don't like to attack groups, per se. But I am a very firm believer on separation issues, that no one's beliefs should be forced on anyone else."



President Salt Lake Valley Atheists 2004 - 2008

 Stephen grew up in Farmington, Utah, and has lived most of his adult life in Salt Lake City. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in International Relations (Political Science) from the University of Utah, where he also minored in philosophy and business.

For half of his working life, he was employed by various private sector businesses; for the other half, he was employed as a researcher and administrator for a munitions organization within the Federal Government.

Stephen has been an atheist since 1995. He is an expert on the doctrine and history of the LDS Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), having been a member of it from birth until 1993. In that year, he read extensively about the LDS Church, especially its past, and found it to be full of fantasy and contradictions. The following year, he discovered that Christianity and other religions were simply the invented superstitions and fictional stories of men who wanted power and money. By 1995 he had become a firm atheist.

In February of 2005, Stephen became the President of Salt Lake Valley Atheists (SLVA). For a year before that, he served as its Assistant Director, and for 4 years before that, he served on its steering committee, being responsible for the literature table at its monthly brunch / programs.


served as President of American Atheists until 2008. A "soccer mom," she has been active in American Atheists and other social cause groups for many years. She has been a guest on programs such as Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect," and testified before the National Commission on Civil Rights about the problem of discrimination faced by atheists in schools and other social institutions.


has a distinguished academic career as a former biology professor, linguist and bible-era historian.  He has authored numerous books and articles dealing with a wide range of subjects, everything from the alleged historicity of Jesus to the on-going controversy over teaching creationism in our public schools.  His tenure as an activist with American Atheists goes back over 30 years.  Frank is a nationally-recognized speaker and debater, and has served as an eloquent spokesperson for our organization.

In 2008 Frank served as President Pro Temp for American Atheists.

How do you loose a steel mill?
IN MEMORIAM of the O'Hair Family
An Atheist's Guide to Mohammedanism


MIKE RIVERS          Utah State Director  2001 -  2005
I have been an Atheist for nearly 30 years and recently joined American Atheists. While living in Simi Valley CA my wife and I formed an Atheist group called the Simi Valley Free Thinkers, which was affiliated with American Atheists.

On arriving in Simi Valley it became very apparent that my quiet days of being an Atheist would be a thing of the past. A realization and a sense of urgency over the loss of our First Amendment rights pushed my wife Julia and me into activism.

Our aim is to show Atheism as the healthy perspective which it is, and to educate the public about who we are. 

My experience includes serving five years on a school board budget committee, five years on a home association board serving as president for three years, and participation in a number of community related committees reporting to the City Council. I addressed the City Council frequently on a number of issues. I also worked on numerous community service projects.

My goals are to continue with the rich traditions already in place here in Utah. Chris Allen and Richard Andrews have done and are continuing to do a tremendous job here. Young people need to know they have a place with American Atheists. We need to develop an outreach program designed to attract them and draw on their talents. In Utah, religion is continually encroaching on every aspect of peoples' lives, and dominating all bodies of government and the public schools. Publicity, education and even the possibility of litigation are our only defenses on state and church issues. We need to find a local broadcast company to air "Atheist Viewpoint." We need to step up our challenge to prayer in government meetings, to Ten Commandment monuments in government venues, and to religious instruction in the public schools. And finally, Atheism needs to be portrayed in a positive and professional manner in all our encounters.

It is an honor to work with such a dedicated group of individuals. I would like people to feel free to contact me at anytime.

Michael D. Rivers

P.O. Box 651471   Salt Lake City, UT 84165


1951 - 2003

Salt Lake Valley Atheists

6 Oct 2003

"I am deeply saddened beyond words to have to inform everyone of Julia's passing yesterday.  Julia was loving, warm and generous with everyone. She was especially fond of the Atheist community here and valued each one of you as someone special in her life.

A memorial wake will be held in her honor. 

The SLVA will continue as strong ever, with all the energy Julia put into it."
Michael Rivers


Bill Luttrell  "Anyway, it didn't much matter to Bill that he spent money at Wendover rather than on other material goods. "He didn't have a big car or a big boat. He lived in a small apartment," says Unrath. "He played cards and he made politics a daily passion."  More...
~ By Holly Mullen,   Tribune Columnist






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Page updated  2014-04-14