Texas Archival Resources Online

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

The materials are arranged as follows:

Restrictions

Index Terms

Administrative Information

Description of Series

Correspondence

Printed Material

Addition of September 2000 (Accession 2000-009)

Additon of March 2009 (Accession 2009-015)

University of Texas San Antonio

A Guide to the Catherine Fahringer Papers, 1926-2008 (bulk 1979-2008)



Descriptive Summary

Creator: Fahringer, Catherine 1922-2008
Title: Catherine Fahringer Papers
Dates: 1926-2008
Bulk Dates: 1979-2008
Creator Abstract: Catherine Fahringer (née Compton) gained local and national recognition as a full-time activist and author promoting the separation of church and state.
Content Abstract: The collection contains correspondence, newsletters, articles, essays, and awards documenting Catherine Fahringer’s efforts in promoting the separation of church and state. Specifically, the papers convey her role within the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its San Antonio chapter, Freethought Forum. The collection is divided into three series: Correspondence, Printed Material and Awards. Correspondence makes up the bulk of the collection and two additions consisting of personal and business correspondence, memos, some clippings, and newsletters.
Identification: MS 60
Extent: 5.4 linear feet (8 Boxes)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections

Biographical Note

Catherine Fahringer (née Compton) gained local and national recognition as a full-time activist and author promoting the separation of church and state. Catherine Compton was born in 1922, the daughter of a career military man who died serving his country in World War II. In the early 1940s Catherine married Fred Fahringer, also a military serviceman. The couple lived in several areas of the United States as well as abroad in Japan and France before settling in San Antonio. The Fahringers had two children, a son and daughter. The daughter died in young adulthood.

Catherine became actively involved in advocating freethought in 1988. Fahringer, along with Don DeNatale and Jeffrey Levan, co-founded Freethought Forum as a San Antonio chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation based in Madison, Wisconsin. Fahringer served as sole director of Freethought Forum from its beginning in 1988. The local chapter’s purpose was to defend a wall of separation between church and state, specifically taking stances against organized school prayer, prison ministries, courtroom oaths, and tax supported preaching. Freethought Forum also sought to educate people about atheist and agnostic terms and beliefs. Members of the organization met monthly during the early years of the organization, and began distributing a monthly newsletter in 1989. However, due to lack of volunteers and funding, Freethought Forum combined with the San Antonio Secular Humanist Association (SHASA) in 1991 for local meetings, programs, and dinners. Freethought Forum members received the SHASA newsletter, Alternate Approach, in place of Freethought Forum’s newsletter. Combined, the two organizations averaged a total of one hundred members. Each group maintained ties with their respective national organizations for support in protesting church/state violations, issuing press releases, and organizing larger activities. Fahringer dropped her membership with SHASA in 1996 in light of conflicting views.

Fahringer drew attention to several issues regarding the separation of church and state in San Antonio. On behalf of her chapter, Fahringer produced and hosted a weekly public-access television program on cable called “Freethought Forum”. In addition, Fahringer heightened awareness of church and state issues by actively writing letters to media sources. Fahringer sent letters of praise, complaints, requests, and information to editors and columnists of newspapers and magazines, television and radio personalities, political leaders, schools, community leaders, businesses, and other organizations. Fahringer’s freethought efforts were featured in a 1991 article, “Portrait of an Atheist”, in the San Antonio Express-News Magazine.

Fahringer’s efforts resulted in several accomplishments on behalf of freethought. She obtained a proclamation by the Mayor of San Antonio for a Freethought Week in October of 1994, and for the display of a “Freedom From Religion” banner hung across Broadway Avenue. In addition, Fahringer organized a protest against the Mayor’s prayer breakfast in 1991, and a “Rally for Reason” in 1994. Fahringer also persistently attempted to air a 60-second freethought commercial featuring Freedom From Religion Foundation founder, Dan Barker. After none of the four major San Antonio stations accepted the commercial, Fahringer consulted the Federal Communications Commission. The commercial was never aired in San Antonio, however. Fahringer also worked to remove banners displaying religious symbols from San Antonio lampposts, to remove prayer from public schools and universities, and to move voting booths out of religious institutions. Other interests of Fahringer’s include abortion and gun control issues.

On the national level, Fahringer served as secretary for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and regularly contributed articles to their national publication, Freethought Today. Fahringer also appeared on the Sally Jesse Raphael show entitled “Lost and Found Religion” in 1990 with Dan Barker and Nancy Harris of the national organization.

Catherine resided in San Antonio and was involved in freethought issues and the Freedom From Religion Foundation until her death in 2008.

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Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, newsletters, articles, essays, and awards documenting Catherine Fahringer’s efforts in promoting the separation of church and state. Specifically, the papers convey her role within the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its San Antonio chapter, Freethought Forum. The collection is divided into three series: Correspondence, Printed Material and Awards.

Correspondence is the heart of the collection, in both size and span of topics. Fahringer’s style, method, and approach to issues are colorfully conveyed throughout the correspondence. From this series researchers can gain an understanding of Fahringer’s role and relations with the national Freedom From Religion Foundation organization, Freethought Forum, and affiliated freethought organizations. Limited information exists about Freethought Forum in terms of administration, structure, and membership since Fahringer had no staff or permanent volunteers to run the chapter. However, the folder of “information inquiries” provides an idea of the demographics of individuals interested in the local chapter, with correspondents often giving background information about themselves and reasons for their personal beliefs regarding separation of church and state.

Printed Material highlights Fahringer’s accomplishments on behalf of the freethought movement through newspaper clippings featuring Fahringer. The series also contains articles, essays, and submissions for publication by Fahringer, expressing her stances and beliefs on freethought issues.

The Additions include correspondence to and from Catherine Fahringer, memos, some clippings, writings, newsletters and other assorted material. Some of the material relates to Free Thought Today Society and Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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The materials are arranged as follows:

  • Correspondence
  • Printed Material
  • Awards
  • Addition of September 2000 (Accession 2000-009)
  • Additon of March 2009 (Accession 2009-015)

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

This collection is housed at UTSA's Main Campus and must be accessed via the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room. To request access, please use the Collections Request Form.

Usage Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the records must be obtained from University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

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Index Terms

Persons
Fahringer, Catherine, 1922- 2008
Organizations
San Antonio Secular Humanist Association.
Freethought Forum (San Antonio, Tex.)
Freedom from Religion Foundation (U.S.)
Topics
Church and state--Texas--San Antonio.
Freedom of religion--Texas--San Antonio.
Prayer in the public schools--Texas--San Antonio.
Religion in the public schools--Texas--San Antonio.
Atheism--Texas--San Antonio.
Agnosticism--Texas--San Antonio.
Genres/formats
Correspondence.
Clippings.
Memorandums.
Newsletters.
Writings.
Local Subjects
Activism/Activists
Religion
Women
Writers

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Catherine Fahringer Papers, 1936-1998, MS 60, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Acquisition Information

Materials in this collection were donated by Catherine Fahringer in 1997-2009(Acc.1997-016, 1998-022, 1998-037, 2000-009, 2009-015).

Processing Information

Processed by Toni Jeske, December 1998.

Additions encoded by Tatina Wulzer, March 2009.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

 

Correspondence

Limited information exists about Freethought Forum in terms of administration, structure, and membership since Fahringer had no staff or permanent volunteers to run the chapter. However, the folder of “information inquiries” provides an idea of the demographics of individuals interested in the local chapter, with correspondents often giving background information about themselves and reasons for their personal beliefs regarding separation of church and state. Correspondence with the media and political leaders provide a strong look into the issues of concern to Fahringer, how they are presented to the public, and her position on those issues. Correspondence with television media is valuable in documenting the failed struggle to get a Freedom From Religion Foundation commercial aired on a major network station. Correspondence with self-identified Christians, religious leaders, friends, and freethought supporters show a range of reactions from the community to Fahringer’s efforts, as well as the views of her supporters and non-supporters. Family correspondence, and general correspondence with friends and freethinkers, offers insight into Fahringer’s personal and daily life including her bouts with cancer and the care of her ailing mother.
Box Folder
1 1 Book donations, 1988-1997
Businesses
2 Products and services, 1985-1998
3 Religious endorsements, 1986-1994
Causes
4 Abortion, 1989-1995
5 Gun control, 1984-1986
6 Lamppost banners, 1990
7 Prayer in prisons, 1991-1992
8 Prayer in public schools and universities, 1994-1997
9 Religion in the San Antonio State Hospital, 1994-1995
10 Voting in religious institutions, 1988-1997
11 Christian responses, 1986-1996
12 Family, 1942-1998
Freedom From Religion Foundation
13 Affiliated chapters, 1988-1998
14 Gaylor, Anne, 1988-1998
15 Gaylor, Annie Laurie, 1988-1998
16 General, 1988-1998
FreeThought Forum
17 Information inquiries, 1988-1991
Box Folder
2 1 Membership forms, 1991
Friends and freethought supporters
General
2 A-E, 1985-1998
3 F-L, 1988-1998
4 M-P, 1988-1998
5 R-Y, 1988-1998
Box Folder
3 1 Arnold, Marguerite, 1936-1994
2 Kevorkian, Jack, 1990-1994
3 Mignacca, Marge, 1990-1998
4 Musy, Jacques and Abigail, 1987-1997
5 O’Hair, Madalyn Murray, 1987
Media
6 Letters to the Editor, 1988-1998
7 Radio, 1988-1998
Television
8 Cable access television show, 1989-1998
9 Commercial spots, 1989-1991
10 Network programs, 1988-1997
11 Organizations, 1988-1998
Box Folder
4 1 Political leaders, 1986-1998
2 Public appearances, 1988-1991
3 Religious leaders and institutions, 1987-1997
4 Unitarian church, 1988-1991

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Printed Material

Printed Material highlights Fahringer’s accomplishments on behalf of the freethought movement through newspaper clippings featuring Fahringer. The series also contains articles, essays, and submissions for publication by Fahringer, expressing her stances and beliefs on freethought issues. The Freethought Forum newsletters document the chapter’s early existence and aspirations, while the Alternative Approach newsletter shows the cooperation between Freethought Forum and the Secular Humanists of San Antonio. Also included are select issues containing Fahringer’s writing in Freedom From Religion’s national monthly publication, Freethought Today.
Box Folder
4 5 Articles by Fahringer, 1988-1998
6 Essays and submissions for publication, 1991-1998
7 Freethought Forum newsletter, 1989-1991
8 Alternate Approach newsletter, 1992-1993
Freethought Today (national publication)
9 Freethought Today 1991-1994
10 Freethought Today 1997
11 Newspaper clippings, 1988, 1991
12 Literature, 1991-1997
13 Press releases, 1991-1996
14 Books of favorite song lyrics, undated

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Awards

Box Folder
4 15 Awards 1986-1998

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Addition of September 2000 (Accession 2000-009)

Consists of business and personal correspondence, some clippings and writings, ranging in date from 1926-1999 and undated.
Box Folder
1 1-5 Consists of personal and business correspondence, 1926-1980, 1999 and undated
6 Correspondence and clippings, 1940, 1988-1996 and undated
7 Correspondence, clippings, newsletters and writings, 1992-2000 and undated
8 Correspondence and clippings, 1985-1990
9 Correspondence, 1983-1994
10 Correspondence, clippings and writings, 1998-1999 and undated
11-12 Personal correspondence, 1921-1954 and undated
13 Correspondence, clippings and writings, 1988-1999

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Additon of March 2009 (Accession 2009-015)

Consists of correspondence to and from Catherine Fahringer, memos, some clippings, writings for class assignments, newsletters and other assorted material. Some of the material relates to Free Thought Today Society and Freedom From Religion Foundation and ranges in dates from 1944-2008 and undated.
Box Folder
2 1-6 Correspondence to and from Catherine Fahringer, memos, some clippings, writings for class assignments, newsletters (Private Line) and other assorted material, 1973, 1981 -2003 and undated
7-8 Assortment of cards and correspondence, 1987-2003 and undated
9-10 Correspondence and some clippings, 1982-2007 and undated
Box Folder
3 1 Correspondence and some clippings, 1982-2007 and undated
2 Letters from prison pen pal, 1984
3-8 Correspondence and clippings, newsletters and cards, 1944-1945, 1976-2008 and undated
911 Correspondence and clippings, 1984-2007 and undated
Box Folder
4 1-2 Correspondence and clippings, 1979-2001 and undated

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