About Freethought Books Project

freethought books project logo initiative 

The Freethought Books Project provides donations of secular and freethinking literature to prisoners, inmates in mental hospitals, books to prisoners projects, and others in need. The project also connects inmates to volunteer pen pals, who correspond with secular humanist, atheist, and other inmates who are connected to the project. The initiative, which was started by freethought activist Leslie Zukor in 2005, has been administered by the Center for Inquiry since 2013.

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The Freethought Books Project is currently coordinated by Jesse Markus, of CFI–Portland, and Sarah Kaiser, CFI field organizer. (This website redirects from the old site, which was hosted independently at freethoughtbooks.org.) You can contact the project by emailing freethoughtbooks@centerforinquiry.net.

If you would like to donate to the project or volunteer, please contact the coordinators.

History of the Project

Started in 2005, the Freethought Books Project was created by Leslie Zukor, then a student at Reed College and founder of the Reed Secular Alliance, as a book drive to send freethought books to prisoners. The project was, as it continues to be, a response to the abundant religious material and proselytizing found in the American prison system, and aims to provide an educational alternative for secular humanist, non-religious, and skeptical prisoners. “The goal of the project,” Zukor states, “is to let inmates know that they don’t need to believe in a god to live meaningful and ethical lives.”

Leslie contacted prisoners and prison-donating organizations, found support for getting freethought books into prison libraries, and requested donated literature from authors and organizations. The response was outstanding, and, during her tenure as project coordinator, she collected over 2,300 books and magazines, which the Freethought Books Project sent to dozens of prisoners across the United States.

The project was independently run and funded by Leslie and her fellow coordinators until 2013, when she asked if the Center for Inquiry would take it on. After a short hiatus, it is now coordinated by CFI’s outreach department.

Project News 

January 15, 2014. What Would JT Do. The Blaze Doesn’t Like the Freethought Books Project.   

January 15, 2014. Washington Times. Atheist Group’s Prison Book Project Aims to Turn Inmates Against God.  

January 15, 2014. The Blaze. Here’s How Atheists are Targeting Inmates in Quest to Battle the Bible in American Prisons. 

January 14, 2014. Christian Post. Secular Group to Send ‘Freethought’ Books to Prisoners as Alternative to Religion.  

January 13, 2014. Free Thinking. An Update From the Freethought Books Project. 

December 10, 2013. Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. CFI Supports Prisoners with the Freethought Books Project.

December 5, 2013. Friendly Atheist. Center for Inquiry Relaunches Program to Send Atheist Books to Prisoners.

December 5, 2013. CFI Press Release. Prisoners Provided with Books on Atheism and Science in Secular Initiative.

April 1, 2011. Canadian Atheist. Atheists in Prison.

March 29, 2011. Choice in Dying. Freethought Books Project.  

February 8, 2011. Daylight Atheism. Help Bring Freethought to Prisoners. 

November 9, 2009. FFRF. Project Puts Freethought Behind Bars. 

September 1, 2007. Friendly Atheist. Freethought Books to Prisoners. 

January 11, 2007. SSA Empirical. Freethought Books to Prisoners Drive.