Freedom From Religion Foundation expands downtown building - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Freedom From Religion Foundation expands downtown building

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Courtesy: Architect Bill Montelbano & WI State Journal Courtesy: Architect Bill Montelbano & WI State Journal

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Freedom From Religion Foundation is schedule to break ground on a major expansion, Monday, of its headquarters in downtown Madison.

The foundation is a fast-growing national organization of atheists, agnostics and other "freethinkers".

The project will remodel and expand the foundation's current building at the corner of West Washington Avenue and North Henry Street, in addition to an adjoining four-story add-on.  The total square footage of the expansion will quadruple.

According to foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor, the expansion is due to the existing building being cramped and not able to accommodate the staff needed to support the non-profit organization's membership growth. 

The addition will replace the apartment building. The top floor will be an auditorium with seating for about 130 people, he third floor will include a radio and television studio. The entire second floor will be a dedicated legal wing.

The foundation has 13 permanent staff positions, plus numerous interns and volunteers. It hired its first full-time staff attorney in 2007 and now has four.

"We're winning a lot of legal victories, and the more victories you get, the more requests for help you get," Gaylor said.

The foundation takes on alleged violations of the separation of church and state, sometimes filing lawsuits but more often using the threat of legal action to force changes.  The organization also works to educate the public about non-theism.

The foundation is in the midst of a $1.5-million fundraising campaign, which will fund much of the expansion, Gaylor said.  

Ald. Mike Verveer, who represents the area, said "from the neighborhood perspective, and my perspective, we appreciate them as neighbors and welcome their expansion," he said.

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