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Edwin Frederick Kagin, J.D., (born November 26, 1940) is an attorney at law in Union, Kentucky, and a founder of Camp Quest, the first secular summer camp in the United States for the children of secularists, atheists, agnostics, brights, skeptics, naturalists and freethinkers. He is married to Helen McGregor Kagin, a Canadian of Scottish descent from Regina, Saskatchewan, who is a retired anesthesiologist.
Edwin Kagin was born in Greenville, South Carolina, to a Presbyterian minister father who had been born in Kentucky and a Daughters of the American Revolution mother who had been born in South Carolina. His ancestry is German Calvinist on his father's side and Scottish Calvinist Presbyterian on his mother's—both sides boasting numerous clerics.
In youth Kagin became an Eagle Scout. In early adulthood he served in the United States Air Force as a medic in London, England, and received an Honorable Discharge in 1962. He then attended The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio; Park College in Parkville, Missouri; and the University of Missouri–Kansas City. At the School of Law of the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, he earned his Juris Doctor. The late 1960s intersected with this period of his higher education, and Kagin was among those who grew their hair long and challenged the status quo on a number of social and political issues.
Career and activism
Kagin worked for a time as a college English instructor and served as editor of the American Association of Mental Deficiency and National Institute for Mental Health project that created the Adaptive Behavior Scale, an instrument for the assessment of mental retardation. But the larger part of his career has been as an attorney, sometimes focusing on civil liberties and constitutional issues.
After abandoning belief in Christianity Kagin became a freethought activist. He was a founding member in 1991 of the Free Inquiry Group, Inc., (FIG) of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and served as its vice president.
Through his writings in Fig Leaves, the FIG newsletter, as well as those he published and circulated via the Internet, Kagin gradually became known in wider humanist and freethought circles. This led in 2003 to his authorship of a chapter in Kimberly Blaker's Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America and in 2005 to his own book, Baubles of Blasphemy, a collection of some of his often irreverent essays and poetry.
Kagin is the originator and was, for its first decade, Director of Camp Quest, the nation’s first residential secular summer camp for children of Atheists and other freethinkers (www.Camp-Quest.com), started in 1996 by FIG. First incorporated in 1996 by Kagin and others as Camp Quest Company, Inc., restructuring was required by 2002. He was then an incorporator, and a founding board member, of Camp Quest, Inc., a national non-profit corporation established in 2002 to operate Camp Quest. In 2005, following ten successful years, he and his wife Helen retired from this venture, after transferring control and management of Camp Quest to other hands. That same year they were named "Atheists of the Year" by American Atheists.
Kagin was also a founder and board member of Recover Resources Center, which provides an alternative addiction recovery program to the religiously-oriented Alcoholics Anonymous. He currently serves on the national advisory board of the Secular Student Alliance, is Kentucky state director for American Atheists, and on January 13, 2006, was named national legal director for American Atheists, replacing the retiring Duane Buchholtz.
As an outspoken public critic of religious intrusions into government, Kagin is a frequent speaker and debater at local and national events and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs, sparring on more than one occasion with Michael Medved. Kagin has also run prominently, albeit unsuccessfully, as “the candidate without a prayer” for the Kentucky Supreme Court (1998) and the Kentucky State Senate (2000). Moreover, some of his legal work has involved him in religious issues and church-state separation controversies in addition to other civil liberties and constitutional issues. He has been a member in good standing of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court since 1975.
Currently, Kagin is host for the Internet radio show “Answers in Atheism,” www.answersinatheism.net . He is also the current National Legal Director, and Kentucky State Director, for American Atheists. He is on its speaker’s bureau and in 2008 was voted onto the Board of Directors of American Atheists, Inc. Edwin and Helen Kagin were awarded the “Atheists of the Year” award for 2005 by American Atheists, and Edwin was named “Atheist of the Year” for 2008 “For Organizing The Very Successful Response To The Creationism Museum In Kentucky.” www.rallyforreason.com .
Beyond the above, Kagin is a National Rifle Association Certified Handgun Instructor, an honorary Black belt in Kenpo karate, and an honorary Kentucky Colonel. He has four children, Stephen, Eric, Heather, and Kathryn, a stepdaughter, Caroline, two granddaughters, Maren and Kennedy, and two grandsons, Ethan and Quinn.
Baubles of Blasphemy
The Fundamentals of Extremism (as contributor)
Kimberly Blaker, editor, Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, 2003, New Boston Books (ISBN 0-9725496-1-7)
Edwin Kagin, Baubles of Blasphemy, 2005, Freethought Press (ISBN 1-887392-14-9)