Freethought on the Road

Nashville & CNN

Dan Barker

Last Friday, the day after we heard we won our National Day of Prayer lawsuit, we got a call from CNN producer Lisa Sylvester asking to set up an interview about the issue for a segment they are working on to run some time before May 6, this year's National Day of Prayer. They wanted to tape on Monday (today), but Annie Laurie was being interviewed by the New York Times, and I was flying to Nashville to give a talk at the Belcourt Theater. So we did it in Nashville! Lisa flew in from Washington, DC, and the camera crew drove over from Atlanta (!), and we all met at my hotel, the Doubletree Hotel near the Nashville airport for the interview this afternoon, just after my flight arrived. They went up to the desk of the hotel and asked if there were some place where they could set up the cameras, and the manager gave them a large conference room, for free! They went in and moved all the furniture around and turned the room into a little TV studio.


Lisa was very professional and fair during the interview. She asked many questions about why we filed suit, what is wrong with an official National Day of Prayer, what other lawsuits the Freedom From Religion Foundation have filed. She wanted to know about the principles behind our lawsuits and complaints. We talked about my story of deconversion from preacher to atheist. She was very interested in the growth of atheism in the United States. It was quite lively and comprehensive. She posed some Devil's Advocate questions, and told me what some of the other people she interviewed (including a pastor) are saying about the issue. After the interview was over, she wanted to keep talking. Tape was not running, but she seemed fascinated with the whole story. She seemed like she really wanted to know, for her own sake.

The segment might air this week, or next. They will let us know.

After that I was taken to dinner by Mark Mosely, the organizer and promoter of the event at the Belcourt, joined by some of his friends, and we had a blast talking about religion and atheism. We walked over to the Belcourt Theater to see that 183 people had bought tickets to the "Godless" event, which was partially sponsored by Secular Life, the second largest secular meetup group in the world (next to London). I really enjoyed talking from a real theater stage, the second time in as many months. (In March I got to talk to 2,500 atheists on a theater stage at the Rise of Atheism conference in Melbourne, Australia.) The Nashville audience was fun! There was a loud cheer when I announced our National Day of Prayer victory. Great questions afterward. It was nice to see Alvin Harris there, the Nashville attorney who took our 2004 winning lawsuit in Dayton, Tennessee, against the Rhea County School Board allowing students from the religious Bryan College to teach bible classes in the public schools.

There are MANY freethinkers in Nashville! I was pleased to see so many young people in the crowd. Many of them confessed that it is hard to come out in the state of Tennessee. Some of them are struggling with how to tell their families about their lack of belief. Some of the younger people have actually been shunned by their parents, and their sadness was visible. Still, we all seemed to agree that the times they are a-changin.

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