"Infidel Gala" Meeting in Irreverent
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The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest atheist/agnostic association, is putting on an "infidel gala" in San Francisco on the weekend of Oct. 6-7.
The convention opens Friday night, and continues through Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway Hotel, 1500 Van Ness St., San Francisco.
"We chose San Francisco partly because it has one of the most secular populations in the country," notes Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the state/church watchdog group.
The high-powered program of speakers, awardees and activists includes:
- Julia Sweeney, the Saturday Night Live alumna ("Androgynous Pat") whose one-woman monolog, "Letting Go of God," is a philosophical and comic tour de force. Sweeney will receive the Foundation's top prize, "The Emperor Has No Clothes" Award, a golden figurine reserved for public figures who "tell it like it is" on religion. She will perform the play to conclude the convention on Saturday night.
- Sam Harris, author of The New York Times bestseller, The End of Faith. His new book, Letter to a Christian Nation, has just debuted.
- Michelle Goldberg, a journalist with Salon.com, who has worked in the Bay area and will talk about her new book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.
- Receiving the premiere "Atheist in Foxhole" award will be state/church litigant Philip Paulson, who has battled the city of San Diego for 17 years over its sponsorship of the 43-foot-tall Mount Soledad "Easter" cross. Paulson has won court orders to remove the cross, but the city and now Congress, have intervened with legal maneuvers to halt its removal. Paulson, who is a Vietnam War-era veteran and community college teacher, is making a special effort to attend the convention, even though he has terminal cancer.
- Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-American psychiatrist, who catapulted onto the international scene with her interviews on Al-Jazeera TV as a former Muslim-turned-secular-humanist. Dr. Sultan will receive the Foundation's "Freethought Heroine" award.
- Feisty battler of religion at the Pentagon, Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein of New Mexico, who will receive a "Champion of the First Amendment" award in recognition of his lawsuit to end evangelizing by the U.S. Air Force. Weinstein is an attorney who once served in the Reagan White House, and was stationed for 10 years as a Judge Advocate General at military installations. His new book is With God on Our Side.
- Richard Sloan, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, who is an internationally known commentator about prayer, religion and medicine. He will also sign copies of his hot-off-the-press book, Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance and Religion and Medicine.
- Music will be provided by Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, a pianist and songwriter. Barker is the author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist.
The conference will also feature a NONprayer breakfast (with a "moment of bedlam") and a popular drawing for "clean" money (pre-"In God We Trust"). Convention details, registration costs and schedule are available at: http://ffrf.org/events/2006/
For Media: To cover the convention or set up pre-interviews, phone Annie Laurie Gaylor at 608/256-8900 by Wed., Oct. 4."