33rd national convention for Freedom From Religion

Truth-tellers Hirsi Ali, Uygur are FFRF's 'Emperor' awardees

MADISON, Wis. — Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of the poignant memoirs Infidel and Nomad, and Cenk Uygur, host and founder of "The Young Turks," the first-ever live, daily web-TV show, will each accept an Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation at its upcoming national convention.

The award is reserved for public figures who take on the fabled role of the little child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and “tell it like it is” — about religion. (Previous recipients are here.)

FFRF's 33rd annual national convention is Oct. 29-31 (Halloween weekend) at the Concourse Hotel near the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. It returns every three years to Madison, where FFRF is based.

Hirsi Ali, a Somalian Muslim refugee turned Dutch citizen-feminist-freethinker and international proponent of secularism, founded the AHA Foundation to protect and defend the rights of Muslim women in the West against militant Islam.

"The Young Turks" launched in 2002 as Sirius Satellite Radio’s first original program before extending its reach online. The Turkish-born Uygur, an agnostic, is a former practicing lawyer and television writer based in Los Angeles. He's a regular guest host and commentator on MSNBC and is one of Huffington Post’s most-read bloggers.

FRIDAY

The convention opens Friday at 3 p.m. with early registration and complimentary hors d’oeuvres at the hotel. (Registration continues through convention.) FFRF Co-President Dan Barker will present a PowerPoint of the year in review: legal, billboards, TV coverage, bus signs and other campaigns, followed by a one-hour getting acquainted session ending at 5 p.m.

The formal Friday evening program starts with a video welcome from Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, Wisconsin's first elected female lieutenant governor, who is active in economic, feminist, arts and environmental issues.

Also speaking is Linda Greenhouse, who won a Pulitzer Prize covering the Supreme Court as a reporter for the New York Times for 30 years. She'll talk about her new book, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling. Her speech is titled "Monumental Questions for the Supreme Court.”

Hirsi Ali will accept the Emperor Award and speak after Greenhouse. Both will autograph books afterward. A complimentary dessert reception will end the evening.

SATURDAY

On Saturday, formal welcomes by FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker will follow a Non-Prayer Breakfast with its hilarious "moment of bedlam" instead of prayer. Also speaking will be James F. Crow, 94, a Foundation member and world-renowned professor of biology after whom the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s new evolution institute is named.

Other Saturday morning speakers include:
Eric Workman, the Thomas Jefferson Student Activist Scholarship winner. Workman, as class valedictorian, went to court last spring and halted illegal prayers at his high school graduation in Greenwood, Ind.
Kirk Mefford and Aaron Blom, faculty advisers to FFRF’s Madison West High School chapter, aka “the most hated U.S. public high school club.”
• An FFRF legal panel, with short presentations and Q&A by FFRF staff attorneys Rebecca Markert and Patrick Elliott and litigation attorney Richard L. Bolton.

The afternoon program includes:
• Crowd favorite and comedian Julia Sweeney, who will speak and answer questions. Julia, an actress, comedian and “Saturday Night Live” alum, has written and performed the critically acclaimed “Letting Go of God” play, now a movie.
Mike Konopacki, formerly an editorial cartoonist with The Capital Times newspaper, will present and discuss his ironic “In God We Trust — A Biblical History,” his visual rejoinder to the Texas Education Board’s revisionist history curriculum. Uygur's Emperor Award acceptance speech follows.

After a 6:30 p.m. banquet, the entertainment includes the traditional drawing for “clean,” pre-“In God We Trust” currency and a reprise of Tunes 'n' Toons featuring FFRF's very musical Dan Barker and Steve Benson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Arizona Republic editorial cartoonist. His late grandfather, Ezra Taft Benson, was Mormon Church president.

The annual membership and Board of Directors meetings take place Sunday morning.

The deadline to reserve rooms at the Concourse is Oct. 6. Please book now or it will be too late.

More convention information is here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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