High school and college students may attend FFRF's 34th annual national convention Oct. 7-9, 2011, in Hartford, Conn., for free this year!
"We know the economy is tough, budgets are tight and we're like to make it as easy as possible for freethinking students to meet up and be part of a national freethought event celebrating activism and intellect," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Three student activists are being honored, along with other activists. High-powered intellects appearing include Steven Pinker, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein and Jerry Coyne. Octogenarian Broadway composer Charles Strouse ("Bye Bye, Birdie," "Annie" and many standards) will make a rare appearance and talk about why he is not religious.
Although FFRF is waiving student registration, students are asked to pre-register (so FFRF has a head count). Two optional meals are offered and there is a student rate for the pre-convention Mark Twain House tour ($14 instead $16).
Hotel rooms at the convention rate of $159 (single to quadruple) plus tax may be reserved through Thursday, Sept. 15 at the Marriott Hartford Downtown, 200 Columbus Bvd. Phone 1-866-373-9806 (or reserve online requesting the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” Group Block). "We encourage students to take advantage of the quadruple rates and come in groups," says Gaylor.
Three students are receiving student activist awards of $1,000 each at the Saturday morning program:
• Jessica Ahlquist, 16, who is suing her Rhode Island school over its promotion of prayer and has faced reprisal.
• Harrison Hopkins, who, with FFRF, stopped his school's scheduled "vote" on whether to have illegal prayers at his high school graduation (and also faced reprisal at his South Carolina high school).
•Dylan Galos, a graduate student whose "I can be good without God" offering in FFRF's "Out of the Closet" billboard campaign in Columbus, Ohio, was censored twice before finding a safe home. Galos will be a Ph.D. candidate this fall at the University of Minnesota.
A weekend of serious freethought fun includes the optional Mark Twain House tour, the Friday evening complimentary dessert and social, the Saturday morning Non-Prayer Breakfast with its “moment of bedlam,” and the Saturday night drawing for “clean” (no “In God We Trust”) currency. The event is emceed by Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Students may sign up to tour the fascinating Mark Twain Home and Museum on Friday afternoon, Oct. 7. The shuttle will leave the hotel every half hour from 11:30 a.m.; the last ride is from the museum at 5:30 p.m.) Guides will be posted in rooms at the Twain home to answer questions. There is a self-guided tour at the museum. There is a Japanese cafe open till 4 p.m. Museum operators suggest devoting two hours to complete the tour. Students must pre-register and pre-pay as the museum requires an advance count.
Friday night features Steven Pinker, best-selling author and Harvard University evolutionary biologist. He will talk about the topic of his hot-off-the press book, debuting on Oct. 4, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Declined. Pinker is a previous recipient of the Emperor Has No Clothes Award and is an FFRF honorary director.
MacArthur Fellow Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, will talk on “36 (Bad) Arguments for the existence of God.” Ms. Goldstein will be named 2012 Freethought Heroine. Goldstein and Pinker will both autograph their books. The evening ends with a complimentary dessert reception.
The Saturday morning program, which follows the Non-Prayer Breakfast, will include a "PowerPoint" report of FFRF highlights in the last year, a short report by staff attorney Patrick Elliott on FFRF legal victories, the student awardees, plus a Freethinker of the Year award to Mitch Kahle for stopping government prayers in the Hawaii Senate.
The afternoon program includes a talk by Joe Taylor, "Finding My Way By Losing It: A Christian Music Icon's Path to Disbelief, " Taylor, now teaching at James Madison University, was a Christian rocker (known as Ojoe Taylor) who has left religion. His music won Dove awards (the Christian equivalent of the Grammy). Steve Trunk, a Vietnam War veteran, will receive an Atheist in Foxhole award as victorious plaintiff in the long-awaited victory to declare unconstitutional the Mount Soledad cross, masquerading as a veterans memorial in San Diego.
Dan Barker will entertain at the piano with his irreverent freethought tunes.
After the banquet dinner (chairs are brought in before the program begins for those who prefer to eat elsewhere) FFRF will award its Emperor Has No Clothes Award to Broadway composer Charles Strouse, and well-known freethinking scientist Jerry Coyne, the evolutionary biologist and author. Strouse will sign copies of his book Put on a Happy Face: A Broadway Memoir, and Coyne will sign coies of Why Evolution is True.
The two optional group meals include the Saturday morning Non-Prayer Breakfast and the Saturday night banquet.
Early registration opens at the hotel by 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, (Friday dinner is on your own) and continues throughout the convention. The convention program opens formally Friday at 7 p.m. with honorees, speeches and dessert, continues all day Saturday, and concludes by Sunday at noon following the annual membership and Board of Director meetings.
Visit FFRF's convention site for maps, direction, details on the hotel, convention schedule, menu, convention and Hartford FAQ and speakers. The hotel is less than a mile from Hartford Union Station, served by AMTRAK and major bus lines.
See you there!