Ron Reagan, the “unabashed atheist, not afraid of burning in hell” who kindly recorded a recent and much-censored TV commercial for FFRF, will keynote its 38th national convention at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive, Madison, Wis., on the weekend of Oct. 9–11, 2015.
The convention center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is next to Lake Monona and two blocks from Wisconsin’s impressive State Capitol and next door to the convention hotel, the Hilton. (There’s a memorial along the lake near the convention center noting that singer Otis Redding and six members of his band died there on Dec. 10, 1967, when their plane plunged into the lake’s icy waters.) Reserve your hotel room now to avoid disappointment at the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace Hotel, 9 E. Wilson St., room rate $169 single or double, by phoning toll-free 1-866-403- 8838 or 1-608-255-5100. The group name is Freedom From Religion Foundation and the group code is FFRF. Book online at ffrf.org/convention2015 — go to the hotel site section, which links directly to reservations. The cutoff is Sept. 7, or as long as rooms last.
For those who are driving in or don’t mind staying away from downtown, there are additional rooms at the Sheraton Madison Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, which provides a free shuttle to and from the convention center every half hour from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sheraton rates are $139 single/double/triple/quad. Make your reservations at 1-800-325-3535 and let them know you’re with “Freedom From Religion.”
You may wish to arrive Thursday in order to tour the “reborn” Freethought Hall Friday morning, which is 6 short blocks from the convention center. An informal open house will be held from 9–11:30 AM. Please indicate if you plan to attend on the registration form, to help ensure FFRF orders enough refreshments. Enjoy rolls, juice, coffee and tea and socializing in the Charlie Brooks Auditorium, top floor, where a short video presentation on the building and FFRF will play. Staff members will be posted throughout the building to greet, answer questions and make sure you don’t get lost! If you ordered a paving stone, look for it in the Rose Zerwick Memorial Garden & Courtyard, or your vestibule tile in the entry. Major donors’ names will be found in the Wall of Honor and Donor Wall in the Anne Nicol Gaylor Lobby. Every donor will be listed in a book on the reception desk. Due to time and staff constraints, this will be the only time to tour during the convention.
Joining Reagan as confirmed speakers are:
Ron Reagan, the “unabashed atheist, not afraid of burning in hell” who kindly recorded a recent and much-censored TV commercial for FFRF, will keynote its 38th national convention. Reagan is a commentator on MSNBC and author of "My Father at 100," and a former ballet dancer with Joffrey Ballet.
Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, will also speak about his newest book, Life-Driven Purpose: How an atheist finds meaning, an answer to Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life, and will autograph books. Dan, a talented pianist and songwriter who has recorded three music CDs for FFRF, will also entertain throughout the conference. Douglas Marshall will receive a Freethinker of the Year Award as the local plaintiff in FFRF’s most recent federal court victory, forcing the town of Warren, Mich., to permit him to put up a Reason Station to counter an ongoing prayer booth that dominates the atrium of his city hall.
Ernie Chambers, Senator of Neb., of Marsh v. Chambers fame, received a "Hero of the First Amendment" award in 2005 for his 40 years of stalwart support of secularism in the Nebraska statehouse and his challenge of paid chaplains at the legislature.
FFRF staff attorneys Rebecca Markert, Andrew Seidel, Liz Cavell, Patrick Elliott and Sam Grover will give a detailed presentation on their major accomplishments in ending state/church entanglements in 2015. Other speakers and honorees will be announced in future issues. You have a chance to receive an expenses-paid trip to the convention.
Steven Hewett will be honored with FFRF’s Atheist in Foxhole Award. The former police officer and Afghanistan war veteran returned home with a Combat Action Badge and Bronze Star, only to find a Christian flag flying at the Veterans Memorial in King, N.C. In December, following a long court battle taken on his behalf by Americans United, the city agreed to stop flying the Christian flag and to remove a cross from a kneeling soldier statue. Steven is a Lifetime FFRF Member.
Kevin M. Kruse, the Princeton University professor of history whose new book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, is creating a lot of excitement. He recently appeared on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, and has authored or co-edited four other books. His White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (2005), won several prizes.
Douglas Marshall will receive a Freethinker of the Year Award as the local plaintiff in FFRF’s most recent federal court victory, forcing the town of Warren, Mich., to permit him to put up a Reason Station to counter an ongoing prayer booth that dominates the atrium of his city hall.
Taslima Nasrin, who has been under a fatwa for about 20 years from Bangladesh imams, was receiving escalating death threats and was on the same “hit list” as three atheist bloggers hacked to death on the streets of Bangladesh. She relocated from India with help from FFRF and the Center for Inquiry this June. She will receive FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, reserved for public figures who “tell it like it is about religion.” Nasrin had worked as an anesthesiologist in Bangladesh, became a poet and columnist and wrote a novel, Shame in 1993, when the first fawa was issued against her. She received a Freethought Heroine Award from FFRF in 2002. Nasrin has said, “Religion is the great oppressor, and should be abolished.”
Anita Weier will be honored as Freethought Heroine for introducing a historic ordinance to make “nonreligion” a protected class in Madison, Wis. Weier, former city editor for The Capital Times, served as an alderperson for two terms. Her “first of its kind” ordinance passed with no dissent on March 31.
If you persuade your prayerful local governmental body to let you to give a secular invocation, you can enter FFRF’s Nothing Fails Like Prayer contest (see details at ffrf.org/outreach/nothing-fails-like-prayer). The award includes opening a session of the conference with your secular words and a $500 award, plaque, transportation and accommodations at the convention. FFRF will honor major donors who made possible the expansion of Freethought Hall at Saturday’s dinner, which will also include the annual drawing for “clean money” (pre-“In God We Trust”).