Join us at the beautiful Millennium Biltmore!
The Freedom From Religion Foundationâ€™s 37th annual national convention will take place Oct. 24-25, 2014, at the legendary Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles.
The Biltmore, a luxury hotel and favorite of dignitaries, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and is steps away from the L.A. Live entertainment complex, Staples Center, Ahmanson Theatre, Walt Disney Concert Hall and a few miles from Dodger Stadium.
FFRF is delighted to announce two distinguished scientists will accept its Emperor Has No Clothes Award, a brass statuette reserved for public figures who â€śtell it like it isâ€ť about religion.
One honoree is paleoanthropologist Donald C. Johanson, who is known for discovering the fossil of a female hominid australopithecine known as "Lucy" in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar, Ethiopia. Johanson is the founding director of the Institute of Human Origins, a human-evolution think tank, at Arizona State University. Johanson published his latest book about the Lucy discovery, Lucyâ€™s Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins (Harmony Books, 2009). He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Westfield State College in 2008.
The other distinguished honoree is physicist Sean Carroll, senior research associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. Carroll is a theoretical cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity. Carroll is the author of The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World. Carroll, and open atheist, occasionally takes part in formal debates or discussions with theists. In 2012, Carroll teamed up with Michael Shermer to debate Ian Hutchinson of MIT and author Dinesh D'Souza at Caltech in an event titled The Great Debate: Has Science Refuted Religion? In 2014, Carroll debated Christian apologist William Lane Craig as part of the Greer-Heard Forum in New Orleans. The topic for the debate was The Existence of God in Light of Contemporary Cosmology.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California-Irvine School of Law and author of The Conservative Assault on the Constitution is accepting a Champion of the First Amendment Award. Chemerinsky argued a Ten Commandments case before the U.S. Supreme Court and wrote a brief on behalf of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals laying out the unconstitutionality of the parish exemption, a law which allows ministers to be paid with â€śhousing allowancesâ€ť that can be subtracted from taxable income. FFRF has a successful challenge on appeal in the federal courts of the parish exemption. Heâ€™ll talk on â€śThe Vanishing Wall Separating Church and State.â€ť
Attorney Marci Hamilton, Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, will receive a Freethought Heroine Award. Hamilton, a constitutional scholar who clerked for Justice Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor, is the author of God and the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty, newly updated this year. She wrote FFRFâ€™s amicus brief before the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby challenge of the contraceptive mandate.
Anthony Pinn was the first African-American to hold an endowed chair at Rice University after earning degrees from Harvard and Columbia. Heâ€™s professor of humanities and religious studies and research director at the Institute for Humanist Studies. His books include Why, Lord? Suffering and Evil in Black Theology (1995), The End of God-Talk: An African American Humanist Theology and Writing Godâ€™s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist.
New York-based photographer Christopher Johnson will give a photo presentation, â€śA Better Life: Atheists Speak Out on Joy and Meaning.â€ť Johnson traveled the world photographing atheists for a fascinating 254-page book, A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God (2014).
Linda Stephens is from Greece, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester. Stephens has a B.A. in English (Western Michigan University), M.A. in English (SUNY-Brockport), master of library science (SUNY-Geneseo), Ed.D. (Syracuse University) and is now a retired librarian. Stephens was the atheist plaintiff in the Town of Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court decision. She is an event organizer for the Atheist Community of Rochester (ACoR) and the vice president and web administrator for the Rochester chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Stephens was vice chair of Monroe Citizens for Public Education and Religious Liberty before it disbanded and also the past president of the Greater Rochester chapter of the National Organization for Women. Stephens is a long-time FFRF Member and new Lifetime Member will receive the Freethinker of the Year Award.
Susan Galloway is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has worked most of her career in long-term care, specifically with people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. She is a long-time social justice activist. She is founding collective member of the Flying Squirrel Community Space in Rochester, New York, Susan is also is a member of the editorial board of Rochester Indymedia. She has been an advocate for the separation of church and state since elementary school when in 5th grade she refused to sing in her school's Christmas concert. Susan gained national attention in 2013 when the lawsuit, Town of Greece v. Galloway, in which she was a litigant advanced to the United States Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Court ruled in favor of the town of Greece allowing the continuance of sectarian prayer at town board meetings. Galloway will receive the Freethinker of the Year Award.
Scott Clifton is an Emmy-Award-winning actor who has played Dillon Quartermaine on ABC's General Hospital (2003â€“2007), Schuyler Joplin on ABC's One Life to Live (2009â€“2010), and Liam Cooper on CBS The Bold and the Beautiful (2010 - Present). He won an Emmy in 2011 and again in 2013. He is also a life-long atheist and host of the freethought Youtube blog â€śTheoretical B.S.â€ť
Other speakers and honorees will be announced in future issues and online at ffrf.org/convention/.
Those who might enjoy a little sightseeing can do so Friday morning, then attend afternoon workshops featuring staff attorneys and an appetizer reception from 3-5. Registration opens up at 2 p.m. and continues through the convention.
The program begins formally at 7 p.m. Friday night, including speakers, honorees and a complimentary dessert reception. Saturday begins with FFRFâ€™s nontraditional Non-Prayer Breakfast. An all-day program concludes after the evening keynote speech.
The convention will include the annual drawing for â€ścleanâ€ť (pre-â€śIn God We Trustâ€ť) currency and some entertainment at the piano by FFRF Co-President Dan (â€śThe Singing Atheistâ€ť) Barker. It is followed by the annual membership meeting and meeting of FFRF state representatives Sunday morning.
The Biltmoreâ€™s eateries include Smeraldiâ€™s and the Rendezvous Court, which offers traditional afternoon tea, as well as the Gallery Bar with jazz nights and signature martinis, along with Bugis Street Brasserie, offering authentic Singaporean-Chinese cuisine.
Registration is $65 for individual FFRF member, $70 for nonmember/spouse accompanying member, $105 for nonmember (includes $40 annual membership). Student registration is only $10. Click here to register.