2014 National Convention Speakers

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Freedom From Religion
     37th Annual National Convention ­
Weekend of Oct. 24-25, 2014
Millennium Biltmore Hotel
506 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA, 90071-2607


johanson lucy

 

  • One honoree of the 2014 Emperor Has No Clothes Award 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, Lucy’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 for the 2014 Emperor Has No Clothes Award 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, an 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 “housing allowances” that can be subtracted from taxable income. FFRF has a successful challenge on appeal in the federal courts of the parish exemption. He’ll talk on “The Vanishing Wall Separating Church and State."

 


 

  • 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 O’Connor, is the author of God and the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty, newly updated this year. She wrote FFRF’s amicus brief before the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby challenge of the contraceptive mandate. Her speech is titled: What is Wrong with Extreme Religious Liberty.

 


 

  • Anthony Pinn was the first African-American to hold an endowed chair at Rice University after earning degrees from Harvard and Columbia. He’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 God's Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist.

 


 

  • New York-based photographer Christopher Johnson will give a photo presentation, “A Better Life: Atheists Speak Out on Joy and Meaning.” 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” (2003–2007), Schuyler Joplin on ABC's “One Life to Live” (2009–2010), 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 “Theoretical B.S.”

 


 

  • Jessica Ahlquist became known in 2012 after a lawsuit to remove a religious prayer from her school auditorium. The suit, Ahlquist v. Cranston, was filed with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, and was ultimately decided in her favor. In 2011 she received FFRF’s Thomas Jefferson Youth Student Activist Award. Ahlquist has been an invited speaker at a number of events, spanning at least five US states and international media. Her speech is called: Communicating Secular Ideas with the Religious.

 


 

  • danDan Barker is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation with his wife Annie Laurie Gaylor. He was a Christian preacher and musician for 19 years who left Christianity in 1984. To this day he receives royalties from his popular children's Christian musicals, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "His Fleece Was White as Snow." Barker graduated from Azusa Pacific University and currently lives in Madison, Wis. Besides being a successful musician with over 200 composed and recorded songs, Barker is the author of several books including "Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist," (1992) and "Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists" (2008). Barker has appeared on such shows as "Oprah Winfrey," "Good Morning American," "The Daily Show" and "60 Minutes - Australia." FFRF has released three of his musical albums: "My Neighborhood Atheist," "Beware of Dogma" and "Adrift on a Star." He is chair of the Clergy Project, helping ministers who have lost faith leave the ministry.

 


 

  • pkrebeccamarkertRebecca Markert attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her B.A. in political science, international relations and German in 1998. After graduating from UW–Madison, Rebecca spent one year working as a legislative fellow at the German Parliament in Bonn, Germany. In the fall 1999, she returned to the United States and began working as a legislative correspondent and assistant to the chief of staff for United States Senator Russ Feingold in Washington, D.C. In 2002, she returned to Madison, Wisconsin, to work on Senator Feingold’s 2004 re-election campaign. After the campaign, Rebecca attended Roger Williams University School of Law and received her Juris Doctor in 2008. She joined the Foundation staff in October 2008. Rebecca is the FFRF’s first staff attorney and primarily works on Establishment Clause cases. She is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin.

 


 

  • pkpatrickelliottPatrick Elliot is the Foundation's second staff attorney, hails from St. Paul, Minn. Patrick received a degree in legal studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. He attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and received his Juris Doctor in 2009. While in school, Patrick took an interest in the First Amendment and constitutional law. He joined FFRF as a staff attorney in July 2010, after working part-time for the Foundation since February. Patrick is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Western and Eastern Districts of Wisconsin.

 


 

  • pkandrewseidelAndrew Seidel graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science and magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School, where he was awarded the Haber J. McCarthy Award for excellence in environmental law. He studied human rights and international law at the University of Amsterdam and traveled the world on Semester at Sea. In May of 2011, Andrew completed his Master of Laws at Denver University Sturm College of Law with a 4.0 GPA and was awarded the Outstanding L.L.M. Award. He has written a book on International Human Rights Law and his essay on the role of religion in government and the founding of our nation placed second in the FFRF's 2010 graduate student essay contest. Andrew is a former Grand Canyon tour guide and accomplished nature photographer; his work has been displayed in galleries in Colorado, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Maryland. He joined the FFRF staff as a constitutional consultant in November 2011.

 


 

  • manciniBarbara Mancini was charged with aiding suicide in 2013 for handing her dying father his prescribed morphine. The prosecution nearly cost her her livelihood and put her in the spotlight of a national debate on end-of-life choice. She will discuss her prosecution, how religiosity intruded in this criminal case, and the implications for all of us who will be facing end-of-life issues one day. Barbara lives in Philadelphia, with her husband and two daughters. Her father, Joe Yourshaw, was raised Catholic and became a free-thinker as a young adult. Barbara, her husband and children have been free-thinkers for many years.

 


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