Spend Independence Weekend at Lake Hypatia fest

The 21st annual Independence Weekend Celebration at Lake Hypatia, Ala. is set for Friday, July 1 through Sunday, July 3, at FFRF’s southern Freethought Hall and Freethought Advance.

Hosted by the Alabama Freethought Society, an FFRF chapter, and its director Patricia Cleveland, the annual advance (not retreat!) takes place in rural Talladega, where FFRF owns an air-conditioned auditorium and meeting space. FFRF’s impressive granite Atheists in Foxholes monument is nestled amid pines on grounds opened up to freethinkers for the event by the Cleveland family. The land abuts a small lake and the Talladega National Forest.

Speakers this year include James McCollum, who as a schoolchild was involved in the landmark Supreme Court decision outlawing religious public school instruction. The case, McCollum v. Board of Education (1948) is the subject of a new documentary, “The Lord Was Not on Trial Here,” airing in May on PBS TV.

McCollum, a Lifetime Member from Arkansas, is a retired attorney and educator. His wife, Betty McCollum, who teaches courses in philosophy and religious studies, will join the roster to talk about women and religion.

Invited to be an “Atheist in Foxhole” awardee is Justin Griffith, who has exposed state/church violations at his base in Fort Bragg, N.C., and whose attempt to organize a “Rock Beyond Belief” event to counter a Billy Graham event on base had to be canceled due to military nonsupport.

Foundation Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor will speak about current FFRF actions, and Barker will team up with cartoonist and ex-Mormon Steve Benson for a reprise of Tunes ’n’ Toons, a musical cartoon revue on religion. Joining Pat Cleveland to speak about organizing in the bible belt will be Mark Zumbach, director of the Triangle Freethought Society, the Raleigh-Durham FFRF chapter, and Bill Dusenberry, an organizer with the new Tulsa FFRF chapter.

Other speakers will be announced.

“We’re putting the emphasis on activism for state/church separation and freethought,” said Cleveland.

The Clevelands generously open up their personal grounds surrounding Freethought Hall for registered participants who reserve in advance for RVs or primitive camping. Showers and washrooms are available onsite. There are many motels in the area. For lodging, map, directions and more about Lake Hypatia, visit:


This is a relaxed, family-friendly event. Events take place in the air-conditioned facilities and meals are served in the lakeside pavilion. The event includes the traditional Poetry in the Pines led by Alice Cleveland, a nature demonstration by retired zookeeper Bob Truett, the annual “atheists vs. agnostics” football match and a freethought trivia game.

You can register online at


or use the form on the Freethought Today back wrapper. You can also download a registration form online to mail in to Alabama Freethought Society, PO Box 571, Talladega, AL 35161.

Registration is $35 per FFRF member, $40 per nonmember, $5 per FFRF student member and $10 per nonmember student.

Four catered meals will be offered (Friday night, Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner, Sunday brunch) and are $12 per adult, $6 per student. (There’s usually an inexpensive hot dog/veggie dog lunch offered by a private couple on Friday.)

There are no nearby restaurants so order meals now. Meal orders and early registrations must be in hand by June 22. There is a $10 late fee per person for registration after June 22. No meals may be ordered after that cutoff.

Freedom From Religion Foundation