Speakers Announced For Convention ’95 (August 1995)

Today’s greatest threats to state/church separation will be headlined at the upcoming 18th annual convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation–with “time-outs” for freethought music, poetry, socializing and a Statehouse Rally for State/Church Separation at the Denver capitol.

The convention will take place the weekend of Friday, Sept. 29 – Sunday, Oct. 1, 1995 at the downtown Executive Tower Inn, 1405 Curtis St., Denver, Colorado.

Events begin the evening of Friday, Sept. 29 with award presentations followed by freethought music and complimentary cake. A full day of speeches and festivities takes place on Saturday, Sept. 30. (A complete program schedule can be found on the back page.)

Addressing the divisiveness of public prayer will be the 1995 Freethinker of the Year, 22-year-old Beverly Harris, an Idaho student who litigated commencement prayers in her conservative community, and Alabama attorney Joel Sogol, who is fighting courtroom prayers in a lawsuit involving the Alabama Freethought Association. Providing a little relief from prayer will be the Foundation’s popular “Non-Prayer Breakfast” with its traditional “moment of bedlam.”

Vouchers to religious schools, the most ominous threat to state/church separation, will be addressed by attorney Melanie Cohen, who is part of the legal team challenging Wisconsin’s unprecedented decision to grant money for parochial school tuition. The Wisconsin challenge through the ACLU is being watched nationwide.

Attorney Robert R. Tiernan will address the overall picture with his speech, “A Bad Year for the Establishment Clause.” He is taking legal challenges for several Foundation lawsuits in Denver, including the Ten Commandments case. Convention-goers will have a chance to participate in a rally at the site of the litigated Ten Commandments marker and to protest the recent decision by the Colorado State Supreme Court to permit the religious marker to remain on public property. The Foundation is seeking a permit to erect a protest marker reading:

“There are no gods,
no devils, no angels,
no heaven or hell.
There is only
our natural world.
Religion is but myth
and superstition
that hardens hearts
and enslaves minds.”

Katha Pollit, assistant editor of The Nation, will receive a “Freethought Heroine” award for her tenacious and eloquent defense of reason and freethought. The atheist, essayist and poet, whose work regularly appears in the New Yorker, recently wrote (The Nation, December 26, 1994):

“For me, religion is serious business–a farrago of authoritarian nonsense, misogyny and humble pie, the eternal enemy of human happiness and freedom.”

Another literary change of pace will be provided by crowd-pleaser Philip Appleman, a New York poet and author of 11 books, including an early warning on the dangers of overpopulation The Silent Explosion (Beacon Press, 1965), and the forthcoming The Voyage Home: New and Selected Poems. He also edited an anthology, Darwin (W.W. Norton & Co., 1970; Revised Edition, 1979), and a 1975 edition of The Origin of Species.

Appleman’s poetry has been widely published. His 1991 Let There Be Light was promoted by HarperCollins as a “highly controversial collection of poems that satirize the Judeo-Christian tradition.” A firm freethinker, Prof. Appleman will speak on “Darwin, Freethought and Poetry.” An appearance will also be made by his wife, playwright Marjorie (M.H.) Appleman.

Dr. Meg Bowman, a California Foundation member, will speak on the global religious oppression of women in “Beijing or Bust? The China Adventure.” Dr. Bowman, an educator and author, will speak in part on the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing and give an eye-witness account of the religious war against women.

The schedule will also include the annual flower awards to friends and volunteers of the Foundation, remarks from Foundation president Anne Gaylor and Jeff Baysinger, director of the Denver FFRF chapter, and Jan Brazill, a Colorado member, as well as a tribute to the late Blanche Fearn from Florida member Jim Strayer. The annual drawing for “clean money” will be held, with the grand prize of a “godless” one hundred dollar bill, and runners-up of “clean” lower denominations.

See you there!

Will Mayor Webb Show?

Jeff Baysinger, coordinator of the Denver chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, recently sent the following letter to Denver’s Mayor Wellington Webb. Mayor Webb was ordered by a court not to use his office to sponsor a Day of Prayer two years ago, following a lawsuit taken by the Foundation and its Denver chapter. Mayor Webb was also named in a second Foundation lawsuit seeking to restrain public officials from using their offices to promote an official Colorado State Prayer Luncheon:

Honorable Mayor Wellington Webb:

Thank you for your reply letter of April 24, 1995, regarding the Colorado Prayer Luncheon. You stated in your letter, “If I declined to welcome the attendees of this luncheon, I would be evincing hostility to this group since I make it my practice to welcome all different kinds of meetings and conventions that choose Denver as the host city for their gatherings.”

I am pleased to inform you that the national office of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has selected Denver as the host city for their annual convention this fall. We would be pleased to have you come by for a welcoming address sometime during the convention. A couple of events you may wish to consider for attending, of course depending on your schedule, are either the opening address on Friday evening or the Non-Prayer Breakfast Saturday morning.

In case you aren’t aware, a nonprayer breakfast is a breakfast without prayer. Instead of the usual prayer meetings held by religious groups to influence government officials, our alternative breakfast gathering has a moment of pandemonium and bliss for the joyfulness of life. The moment is extremely fun; I don’t think you would want to miss witnessing it!

Would you kindly please respond with your schedule preference by the end of July so that we can fit you in the program and list you on the schedule?

Finally, congratulations on your recent re-election victory for Denver mayor! The Denver chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation extends you and Denver their best wishes.

Freedom From Religion Foundation