20th Annual FFRF Convention: Twentieth Anniversary Convention Meets In Tampa (September 1997)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s twentieth anniversary convention will meet during the weekend of Dec. 5-7, 1997, at the Hyatt Regency Westshore, Tampa Bay, Florida.

Please make your hotel reservations now if you wish to attend. (See below for hotel details.)

Joining the roster of announced speakers is The Nation’s irreverent cartoonist, Ed Sorel, a long-time Foundation member. The New York resident was profiled in a 1993 New York Times article by William Grimes, who summed up Sorel as “one of America’s foremost political satirists.” The son of Jewish immigrants, Sorel has been a political cartoonist for more than a quarter of a century, and his work has appeared in Time, The New Yorker, Harper’s Esquire, The Atlantic, The Nation, Village Voice and Ramparts magazine, among others. His “Unauthorized Portraits” (October 1997, Alfred A. Knopf) will be available at the convention. Mr. Sorel’s talk will include slides of some of his political cartoons.

“Freethinker of the Year” will be Michael Chandler, an assistant principal whose lawsuit this spring quashed prayer and religion in Alabama public schools. He has worked as a teacher, counselor and assistant principal in the DeKalb County School System for 25 years, serving as assistant principal for the past 13 years. He attended Fyffe High School where his son is currently enrolled, and where many state/church violations were occurring, prompting him to become lead plaintiff in the ACLU’s recent case, which also included a “Jane Doe & Daughter” from the Talledega school district. The verdict in Mr. Chandler’s favor was handed down by a federal court judge this spring.

Also speaking will be Foundation member John M. Suarez, M.D., who will speak about: “The Radical Religious Right: Beyond Stealth.” Dr. Suarez is a Foundation member living in California, a freethought activist and a member of the Board of Trustees of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Previously announced speakers include scientist Alan Hale (of Hale-Bopp Comet fame), Charleston Gazette newspaper editor in chief, James Haught, author of 2,000 Years of Disbelief, and “skeptical feminist” author Barbara G. Walker.

A panel of “Alabama infidels” will include engineer Al Faulkenberry, the juror who challenged prayerful Judge Roy Moore in his courtroom; Gloria Hershiser, a plaintiff in the case against Judge Moore; Pat Cleveland, director of the Foundation chapter, the Alabama Freethought Association, also a plaintiff in the case, and student activists who have protested Moore’s conduct, including Adam Butler.

Freethought Today editor Annie Laurie Gaylor will present a slideshow on “Women Without Superstition,” based on her new anthology, and Foundation PR director Dan Barker will entertain at the piano with new and old favorite freethought songs.

A “welcome address” will be given by Florida resident Jim Strayer, who worked with the late Florida activist Blanche Fearn. Jim, a retired biology teacher, will introduce convention-goers to the “real” natural attractions of Florida.

Also featured: the annual “Nonprayer Luncheon,” flower awards, and the popular drawing for “godless” currency (pre-1956, without the motto “In God We Trust”). Following the Friday-evening and all-day Saturday convention program will be the Sunday morning annual membership meeting and Board of Directors meeting.

Plan also to spend some time exploring the Hyatt Regency Westshore hotel, which received an Audubon award for its 35-acre nature preserve on the Bay, and which caters to walkers, joggers, swimmers, tennis players and sports club work-out fans. Its top-of-the-hotel seafood restaurant, Armani’s, has been named one of the ten best restaurants in Florida, and the hotel’s “chocolate bar” is also popular.

Please reserve your room directly with the Hyatt Regency Westshore at this time if you plan to attend (see sidebar). To sign up for the convention, please return the coupon on this page to the Foundation. Registration is $40 per person ($50 per nonmember). The Saturday nonprayer luncheon is $20 per person and the Saturday night banquet is $30 per person. The Foundation must receive your convention registration and meal orders by Monday, Dec. 1 (mail no later than Friday, Nov. 28). Convention meals cannot be ordered during the convention or after the Dec. 1 cut-off.

The next Freethought Today will publish a schedule of the convention.

Reserve Hotel Room Now!

To avoid disappointment, if you wish to stay at the site of the convention, please make your hotel reservations now by calling the Hyatt Regency Westshore, Tampa Bay, at 1-800-233-1234 (specify you are attending the FFRF convention).

Please use the full hotel name when reserving rooms–there is more than one Hyatt in Tampa. Convention rate is $109 plus tax, single or double, per night.

The convention program begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5 and concludes Saturday evening following a banquet dinner and final speech. There is a Sunday morning business meeting concluding by noon.

Hotel check-in is 3 p.m. and check-out is noon.

The Hyatt Regency Westshore, five minutes’ drive from the convenient Tampa International Airport, offers a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. It also offers a free shuttle service to the nearby Westshore shopping mall and food court.

Hotels are increasingly adopting early cut-off dates for convention blocks, and this in-demand hotel is filling up fast. To avoid disappointment and ensure you will be able to attend, please make your hotel reservations now.

If you have any questions or encounter any difficulties in making room reservations, please contact Anne Gaylor, Foundation president, at (608)256-8900.

Freedom From Religion Foundation