The 31st national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation will meet on the weekend of Oct. 10-12, 2008, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr.
The FFRF event begins Friday night, continues all day Saturday, and concludes by noon following the Sunday morning annual membership and Board of Directors meetings.
Convention speakers include:
- Dan Barker, Foundation Co-President, whose new book, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists was just published by Ulysses Press. Dan, a songwriter and author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, will also entertain briefly at the piano.
- Webster Cook, an Orlando junior, who will receive the 2008 Ruth (Dixie) Jokinen Memorial Student Activist Award. Catholic officials and spokesmen had called on his public university to expel Webster, after he attended a Catholic mass held at the university union and did not swallow the communion wafer. Webster, a former Catholic, was on a field trip with a nonCatholic student to introduce his friend to Catholic customs. Webster, who is under impeachment proceedings from his student senate, has been an outspoken critic of the use of student segregated fees for campus religious groups, including the Catholic Church.
- Journalist Eleanor Clift, Newsweek’s contributing editor, speaking on “Two Weeks of Life—Reflections on Religion and Politics.” Ms. Clift’s insightful new book, Two Weeks of Life, in part contrasts the death of her unbelieving husband, Tom Brazaitis, a journalist, with that of Terri Schiavo. The two essentially were dying during the same two-week period.
- Tufts University’s Prof. Daniel C. Dennett, author of Breaking the Spell, receiving the Emperor Has No Clothes Award. Prof. Dennett is an outspoken nonbeliever and professor of philosophy.
- Scott Dikkers, editor-in-chief of The Onion, who will showcase memorable irreverent Onion spoof parodies. Dikkers, a comedy writer and filmmaker, was editor-in-chief of The Onion from 1989-2000, and returned to that position in 2005. He is also the author of several humor books.
- Jeremy Hall, receiving the Atheist in Foxhole Award as brave plaintiff in a case against Pentagon proselytizing. Hall is primary plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging military discrimination against freethinkers in Iraq. Jeremy, 24, is a Foundation member. He was removed from Iraq to protect his life after the lawsuit was launched, and harassment and threats continues at Fort Riley, Kansas.
- Jim McCollum, who will receive a “Champion of the First Amendment” award to commemorate the 60th anniversary of McCollum v. Board of Education. Jim, a longtime Foundation member, is a retired attorney and teacher. His mother, Vashti McCollum, an honorary FFRF officer, challenged religious instruction in the Champaign, Ill., public schools on behalf of Jim, then an elementary student, and wrote One Woman’s Fight, reprinted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, about the extraordinary fight she took to preserve secular public schools. Jim has stayed a stalwart defender of the First Amendment.
- Journalist Jeff Sharlet, who will talk about “The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” The public face of the secretive ministry is the annual National Prayer Breakfast, but Sharlet uncovers the group's hold on federal government and politics.
- Kay Staley, who will be named “Freethinker of the Year,” for her lawsuit victory before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ridding the Harris County Civil Courthouse of a bible monument. Ms. Staley is an attorney working in real estate in Texas.
Also featured: music, socializing, FFRF book and sales tables, booksignings and the popular annual drawing for “clean,” pre-“In God We Trust” currency.
Press who wish to cover any part of Friday or Saturday proceedings are asked to check-in at the registration table, Crystal Ballroom, street level.