Paula Poundstone to headline FFRF’s 40th convention – sign up today!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to announce that comedian Paula Poundstone, an “out” atheist, will perform at our 40th annual convention the weekend of Sept. 15-17 in Madison, Wis. Poundstone, included in Comedy Central’s list of “100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time,” appears regularly as a panelist on NPR’s weekly news quip show, “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” Her book, The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, debuts on May 9 but is already on Amazon’s top 10 New Releases chart.

As this is FFRF’s 40th annual convention, kicking off a year of festivities, the registration is only $40, if you sign up by June 30.

The cost goes up $20 from July 1, which is still the best deal in the world of freethought conventions. 

SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE

Pre-convention fun begins Friday morning with an Open House and tour of Freethought Hall, FFRF’s newly expanded downtown offices, including complimentary light brunch items and Champagne Mimosas. There are many fascinating facets, including a photo-op with FFRF’s Charles Darwin mannequin, FFRF’s Atheists in Foxholes monument and historic mementos throughout. Visitors will be greeted by FFRF staff, can mingle with other members and are given a detailed Freethought Hall brochure for a self-guided tour. An optional “Betty Lou” cruise on Lake Monona includes lunch.

Registration reopens at 2 p.m. and the convention program officially begins Friday at 3 p.m. with speakers and awardees at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Dr., Madison, Wis. There’s a break for FFRF’s first “tail-gate party” with more speakers and awards that night, concluding with complimentary cake and hot beverages

The convention program continues Saturday, starting with FFRF’s traditional “Non-Prayer Breakfast” and concludes following Saturday night dinner, entertainment and speakers. Membership and State Representative meetings follow on Sunday morning and conclude by noon. 

SPEAKERS

Another exciting addition to the lineup is Katha Pollitt, Nation magazine columnist of “Subject to Debate,” poet and author, whose memoir, Learning to Drive, inspired a recent feature film starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. Her newest book is Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Pollitt won the American Sociological Association Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues in 2011. In 2013, her column, “Why Do We Romanticize the Fetus,” won a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood. Katha will be the deserving recipient of FFRF’s new “Forward” award, which recognizes individuals who are moving society forward.

Also just announced: 

  •  Kimberly Veal, a Chicago activist who is president of People of Color Beyond Faith, president and host of Black FreeThinkers Radio Network.
  • Brent Michael Davids, an American composer and flautist. Davids is a member of the Stockbridge Mohican nation of American Indians and will speak on, “Have you ever met an atheist American Indian?”
  • Kelly Helton, 12, a plucky 7th grader from Kentucky who will give a short talk about her activism.

They join a previously announced heavyweight lineup that includes:

  • Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, FFRF’s honorary president, an evolutionary psychologist and one of the foremost writers on language, mind and human nature. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology, and is author of 10 books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of our Nature and The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.
  • Maryam Namazie, who will fly in from London to receive the 2017 Henry H. Zumach Freedom From Fundamentalist Religion Award of $10,000. Namazie was born in Iran, is spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, as well as co-host of the TV show, “Bread & Roses.”
  • Michelle Goldberg, author and columnist for Slate, who often appears on MSNBC and whose books include Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.
  • Cara Santa Maria, the Los Angeles Emmy and Knight Foundation Award-winning journalist, science communicator and host of the weekly science podcast, “Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria.” She’ll be receiving FFRF’s Freethought Heroine Award.
  • Zenos Frudakis, an award-winning sculptor of public monuments and portrait statues and busts, speaking about the statue of Clarence Darrow he’s creating for dedication in July on the lawn of the site of the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn. 
  • A quartet of activists who are recent successful FFRF state/church plaintiffs, all receiving Freethinker of the Year awards. They are: Marie Schaub, whose lawsuit with FFRF just removed a 2-ton Ten Commandments monument from outside her daughter’s high school in Pennsylvania; plaintiffs Jesse Castillo and Kevin Price, who with FFRF removed Christian crosses from sheriffs’ cars in Brewster County, Texas; and plaintiff Jerry Bloom, who stopped censorship of FFRF’s winter solstice display in the city of Shelton, Conn.

Entertaining will be Roy Zimmerman, a satirical singer-songwriter and consummate artiste with a repertoire of irreverent songs, and Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, who will perform some of his freethought songs on the piano. FFRF Co-President and co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor will join Dan as emcee.

Also presenting about the legal achievements of the year will be FFRF’s legal department: Attorneys Rebecca Markert, Patrick Elliott, Andrew Seidel, Elizabeth Cavell, Sam Grover and Madeline Ziegler. Other FFRF staff will be on hand to welcome you.

A spot or two is being reserved for this year’s winner or winners of FFRF’s “Nothing Fails Like Prayer Contest.” This is a contest open to freethinkers who succeed in giving freethought invocations to counter official prayer at government meetings. See rules here.


The convention includes optional meals, including the Friday night “tail-gate party” with entertainment by the Forward Marching Band, a local band that uses music for social change, the Saturday “Non-Prayer Breakfast,” a “Grab and Go” Saturday lunch and a banquet dinner. The 40th annual convention will also include the popular annual chance to win “clean” currency (pre-”In God We Trust”) from $1 bills all the way up to a grand prize of $100.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The official convention hotel is Hilton Madison Monona Terrace, 9 E. Wilson St., Madison. This is attached to the convention center. Room rates are $183 single to quadruple. Phone 608-255-5100 to make a reservation for the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” group rate. 

Other rooms are being held at:

  • The Best Western Premier Park Hotel, 22 S. Carroll St., Madison, $189 for one-two people. Call 800-279-8811 to reserve rooms in the “Freedom From Religion Foundation 2017 Block.” 
  • The Sheraton Madison Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, Madison, which has a shuttle to the convention center 2 miles away. Call 866-716-8134 to reserve a room at $149 single to quad.

Register and look over details on the cruise, open house, speakers, menu, etc., at: ffrf.org/convention2017.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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