“Irreverent Bunch” Gathers To Honor Freethought, First Amendment

Unconventional Convention–St. Paul, Sept. 15-17, 2000

For immediate release

The 23rd annual national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation will gather at the St. Paul Radisson Inn on the weekend of Sept. 15-17, 2000.

The convention’s diverse speakers include: a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, an award-winning author for young adults, a cosmologist, a clergy malpractice attorney, a civil rights activist, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, student activists and academia’s foremost promoter of rationality.

Other attractions are a Non-Prayer Luncheon (with a traditional “moment of bedlam”), a popular annual drawing for a “clean” (pre-“In God We Trust”) $100 bill, skeptical songs, and merchandise tables featuring freethought books and such items as bumperstickers proclaiming “Beware of Dogma,” and “Happy Heathen” T-shirts.

Named this year’s “Freethought Heroine” will be Wendy Kaminer, author of Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety. A Public Policy Fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, lawyer and social critic, Ms. Kaminer is a Contributing Editor at The Atlantic Monthly and serves on the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union. Previous “Humanist Heroine” recipients include columnist Barbara Ehrenreich, author Ann Druyan (widow of Carl Sagan), The Nation Associate editor/columnist Katha Pollitt, and Feminist Majority director Ellie Smeal.

Two students will be honored with student activist awards: Cassie Gootee of Colorado, who successfully challenged illegal prayer at her high school graduation, and Gabe Carlson,grad and activist from the University of Minnesota, who will each receive $1,000 cash awards.

The gathering will open for registration on Friday, Sept. 15. at 7 p.m. at the Radisson Inn, 411 Minnesta St., St. Paul. Opening speaker is Steve Benson, Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist for the Arizona Republic, who is the atheist grandson of the late Mormon president Ezra Taft Benson. The entertaining cartoonist will speak on ” ‘Tooning Out Religion.”

The evening will end with cake and a musical concert by Foundation musician Dan Barker, a former minister. Barker will entertain with freethought songs at the piano, including “The Freethinker Blues,” the “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” cha-cha, “Battle of Church & State,” and “Friendly Neighborhood Atheist.”

The all-day Saturday convention features the student activists, as well as Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, nationally noted clergy malpractice attorney, and Newbery-award winning author Bette Greene. Greene is best known as the author of The Summer of My German Soldier.

After the nonprayer luncheon, Prof. Kaminer will speak on “The Perils of Piety,” followed by Woody Kaplan, a civil rights activist, and Prof. Adrian L. Melott, an astrophysicist and cosmologist at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. Prof. Melott’s speech, “Have Fun with Creationists (Or: Bashing the State Bored)” will recap the recent victory removing creationists from the Kansas School Board.

The after-dinner speaker will be popular Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, speaking on “No Graven Images, & Other Reflections.”

Registration is $40 per person ($75 for nonmembers), not including meals.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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