FFRF Convention Countdown; Hotel Rooms Still Available

FFRF Goes to Washington, D.C., Oct. 10-12

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has put together an engaging line-up of powerhouse speakers for its 26th annual national convention in Washington, D.C., taking place Oct. 10-12.

Speakers include: provocative attorney Alan Dershowitz; White House correspondent Helen Thomas; TV journalist Betty Rollin; New York Times’ science writer Natalie Angier (“Confessions of a Lonely Atheist”), and Pledge plaintiff Michael Newdow.

Joining the line-up will be Sacha Pfeiffer, part of the Boston Globe‘s team of investigative reporters who won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for coverage of the crisis over the institutional cover-up of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. Honoree Alton Lemon, the Supreme Court litigant whose victory resulted in the famous “Lemon Test” safeguarding the Establishment Clause, will be a special guest.

Closing the convention Saturday night on an entertaining note will be Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson, teaming up with Foundation musician Dan Barker, for their inimitable “Tunes ‘n ‘Toons.”

The convention takes place at the Washington Court Hotel-Capitol Hill, two blocks from Capitol Hill and Union Station. Union Station offers many restaurants and shops, as well as access to Metro, Amtrak, and MARC passenger rail lines.

The Washington Court Hotel-Capitol Hill, 525 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., has agreed to extend the reservation deadline to Tuesday, Sept. 16 for patrons attending the FFRF convention.

Call the Washington Court Hotel-Capitol Hill now at 1-800-321-3010 to reserve rooms at the convention rate of $135 single or double plus tax. The local number is 202/628-2100. Be sure to identify yourself as attending the Freedom From Religion Foundation convention.

The convention opens with registration at the hotel at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 10. The convention continues all day Saturday, and concludes by noon with the annual membership meeting on Sunday morning.

Friday participants will be welcomed with a “mini-concert” by Dan Barker at 7:30 p.m. Helen Thomas, the grande dame of journalism who has covered the White House for 40 years, will speak at 7:45 p.m. Ms. Thomas is receiving a “friend of the First Amendment” award for her eloquent and strong national columns sounding the alarm on faith-based funding and other incursions against the separation of church and state.

A special recognition award will be given to Alton Lemon for his landmark victory bringing us the “Lemon Test.”

Journalist Sacha Pfeiffer will speak on “The Crisis in the Church: the Boston Globe‘s Coverage of Sexual Abuse by Roman Catholic Priests.” As co-author of the Globe‘s book, “Betrayal,” Ms. Pfeiffer will sign books after her talk, joining Ms. Thomas, whose latest book is “Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President.”

The Friday evening program will conclude with complimentary cake and beverages.

Saturday will open with the hearty “Non-Prayer Early Brunch,” at 8 a.m., with its “moment of bedlam.” The morning program begins at 9:30 a.m. with a welcome by Foundation founder and president Anne Gaylor.

New York Times‘ Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Natalie Angier will receive an “Emperor Has No Clothes Award” as an open atheist for her column for the New York Times magazine, “Confessions of a Lonely Atheist.” Ms. Angier will talk about But What About the Tooth Fairy, Mom? Raising a healthy God-free Child in a Hopelessly Godstruck Nation”

Ms. Angier has written several books including the nonfiction bestseller “Woman: An Intimate Geography,” and edited the acclaimed “Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002.”

Noted author Betty Rollin will follow with a speech about the campaign for physician-assisted suicide: “A Report from Oregon.” Ms. Rollin wrote “First You Cry,” 1976, about her fight with breast cancer, later made into a movie with Mary Tyler Moore. Her book about her mother’s terminal cancer and suicide, “Last Wish,” was also made into a movie. She has won numerous awards, including Emmys, is a contributing correspondent to NBC and PBS, and speaks widely about the right to death with dignity.

Both speakers will sign books at the conclusion of the morning program.

After a two-hour lunch and sightseeing break, attorney Prof. Alan Dershowitz will speak on America’s secular roots and will receive an “Emperor” award. This author of 18 books recently penned “America Declares Independence,” debunking religious-right arguments that the Declaration of Independence proves the United States is theocratic. He is a Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Prof. Dershowitz will sign books following his talk.

Speaking on “David vs. Goliath” will be Mike Newdow, M.D., the attorney and father who won the famed decision before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional. Newdow will present an update of his famous lawsuit, now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as his lawsuit against Congressional chaplaincies.

The group dinner will be at 7 p.m. followed by the annual drawing for “clean” (pre-“In God We Trust”) currency, and the “Tunes ‘n ‘Tunes” song-and-cartoon act perfected by Dan Barker and Steve Benson. Dan, a pianist and songwriter, is a former minister, and is author of “Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist.” Steve, an award-winning daily editorial cartoonist, is the grandson of former Mormon president Ezra Taft Benson. They take an irreverent look at religion and freethought in the news.

The annual membership meeting takes place on Sunday, Oct. 12 at 9 a.m., followed by a brief meeting of the Board of Directors, adjourning by noon.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation needs to receive your pre-registration if meals are being ordered no later than Monday, Oct. 6. Please print out the coupon registration at the link below, and mail it to FFRF, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701. Registration is also available at the door (no meals available).

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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