27th National FFRF Convention Honors Departing Prez Anne Gaylor, Mike Newdow, Outspoken Freethinker

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Released September 14, 2004

The 27th annual national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation will gather in Madison, Wis., at the Concourse Hotel, 1 W. Dayton St., on the weekend of Fri., Oct. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 31.

Outgoing Foundation President Anne Gaylor, 77, who has led the national watchdog group of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) since 1978, will be recognized with a tribute for her 26 years of activism on behalf of freethought and in defense of separation of church and state.

The impressive roster of speakers includes several prominent writers. Receiving the “Emperor Has No Clothes Award,” a golden statuette of the legendary emperor, will be several public figures honored for being willing to identify themselves as nontheists and “tell it like it is” about religion. Honorees will be Steven Pinker, the distinguished Harvard professor and evolutionary psychologist, who is Jonestone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard and author of critically acclaimed popular science books, including The Blank Slate.

Also honored with an “Emperor” award will be Australian-born Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp professor of Bioethics at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton, and author of many provocative articles and books, including Animal Liberation (1975), Practical Ethics (1979), Rethinking Life & Death (1995), and The President of Good & Evil (2004).

St. Petersburg Times editorial writer Robyn Blumner, who charmed the secular crowd with her Aug. 8 column, “I’m An Atheist, So What!”, will also receive the Emperor Award. Robyn, who has a law degree, is a syndicated columnist at the St. Petersburg Times, and focuses on constitutional issues and civil liberties.

Receiving a “Freethought Hero” award will be Michael Newdow, M.D. Newdow brought the news-making challenge of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and plans to work with the Foundation and other freethinkers to renew his legal challenge to restore the pledge to its original, secular wording.

Rachel Morris, 13, of West Bend, Wis., will be named 2004 “Student Activist,” receiving a $1,000 cash scholarship through the Ruth (Dixie) Jokinen Memorial Student Activist Award. Rachel was singled out at the start of the school year because she did not stand for or recite the religious Pledge of Allegiance. The school has since complied with the law protecting student rights of conscience.

Author Susan Jacoby, whose latest book, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, was recently released, will speak on “How Secularism Became a Dirty Word.” She will receive a Freethought Heroine award. Jacoby is director of the Center for Inquiry-Metro New York. Her op-eds promoting the separation of church and state have appeared regularly in The New York Times, and other periodicals.

Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, will speak on “When a President Sees Himself as God’s Delivery Boy.” He also directs The Progressive Media Project, and is a leading voice for peace and social justice.

Attorney Alvin L. Harris will speak on “Scopes II: John Doe and FFRF v. Rhea County, Tennessee Board of Education.” Harris, who won the case for the Foundation at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals this year, got his law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1985, clerked at the 11th Circuit, and has been in private practice since 1986 in Nashville.

Concluding the convention on an entertaining note will be Foundation musician Dan Barker and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson, reprising their “Tunes ‘n ‘Toons” revue, an irreverent look at religion in the news. The two former missionaries combine talents, cartoons and musical satire. Steve, the grandson of Mormon president Ezra Taft Benson, publicly broke with the Mormon church in 1994. He is editorial cartoonist for the Arizona Republic. Dan, a Foundation staffer, is the author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. Dan’s latest CD for the Foundation, “Beware of Dogma,” was released this summer.

Registration is $50.00 per member, $55.00 for non-member companion, $75.00 for non-member, and $25.00 for students. Convention meal options include a Saturday morning NON-Prayer Breakfast, featuring a “Moment of Bedlam.”

The convention will feature an Open House at the Foundation’s offices in Madison, Wis., from 2-4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, with hors d’oeuvres and desserts. The Friday night program includes complimentary cake and beverages. The popular drawing for “clean” (pre-“In God We Trust”) currency will be held Saturday night.

The convention ends with the annual membership meeting, followed by the Board of Directors meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. and concludes by noon, on Sunday, Oct. 31.

Rooms are being held at The Concourse Hotel, 1 W. Dayton St., Madison, Wis., for the convention rate of $119 single or double plus tax, through Sept. 30. Phone 1-800-356-8293 to make your reservations directly.

For details, contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701, 608/256-8900. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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