Freethinkers set to celebrate July 1-3 in Alabama

Independent thinkers are gathering Independence Day weekend in Alabama to celebrate the quest for freedom from state-established religion that brought so many of America's founders to its shores.

The 21st annual Independence Day celebration, hosted by the Alabama Freethought Association, is held at Lake Hypatia, near Talladega, July 1-3. Lake Hypatia’s motto is “No preaching, no praying, no walking on water.” The official name for the event is the Lake Hypatia Advance ("Not Retreat!"). Events take place in FFRF’s southern Freethought Hall, an air-conditioned auditorium. The impressive granite Atheists in Foxholes monument is nestled amid pines adjoining the private Cleveland family grounds abutting a small lake and Talladega National Forest.

The AFA is a chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest state-church watchdog, based in Madison, Wis. AFA Director Patricia Cleveland and FFRF co-sponsor the event, which this year emphasizes activism with its usual slate of fun activities, which start at 11 a.m. Friday, July 1, and continue through brunch Sunday. See the schedule here.

Duncan Henderson, an Auburn, Ala., teen, will receive the Catherine Fahringer Memorial Youth Activist Award of $1,000. Duncan, the son of FFRF member Greg Henderson, was recently featured on “Nick News” in a segment about how his attempt to start a freethought club at school was thwarted.

Also speaking will be Benjamin Burchall, a Christian minister turned atheist. No longer “winning souls for Christ,” he now nurtures minds to accept reason. Burchall formerly led the Long Beach Freethought Society and now is executive director of Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta.

Other speakers are Jim McCollum, whose mother, Vashti, on his behalf, brought the landmark Supreme Court case McCollum v. Board of Education in which religious instruction in public schools was ruled unconstitutional. Jim will air the new Peabody Award-winning documentary, “The Lord Was Not on Trial Here,” about his case. Jim is a retired attorney and educator, now living in Arkansas. His wife, Betty McCollum, who teaches philosophy and religious studies, will speak about women and religion.

FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor will be on hand, Annie Laurie to speak about current FFRF actions, and Dan ("The Singing Atheist") to give a concert. He'll also team up with ex-Mormon Steve Benson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Arizona Republic, for a special reprise of Tunes ’n ’Toons, featuring Steve’s cartoons and Dan’s tunes.

Joining Patricia Cleveland to speak about organizing in the bible belt will be Mark Zumbach, director of the Triangle Freethought Society, FFRF’s Raleigh-Durham, N.C., chapter, and Bill Dusenberry, an organizer of the new Oklahoma chapter in Tulsa.

The event includes the traditional Poetry Reading led by Alice Cleveland, a nature demonstration by retired zookeeper Bob Truett, the annual “Atheists vs. Agnostics” volleyball match and a freethought trivia game. Tongue-in-cheek “debaptisms” can be performed by the lake.

The Cleveland family generously opens up their personal grounds for participants who reserve in advance for RVs or primitive camping. Showers and washrooms are available onsite. There are many motels in the area.

You can register online or download a registration form here and mail it to Alabama Freethought Society, PO Box 571, Talladega, AL 35161. Registration is $35 per FFRF member, $40 per nonmember, $5 per FFRF student member and $10 per nonmember student.

Four catered meals will be offered (Friday night, Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner, Sunday brunch) and are $12 per adult, $6 per student. (There’s an inexpensive hot dog/veggie dog lunch offered by a private couple on Friday.)

There are no nearby restaurants so order meals now. Meal orders and early registrations must be in hand by June 22. There is a $10 late fee per person for registration after June 22. No meals may be ordered after that cutoff.

See all you great patriots soon!

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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