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Join John Irving, secular activists at FFRF’s San Antonio fall convention
You are invited to join hundreds of other FFRF’ers at the 45th annual Freedom From Religion Foundation convention Friday, Oct. 28, through Sunday, Oct. 30, taking place at the Hyatt Regency on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. An optional “early bird” reception Thursday afternoon, Oct. 27, will offer appetizers, socializing and early registration before convention-goers venture out to explore the Riverwalk. It’s not too early to make your plans, register with FFRF and make hotel reservations.
The theme of this year’s national convention is “DO Mess with Texas,” in honor of Gov. Greg Abbott’s explicit caution to the state/church watchdog “not to mess with Texas,” which has become Ground Zero for theocratic policymaking. The event will feature many newsmaking awardees, freethinking authors and state/church advocates, and even freethinking gospel music.
In keeping with that theme, iconic Texan commentator and writer Jim Hightower, who has been dubbed “America’s most popular populist,” will open the conference. He has spent four decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be — consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses and just plain folk.
Headliners include John Irving, the bestselling award-winning novelist of 14 books, including The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules, who will be receiving FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award. He will give the keynote Saturday night. FFRF offered Irving the award after he wrote a New York Times column on abortion in which he noted that “we are free to practice the religion of our choice, and we are protected from having someone else’s religion practiced on us. Freedom of religion in the United States also means freedom from religion.”
Abortion rights advocate Amy Hagstrom Miller will be named FFRF’s 2022 “Forward Award” honoree. She founded Whole Woman’s Health in 2003, a series of clinics that provide abortion and gynecological care services, including four clinics in Texas, and is principal plaintiff in the lawsuit against the draconian Texas abortion ban, SB 8.
Other honorees include Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt, who publicly identifies as an atheist, and will receive FFRF’s “Champion of the First Amendment” award. Her remarks, during a debate against an abortion ban “trigger bill” she called a “church bill” sponsored by “Christian religious extremists,” were credited with helping to kill the bill in early April.
Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, will accept on behalf of the ACLU FFRF’s Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award, which has grown to $35,000. The award is endowed by FFRF Lifetime Member Henry Zumach, with 5 percent of the interest going annually to the award.
The Richard & Beverly Hermsen $5,000 Student Activist Award will go to deserving Max Nibert, the brave 18-year-old Huntington (W.Va.) High School student who helped organize a walkout after the school held Christian-themed assemblies in the public school. He is now principal student plaintiff in FFRF’s ongoing federal lawsuit against his school district.
The youngest honoree will be 11-year-old Elle Harris, receiving the debut “Out of God’s Closet,” a $5,000 student scholarship, as the author of Elle the Humanist. Elle is a fifth-grade student living in California. Elle became aware while a third-grader that most of her classmates were religious and “had a hard time imagining someone who didn’t go to church or pray.” Her conversations with classmates resulted in a book that clearly and warmly introduces humanism to young readers.
Actress and founder of Dare to Doubt, Alice Greczyn, will be receiving FFRF’s “Freethought Heroine” Award. Greczyn is author of Wayward: A Memoir of Spiritual Warfare and Sexual Purity.
Other speakers include the author of Alpha God, Hector A. Garcia, of San Antonio. He’s given a Ted Talk and has also written Sex, Power and Partisanship.
As a special musical treat, “Godless Gospel” — a collaboration between artistic producer Andre Forbes and FFRF Co-President Dan Barker — will debut. The distinguished singers will include Candace R.M. Gorham, author of The Ebony Exodus Project, Tahira Clayton, a New York City jazz vocalist who also belts out gospel; Rogiérs Fibby, president of Black Nonbelievers of DC, Cynthia McDonald, an activist with Freedmen of Chicago, DeAngela Morant, of Florida, and Mandisa Thomas, president of Black Nonbelievers. They will also participate in a panel discussion on African-American nonbelievers.
Concurring optional workshops Friday at noon will include one on what people can do to help stop the religious war against reproductive rights, conducted by FFRF’s contributing writer Barbara Alvarez, and another, “On Death, Dying and Disbelief,” led by Candace R.M. Gorham, based on her book of the same name.
Also, included will be reporting on FFRF’s achievements over the year, the report on legal activism and achievements by FFRF attorneys, and a reprise of last year’s popular workshop, “Ask an Attorney.” The convention will include book and product sales tables, the popular “NonPrayer Breakfast,” and a drawing for “clean,” pre-“In God We Trust” currency.
Four optional group meals are available, plus a 4-6 p.m. “Happy Hour” reception and early registration Thursday, Oct. 28, complimentary dessert Friday night and other coffee breaks or snacks throughout.
The annual meetings of the membership and state representatives will take place Sunday, Oct. 30 morning and conclude about noon.
FFRF has heard from several members who, due to various Texas policies, wonder why FFRF is holding a convention in Texas at all. “We not only feel our ‘DO Mess with Texas’ can raise awareness, but are contractually obligated, due to the negotiations required in 2020 to postpone that year’s conference,” explains Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
Convention registration is online at ffrf.org/convo-2022, along with links to make hotel reservations, learn more about speakers, menus and how to register.
See you in October!