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Speakers

National Convention 2022 LogoHyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk

123 Losoya St
San Antonio, TX 78205

Convention speakers


Barbara AlvarezBARBARA ALVAREZ

Barbara Alvarez will be conducting a workshop on what you can do to help stop the religious war against reproductive rights. She has a Master in Information Specialist and Instructor of Information Science. She has a Master in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign and has been on research teams related to Reproductive Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Barbara is the author of the forthcoming book Library Services for Sexual and Reproductive Health Information with ALA Editions. She was the first Reproductive Rights Intern at the Freedom From Religion Foundation and was a major winner in their essay competition for graduate students, writing about the bible's role in the abortion battle. 


Val BenavidezVAL BENAVIDEZ

Val Benavidez is the president and executive director for the Texas Freedom Network. development, planning, staffing and implementation of all programs. Val became president in November 2020 and was previously the Texas Freedom Network’s chief program officer. Val has worked for numerous non-profit advocacy organizations including the Texas Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, League of Young Voters, Generational Alliance, as well as serving as Executive Director of ProTex: Network for a Progressive Texas. Val is a member of the Board of Directors for the Workers Defense Project. She is the proud daughter and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, farmworkers, railroad builders and all around rabble rousers.


Hector Garcia

DR. HECTOR GARCIA

Dr. Hector Garcia is a clinical psychologist, researcher, and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

He is the author of the books: Alpha God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression, and; Sex, Power and Partisanship. He has published extensively on the evolutionary psychology of religion, warfare, politics, and PTSD. Dr. Garcia has been featured on TED, PBS and CSPAN.


GODLESS GOSPEL PERFORMANCE & "LEAVING RELIGION" PANEL

Godelss Gospel

From left: Singers Rogiers Fibby, DeAngela Morant, Mandisa Thomas, Candace Gorham, Cynthia McDonald, and artistic producer Andre Forbes. (Photo by Chris Line)

FFRF's sponsored "Godless Gospel" will be debuting at the San Antonio convention. FFRF Co-President and musician Dan Barker is executive producer and Andre Forbes, a former gospel producer, is artistic producer. Songs are by Andre and Dan. The first rehearsal and demo tape was recorded in February. The artists, major freethought activists in their own right, will also join a panel discussion on "Why I left religion." Vocalists include:

  • Tahira Clayton, jazz vocalist
  • Rogiérs Fibby, President of Black Nonbelievers of DC
  • Candace Gorham, author of The Ebony Exodus Project
  • Cynthia McDonald, an activist with Freedmen of Chicago
  • DeAngela Morant, of Florida
  • Mandisa Thomas, President of Black Nonbelievers

Other performers and musicians will be announced.


Candace GorhamCANDACE R. M. GORHAM

Candace R. M. Gorham, LCMHCS, will be running on workshop "On Death, Dying, and Disbelief." She will be performing as part of "Godless Gospel" as well as on a panel of African-American nonbelievers. She is a licensed professional mental health counselor. She is a former ordained minister turned atheist-humanist activist, researcher, and writer on issues related to race, religion, and mental health. She is a member of the The Secular Therapist Project and The Clergy Project. Candace is also the author of The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking Out on Religion—and Others Should Too and On Death, Dying, and Disbelief.


Grecwyn

ALICE GRECZYN

Alice Greczyn will be named FFRF Freethought Heroine 2022. She is an actress, author of Wayward: A Memoir of Spiritual Warfare and Sexual Purity, and the founder of Dare to Doubt. Midwest-raised and LA-based, Alice’s nomadic childhood moved her around the United States until her modeling career as a teenager led to an acting career in Hollywood. Her own story includes a painful but rewarding transition from evangelical Christianity to atheism, a journey that inspired her to found DaretoDoubt.org, a resource site for people detaching from belief systems they come to find harmful.

She lives in Los Angeles and loves hiking, traveling, and the relentless pursuit of knowledge.


HarrisELLE HARRIS

FFRF will be awarding its debut "Out of God's Closet" $5,000 student scholarship, given by Diane Uhl in memory of her late husband Stephen Uhl, to 11-year-old Elle Harris, author of two books, including Elle the Humanist. Elle is a fifth grade student living in California. As a third-grader, Elle became aware 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 to clearly and warmly introduce humanism to young readers. Elle is the sister of Bailey Harris, who won a previous student scholarship award for her series of "Stardust" books.


Jim HIghtowerJIM HIGHTOWER

In keeping with the convention theme, “Do Mess with Texas,” iconic Texan commentator and writer Jim Hightower will speak on Friday at 11 a.m., then sign books. Hightower, dubbed “America’s most popular populist,” has spent four decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be — consumers, working families, environmentals, small business and just-plain folks. The two-time Texas Agriculture Commissioner is a national radio commentator heard on more than 150 commercial and public stations. He writes a rousing newsletter, “The Hightower Lowdown” and has been dubbed a “populist road warrior.” A New York Times bestselling author, he’s written seven books, most recently, “Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow.” He embodies the old Yugosloavian proverb, “You can fight the gods and still have fun.”


Megan HuntMEGAN HUNT

Nebraska State Senator Megan Hunt, who publicly identifies as an atheist, will receive FFRF's "Champion of the First Amendment" award. Her remarks, during 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. She is an entrepreneur, activist, and parent elected in 2018 to represent District 8 in the Nebraska Legislature and is committed to uplifting the voices of the marginalized and forgotten. She has worked with other senators to tackle food stamp reform, ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy, improve affordable housing, and ensure that caregivers during the pandemic were eligible for unemployment benefits. Megan’s work has been covered by major publications, and she has received numerous awards, including from the Council on State Government’s (CSG) 20 Under 40 Award. She currently sits on five committees in the unicameral Nebraska Legislature.


JIrvingOHN IRVING

John Irving will be receiving FFRF's Emperor Has No Clothes Award. The novelist of 14 books, including The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules, he has won the National Book Award, the O. Henry Award, an Oscar for best adapted screenplay and a Lambda Literary Award for his novel In One Person.

His all-time bestselling novel is A Prayer for Owen Meany. FFRF offered Irving the Award after his column, “The Long, Cruel History of the Anti-Abortoin Crusade,” published by the New York Times on June 23, 2019, noted, “ . . . 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.”


Dan MachDANIEL MACH

Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Dan Mach 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 personally endowed by FFRF Lifetime Member Henry Zumach, with five percent of the interest going annually to the award. Mach leads a wide range of religious liberty litigation, advocacy, and public education efforts nationwide, and often writes, teaches, and speaks publicly on religious freedom issues. Mach currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at the George Washington University Law School, focusing on constitutional law and religious liberty.


Amy MillerAMY HAGSTROM MILLER

FFRF's 2022 "Forward Award" honoree will be Amy Hagstrom Miller, who founded Whole Woman's Health in 2003, which are a series of clinics that provide abortion and gynecological care services, including four clinics in Texas. .She brought Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, in which the Supreme Court in 2016 ruled 5-3 that Texas can't restrict delivery of abortion care through TRAP laws that place an undue burden on the woman. She has been chief plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging SB 8, the extreme Texas law banning abortions by six weeks and deputizing antiabortion strangers to sue anyone who "aids or abets" a pregnant person in having an abortion past that time period. Hagstrom Miller also founded the nonprofit Whole Woman's Health Alliance in 2014, which works to remove the stigma around providing quality abortion care. The award is reserved for individuals who are moving society forward. The 2021 recipients were Margaret Atwood and Gloria Steinem.


Max NibertMAX NIBERT

Max Nibert, an agnostic activist and creative from Huntington, W.Va., will receive the $5,000 Richard and Beverly Hermsen Student Activist Award. He gained notoriety following his initiation and orchestration of a walk-out at Huntington High School over a religious revival sermon held on campus with students forced to attend. He is a lead plaintiff in the FFRF lawsuit against his school. Max is proud to claim his Appalachian upbringing as a driving force behind his political and humanitarian passions. With these passions in mind, he has not committed to an institution of higher education or a specific career path, opting instead to travel, create, and see who or what needs him most.