Outreach & Events - Freedom From Religion Foundation


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Note: Schedule is subject to change.

Friday, September 15

Pre-convention events

9:30 AM to Noon - Open House Freethought Hall, Downtown Madison

Early registration opens 
Pastries, juice, hot beverages, Champagne, Mimosas. (Complimentary, but reservations required!)

10:45 AM - 1:00 PM - Betty Lou Lake Cruise 

Boats dock on Monona Bay and Tenney Locks. FFRF will provide bus transportation: Pick up at FFRF at 10:15 and Hilton at 10:30; return from docks to Hilton after cruise. 

2:00 PM - Registration re-opens, continues throughout convention  

Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Dr. 
Sales tables open, main ballroom 


3:00 PM - Short Welcome 
    Kelly Helton,
 student Activist 

3:15 PM Steven Pinker, FFRF Honorary President

4:00 PM "Forward Award":  Katha Pollitt

4:45 PM - Booksigning for Steve Pinker & Katha Pollitt

5:00 PM - 6:45 PM - DINNER, "Forward" Tailgate Dinner Rooftop Garden 

EVENING PROGRAM - Madison Ballroom

7:00 PM Evening Welcome 
    FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker & Annie Laurie Gaylor
          Year in Review

7:30 - Henry K. Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award
   Maryam Namazie

8:30 - Paula Poundstone 

9:30 - Poundstone Meet and Greet

Complimentary gourmet cupcakes and hot beverages - Grand Terrace

Saturday, September 16

All Saturday events held in Madison Ballroom, unless otherwise noted.

8:00 AM - Nonprayer Breakfast (optional for ticket holders) - Exhibit Hall A
    Nothing Fails Like Prayer Awardee

9:00 AM - Madison Ballroom, sales tables re-open

Nothing Fails Like Prayer Award

9:30 AM Welcome
   Dan Barker, Lisa Strand, Annie Laurie Gaylor

9:40 AM “Clarence Darrow Goes to Dayton” by Zenos Frudakis

10:00 AM Battle of Church & State: Legal Accomplishments
   FFRF Legal Staff

11:00 AM Freethinkers of the Year 
   Jesse Castillo
   Kevin Price
   Jerry Bloom
   Marie Schaub 

Noon to 2:00 PM LUNCH BREAK
Optional Grab & Go lunch, sightseeing

2:00 PM - "Metamorphosis" by Kimberly Veal

2:30 PM “Do you know an American Indian atheist?" by Brent Michael Davis

3:00 PM - "Freethought Heroine Award":  Cara Santa Maria

4:00 PM Michelle Goldberg
Booksigning for Michelle Goldberg 

6:30 PM SATURDAY NIGHT DINNER (Advance tickets required) - Exhibit Hall A

Evening program in Madison Ballroom

8:00 PM "Clean Money Drawing"

8:30 PM Roy Zimmerman

9:00 PM - Julia Sweeney

Book, DVD and CD signings for Julia Sweeney & Roy Zimmerman to follow

Sunday, September 17

Hall of Ideas EF opens at 8:30 AM with complimentary pastries and hot beverages

9:00 AM Annual Membership Meeting
Open to current FFRF members

Annual State Representatives Meeting

Adjourn by Noon

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Madison Guide

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Madison Guide

So, you find yourself in Madison ... what do you do next?
The answer is simple: everything!


Enjoy our tangle of one-way roads and triangle intersections as you make your way around the downtown isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. Take in the lake view from Monona Terrace convention center's rooftop terrace. Did you know that Otis Redding (singer of "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay") died in a tragic plane crash on Lake Monona? Now you do!

Wisconsin State Capitol — Celebrate the centennial of our beautiful beaux arts Capitol building. It's open to the public but guided tours offered many times a day are free and worth the time. The sixth-floor museum and observation deck are also open during summer months.

UW Memorial Union — Not just for students and alumni, the Memorial Union is a Madison staple! Visit Der Rathskeller (or Der Rath as it is affectionately called), a German beer hall-style watering hole for students, staff and community members. After you've filled your stein (plastic cup, actually) head out to the Terrace at Memorial Union, pull up one of the iconic chairs and soak up the sun or take in the entertainment. Enjoy food and beverages from diverse vendors. DO NOT pass up the ice cream from Babcock Hall Dairy, made right here at the university with extra generous "single dip" helping. Warning — it is not vegan. Stay late for Terrace After Dark music and films, or take advantage of the many events and activities! Don't miss Isthmus Jazz Fest on the Terrace June 16-17.

State Street — It's only two blocks from Freethought Hall! Go there for lunch, breakfast, dinner, drinks, eclectic shops and the very best people watching around.

Here are some other FFRF staff favorites:

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Overture Center — Don't miss the "dome illusion," especially at night! While you're there you can nosh on delicious treats at Fresco, the rooftop restaurant overlooking all of State Street and the MMoCA's sculpture garden. (Pro tip: It's part of the Food Fight Restaurant Group, so ask your loved ones for Food Fight gift cards that you can redeem at one of its 20 local bars and eateries).

Fromagination on the Square — Try the turkey sandwich with apple and cheese. A bit pricey but fresh, ready-made sandwiches.

Candinas on the Square — A great place if you're looking for a local gift to take home to Mom or Dad. (We think the caramel and the hazelnut are best.)

A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore — Notable for good reads and special orders. 315 W. Gorham Street off State Street.


Olbrich Botanical Gardens — Not to be missed! It's free to walk around or read in the beautiful outdoor gardens. Stroll through the tropics in the Bolz Conservatory, filled with tropical plants, flowers, orchids, birds, and a waterfall that feeds into a koi pond. $2 admission for the conservatory, but it's free to all on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.


Bikes that are an improvement over Madison's BCycle bike share stations can be rented from Machinery Row Bicycles, a short walk from the Capitol at the top of Williamson Street. It's located on the 12-mile bike path loop that goes around Lake Monona (and is also accessible via the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center), which is a lovely ride (or run, for the more ambitious). There is another bike path that runs along Lake Mendota, starting at the Memorial Union, called the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path. It's shorter, but provides access to Picnic Point, which is a nice walking path with a lake view. Bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited, but the view is spectacular. The UW Arboretum is a nice 6-mile loop for running or biking. 


Ella's Deli and Ice Cream Parlor, 2902 East Washington Ave., is a memorable spectacle and has been voted Best Deli in Madison 20 years in a row! Try the famous Reuben sandwich, and save room for one of their signature desserts! Don't forget to take a ride on the Original Parker Carousel built in 1927!

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Union Cab - 608-242-2000
taxis can be scheduled by phone or in-line

Badger Cab - 608-256-5566 - Zone pricing
608-256-0106 - Direct pricing

Green Cab - 608-255-1234
taxis can be scheduled by phone or on-line

Madison Taxi - 608-255-8294
taxis can be scheduled by phone or in-line

Rideshare Services:

Uber - rideshare is a available

Lyft - rideshare is available

Alternative Transportation:

Madison Metro Bus Service - There is a convenient trip planner on their website that generates step by step bus travel routes.

Madison Bcycle - Rental bicycles available at many locations around town

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Online registration form coming soon.

Print out a downloadable form to return in the mail here.

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Friday, september 15 

Bucky's Tailgate Buffet - $31
Traditional Wisconsin tailgate party! Wisconsin Waldorf Salad, Home-style potato salad, fresh vegetable and relish tray, beer-boiled Johnsonville bratwurst with Wisconsin sauerkraut and chopped fresh onion, grilled boneless chicken breast, fresh-sliced tomato and crisp lettuce, Wisconsin calico baked beans, condiments and buns, coffee, tea or milk. Cash bar.


Saturday ‘Non-Prayer’ breakfast Wisconsin cheese and chive scrambled eggs, apple-smoked bacon, rosemary wedge potatoes, ketchup compote, chef’s assortment of petite muffins, orange juice, coffee, tea and milk.

Non-Prayer Breakfast - $20

Wisconsin cheese and chive scrambled eggs, apple-smoked bacon, rosemary wedge potatoes, ketchup compote, chef’s assortment of petite muffins, orange juice, coffee, tea and milk.

Saturday ‘Grab and Go’ box lunch - $20

Includes your choice of roasted chicken or grilled vegetables on Kaiser roll with tomato, lettuce with condiments on the side, chips and a can of soda.

Saturday Banquet Dinner - $40

Cash bar opens at 6 p.m. Dinner served at 6:30 p.m. 

Chicken Wellington: Delicate puff pastry filled with a boneless chicken breast, apple smoked bacon, shallots and mushrooms, served with mushroom-brown rice pilaf, fresh seasonal vegetable blend.

Portobello Wellington: Delicate puff pastry filled with fresh portabello mushrooms, herbs, shallots and risotto and served with grilled tomato.

Both entrees served with dinner rolls and butter, house salad with champagne-mustard vinaigrette, beverage (coffee, tea, or milk) and chocolate raspberry torte.

other dining options


The Capitol ChopHouse serves lunch and dinner, featuring the best steak and seafood in Madison. The award winning ChopHouse uses 28-day aged beef and line caught seafood to create a dining experience not to be forgotten. There is complimentary valet parking available from 5pm-10pm in the Hilton parking lot.

MONDAY 11:30 pm - 10:00 pm
TUESDAY 11:30 pm - 10:00 pm
WEDNESDAY 11:30 pm - 10:00 pm
THURSDAY 11:30 pm - 10:00 pm
FRIDAY 11:30 pm - 10:00 pm
SATURDAY 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm

A sunny place to enjoy breakfast in the mornings with the Breakfast by Hilton Buffet Breakfast and Starbuck Barista Station. Relaxing lounge after 2 pm to enjoy cocktails and a light menu the evenings. 


Refuel and recharge with coffee, pastries, sandwiches and snacks. Located in the Grand Terrace on Level 4, the GrandView Café is open when large events are in the building. Please click on the “Today @ MT” icon on the www.MononaTerrace.com home page, call 608–261–4000 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for current GrandView Café days and hours of operation. 

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Open House

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Freethought Hall 1                                                                                                   

Friday, September 15

9:30 a.m. - Noon

Early birds are invited to tour the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s beautiful, newly-expanded office, Freethought Hall, in downtown Madison, prior to the formal convention opening. Complimentary refreshments (light pastries, coffee, tea, orange juice, plus Champagne/Mimosas) will be served in the elegant Charlie Brooks Auditorium.


Reflect on a bench in front of FFRF’s granite monument dedicated to Atheists in Foxholes “and other freethinkers who have served our country with valor and distinction,” in the Rose Zerwick Memorial Garden & Courtyard.Foxholes

Take a self-guided tour of FFRF's national headquarters (with its 5-floor addition) with the help of a souvenir brochure featuring highlights of the building and FFRF history. Socialize with staff and other FFRF members as you peek into the “Above Us Only Sky” Kenneth Proulx Cupola, the Stephen Uhl Friendly Atheist Studio, the Diane Uhl Legal Wing, the Harold Erickson Public Relations Wing, the Brian Bolton Executive Wing, the Patrick O’Reiley Editorial Wing and the “No Hell Below Us” Harry Lonsdale Lower Level.


Visit the Joel B. Landon and Wanda K. Beers Freethought Library for a photo op with “Mr. Darwin,” an amazingly life-like, silicone mannequin of Charles Darwin by artist Csam Wheatley.

Donors who helped with our building project may look for their paving stone in the patio, pretty tile in the vestibule or name in the Anne Nicol Gaylor Lobby featuring the Donor Wall and Wall of Honor. Every donor and donation is listed in alphabetical order in a Donor Book in the lobby. Freethought Hall is filled with fascinating artifacts from FFRF’s 39-year history!

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Lake Cruise

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sorry, we are sold out.

Friday, September 15, 10:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.


FFRF convention attendeees are invited to take a boat cruise on Madison's Lake Monona or Lake Mendota on Friday, Sept. 15, prior to the start of the convention. The Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center, home to FFRF's convention, overlooks Lake Monona. Lake Mendota, on the other side of the isthmus, offers views of the UW-Madison Terrace and Maple Bluff. Both are beautiful!

For $50 per person, you'll be treated to a two-hour tour with a buffet, featuring clam chowder, chips and Cajun dip, vegetarian variety platter, seafood salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, sliced deli meats/cheeses, and assorted desserts. There is a cash bar for beverages. The tour begins at 10:45 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. We'll have bus service to take you from Freethought Hall or the Hilton to the boat launch and back to the hotel, or you can walk the route. Maps will be available. Unfortunately, the yachts are not wheelchair accessible, as the walkways are tight and there are narrow stairs to the banquet area. There are three yachts. If you are coming as part of a group FFRF will make sure your group is aboard the same boat.

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Venue (Monona Terrace)

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Monona Terrace
One John Nolen Drive
Madison, Wisconsin 53703
(608) 261-4000

Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center was first designed by Wisconsin native and internationally-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1938 as a cultural, governmental and recreational building. While Wright´s design was used for the building´s exterior, the interior was redesigned by Wright apprentice and Taliesin architect Tony Puttnam to house state-of-the-art exhibition, meeting and public space. The space opened its doors after nearly 60 years of debate on July 18, 1997. 

Today, nearly 390,000 people say "see you at Monona Terrace" each year. From formal events like conventions and conferences to public events like Dane Dances, Monona Terrace has a wide geographic draw, attracting local, regional, state and international events each year.

Driving/directions. Use Google Maps for detailed driving directions from your point of origin. If using GPS please use these coordinates rather than One John Nolen Drive: 43.070249, -89.382499 You will arrive at the John Nolen Drive entrance to the Monona Terrace parking ramp. Or, Input 1 W. Wilson Street to enter the parking structure from Wilson St. or to use the drop-off lane.

Parking. Monona Terrace features a 600-space, automated parking structure. Parking entrances are accessible from the eastbound lanes of John Nolen Drive or via West Wilson Street. Acceptable forms of payment include MasterCard, Visa, or cash (no coin).

To use local bus transportation, see Madison Metro.


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Reserve rooms now! FFRF is offering convention blocks at three hotels this year to accommodate more registrants!

Hilton Madison Monona Terrace, 9 E. Wilson Street, is the official convention hotel and closest to Monona Terrace. Rooms are $183 (single/double/triple/quad). Call 608-255-5100 to make a reservation for the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” group rate. The group rate reservation cut-off date is August 14, 2017. (Unless rooms sell out.) Click here for the group rate link 

Getting there

The location of the hotel can be found here. If you are arriving from the Madison Dane County Regional Airport, which is 4 miles away from the hotel, travel International Drive for one mile, turn left on Packers Avenue. Packers becomes Pennsylvania, travel 1.5 miles to First St. turn left. Turn right onto E. Washington for one mile. Turn left on Blair, turn right onto Wilson. Continue 1/4 mile up, hotel will be on left-hand side. 

If you plan on taking a taxi, the typical minimum charge, including a 15% tip, will cost you $24.55.


Self parking in the garage costs $17 and valet parking, which includes in and out access costs $20. 


The Hilton offers a wide range of amenities including a pool, fitness room, bar area, automated teller machine, and room service. 


The Hilton offers two onsite restaurants to choose from. 

The Capitol Chophouse, an award-winning restaurant, serves locally grown and organic foods including 28 day-aged beef and line-caught seafood. It is open for breakfast and lunch every day of the week, with a breakfast buffet on the weekends. Dinner is served Monday - Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.  

Olive, a cocktail lounge open Monday - Sunday from 2 p.m.to close, offers a relaxing atmosphere with drinks, appetizers and live music in the evenings.

Best Western Premier Park Hotel, 22 S. Carroll Street, is right on the Capitol Square, newly remodeled, and just 0.3 miles from Monona Terrace – about a 6 minute walk. Rooms are $189 (one bed for 1-2 people), $209 for 2 beds (1-4 people), or $249 for suites. Call toll-free 800-279-8811 or local 608-285-8000 to reserve rooms in the “Freedom From Religion Foundation 2017 Block.” The group rate reservation cut-off is August 14, 2017. (Unless rooms sell out.)

Getting there

If you are arriving from the Madison Dane County Regional Airport, which is about 6 miles frm the hotel, head north on International Drive for 1.8 miles. Turn left onto Packers Avenue, which will turn into Pennsylvania Avenue and then into E. Johnson Street. Continue straight onto E. Gorham street for a mile before taking a slight left onto N. Hamilton Street for 0.2 miles. Turn right onto E. Dayton street, and then turn left at the 2nd cross street onto Wisconsin Avenue. Next, turn right at the 1st cross street onto W. Mifflin Street which will turn left and become N. Carroll Street. The hotel will be on the right-hand side. 

If you plan on taking a taxi, the typical minimum charge, including a 15% tip, will cost you $25.40. The estimated cost to take an Uber or Lyft is $12.59. 


For overnight guests, the hotel has guaranteed parking for one vehicle for $10 per night, valet only. 


The Best Western includes fitness and leisure amenities such as a heated indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, B-cycle renatble bikes available across the street, and is close to the lakeshore biking and running path. For your comfort and convenience there is complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, a lobby and guest rooms equipped with outlets and USB ports, a business center, and an expansive pool deck with tables and chairs. 


The Best Western Premier Park Hotel offers a gourmet dinning experience at the Post Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for late night dinning. The Post is open Sunday - Saturday from 5 a.m. to Midnight. It also serves brunch and the weekend from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sheraton Madison Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, is 2 miles away from Monona Terrace on a lakeside walking/biking path, with shuttle service available. Call 608-251-2300 or 866-716-8134 (toll-free) to reserve a room at $149 (single/double/triple/quad). The group rate reservation cut-off date is August 15, 2017. (Unless rooms sell out.) 

Getting there

Click here for directions to the hotel. If you are arriving from the Madison Dane County Regional Airport, which is 12 miles away from the hotel, head north on International Drive for 1.8 miles. Turn left onto Packers Avenue. In 0.4 miles take the ramp right and follow the signs for Aberg Avenue. Turn left onto Aberg Avenue. The road name will change to WI-30 E. In a mile, take the ramp right for US-51 South toward Stoughton. Stay on this for 0.8 miles before taking the ramp right for US-18 W / US-12 W / W Beltline Highway. Take Exit 263 (John Nolen Drive). The hotel is immediately on the right as you exit.

If you plan on taking a taxi, the typical minimum charge, including a 15% tip, will cost you $31.96. The estimated cost to take an Uber or Lyft is $17.86.


The Sheraton includes complimentary self-parking. 


The Sheraton includes a fitness center, a business center, an indoor heated swimming pool, and complimentary high-speed internet access in all guest rooms and public areas.  


The Sheraton offers three hotel dining options.

The Heartland Grill is open Monday - Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday it is open from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It is open daily for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

The Harvest Lounge offers signature cocktails and local beer selections Sunday through Saturday from 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. 

The Level 1 Coffee Bar, where you can satisfy your caffiene fix, is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. 


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FFRF member Jerry Bloom is a retired RN, U.S. Army veteran and FFRF member. Jerry has a wide range of interests including art, chess, urban archaeology, paleontology, stargazing and bird-watching. “My mission is to reinforce the wall of separation between church and state,” Jerry said. He is the activist plaintiff in FFRF’s successful federal lawsuit, FFRF and Jerome H. Bloom v. City of Shelton, Conn., filed last year against censorship of FFRF’s winter solstice display. The federal lawsuit was settled in FFRF’s and Jerry’s favor in February 2017. The city agreed to stop hosting an angel display or any displays in Constitution Park, and to allow FFRF to place a display in other city forums.

Jerry will be one of several victorious state/church plaintiffs to be named 2017 Freethinker of the Year.

Jesse Castillo1Jesse Castillo 

FFRF member Jesse Castillo will be named a Freethinker of the Year for acting as a plaintiff in FFRF’s successful lawsuit against Brewster County, Texas, to remove Christian crosses on police vehicles. Castillo was born in Spain during his father’s military service and grew up in Panama, New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida. In the early 1990s, he served in the U.S. Army, graduating from U.S. Army Ranger School.  After his military service, Castillo worked as a security supervisor in Miami and earned an associate’s degree from Miami Dade College. Castillo is currently a federal employee. Growing up, Castillo attended various Christian churches. His atheism developed as he began to see discrepancies between Christianity and science. Castillo eventually left Christianity and started exploring other forms of spirituality. For the past 12 years Castillo has identified as an atheist.


Brent michael davidsBrent Michael Dav

Brent Michael Davids is a citizen of the Mohican Nation and a multi-award winning composer of concert music and film scores. Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Davids now lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Davids' composer career, which spans 40 years, includes awards and commissions from ASCAP, NEA, Emmy, Meet-The-Composer, Kronos Quartet, Miró Quartet, National Symphony, Chanticleer, Joffrey Ballet, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. Davids holds degrees in Music Composition from Northern Illinois University and Arizona State University. He was trained at Redford's Sundance Institute, and apprenticed with Oscar-winning composer Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare In Love).

In 2015, the prestigious Indian Summer Music Festival awarded Davids its "Lifetime Achievement Award." In 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts named Davids among the nation's most celebrated choral composers in its project "American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius" in all 50 states. Many of Davids' works employ traditional Native American instruments and instruments of his own design, including his signature quartz crystal flutes. Davids is also known for hand-drawn picture notation manuscripts that are themselves works of visual and musical art. As an Educator, Davids founded the award-winning Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP) and the Composer Apprentice National Outreach Endeavor (CANOE) to teach indigenous youth to compose their own written music.

Davids will be giving a speech titled, "Do you know an American Indian atheist?"

ZENOS FRUDAKIS1zenos frudakis

Zenos Frudakis is a renowned sculptor known for his public monuments, portrait statues, busts and figurative sculptures. He has created an extensive award-winning collection of more than 100 bronze sculptures in public and private collections. His work includes sculptures of historic figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, General Eisenhower and Sir Winston Churchill. Freedom, his best known sculpture, has become an Internet icon inspiring many in their quest to break free from boundaries. It has been listed in The Top Ten: Public Art by The Independent.

The oldest of five children growing up in Greek culture, Zenos admired, respected, and was drawn to Greek sculpture. Greek art influenced his aesthetic vision; additional inspiration came from sculptors Michaelangelo, Bernini, Carpeaux and Rodin. Zenos studied by scholarship at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, completing his formal education with a Bachelor in Fine Art and a Master in Fine Art at the University of Pennsylvania.

Zenos' emphasis has been the figure and the portrait. He excels at expressing the character and vitality of his subjects while capturing an accurate likeness. Zenos portfolio includes figure sculpture, animals, bas-reliefs, portraits—both busts and paintings—of living and historical individuals, and poetic/philosophical sculpture with a post-modern sensibility.

Although Zenos creates personal, expressive works of art, he is a commissioned artist with wide-ranging versatility capable of sculpting subjects from the human form to animals. 


Michelle Goldberg is an author and columnist for Slate. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Goldberg’s first book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, was a finalist for the 2007 New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism. In 2009, she published The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, which is based on her reporting about the state of women’s reproductive rights across several continents.

In 2008, The Means of Reproduction won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.

Her work has also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book ReviewGlamourRolling Stone, The Nation, New YorkThe Guardian (UK) and The New Republic. Goldberg has taught at NYU’s Graduate School of Journalism, lectured throughout the United States and in Europe, and has been interviewed on many radio and television shows.



Kelly Helton,12, is a middle school feminist and freethinking activist from Kentucky. Kelly has taken a stance against religious promotion in her public school, volunteered at Planned Parenthood, and publicly spoken at numerous protest rallies including Planned Parenthood, International Women’s Day, Tri-State Freethinkers and NaNoCon. Kelly believes that most important issue the world faces is equal rights. She feels that she could make a difference locally by speaking up about social justice and encouraging others to speak up as well. She will give a short talk about her activism, which includes sitting down for the Pledge of Allegiance and successful efforts to get her public school to put an end to religious songs that her class was required to sing. Her father is Jim Helton, an FFRF Lifetime Member and the Organizer of the Tri-State Freethinkers, but Kelly’s activism is all her own. She has been named FFRF’s 2017 Thomas W. Jendrock Student Activist.


CARA SANTA MARIA1cara santa maria

Cara Santa Maria is a Los Angeles Area Emmy and Knight Foundation Award winning journalist, science communicator, television personality, producer, and podcaster.

Cara reports on local issues for SoCal Connected on KCET, and she hosts the digital companion series for the popular competition reality show America's Greatest Makers on TBS. Cara is the creator and host of a weekly science podcast called Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria and co-hosts the popular Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She is a founding member of the Nerd Brigade and co-founded the annual science communication retreat #SciCommCamp.

Previously, Cara was a regular contributor to TechKnow on Al Jazeera America and Real Future on Fusion. She also co-hosted Brain Surgery Live on National Geographic Channel. She was a co-host and producer of TakePart Live on Pivot TV and FabLab on Fox. Before that, she was the Senior Science Correspondent for The Huffington Post and costarred in Hacking the Planet and The Truth About Twisters on The Weather Channel.

Cara has made appearances on BBC America, CBS, CNN, Current TV, Fox, Fox News, G4tv, Nat Geo WILD, Science Channel, SundanceTV, and the Travel Channel. She is also a contributor to The Young Turks.

Prior to her career in media, Cara taught biology and psychology courses to university undergraduates and high school students in Texas and New York. Her published research has spanned various topics, including clinical psychological assessment, the neuropsychology of blindness, neuronal cell culture techniques, and computational neurophysiology.

She will be speaking on "She, Atheist." 



Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born secularist and human rights activist, commentator and broadcaster. She is spokesperson for One Law for All, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah. She hosts a weekly television program called Bread and Roses.

She is on the International Advisory Board of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom and Euromind; Humanist Laureate at the International Academy of Humanism; National Secular Society Honorary Associate; a member of the International Advisory Board of Feminist Dissent and a columnist for the Freethinker. Maryam and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain were featured in a 2016 film called Islam's Non-Believers; she was also a character in DV8 Physical Theatre's Can We Talk About This?, which deals with freedom of speech, censorship and Islam.

The Islamic regime of Iran's media outlets have called Namazie "immoral and corrupt" and did an 'exposé' on her entitled "Meet this anti-religion woman." In the past few years, she has been involved in nude protest in defence of women's rights in the Middle East and North Africa, initiated a Day to Stand with Bangladesh's Bloggers and Activists; an International Day to Defend Amina and the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar 2012-2013, founded Iran Solidarity, and helped launch the Manifesto for a Free and Secular Middle East and North Africa. She has spoken and written numerous articles on women's rights issues, free expression, Islamism, and secularism.

Previously, Namazie was the elected Executive Director of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees, a refugee run organisation with 60 branches in 15 countries worldwide for 8 years; founded the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees; and co-founded Human Rights Without Frontiers based in the Sudan, amongst others. She will be receiving the Henry H. Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism award of $10,000.


Steven Pinker, FFRF’s honorary president, is a cognitive scientist, experimental psychologist, linguist and popular science author. He is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.

Born in Montreal, Steven is one of the world’s foremost writers on language, mind and human nature. Pinker has previously taught at Stanford and MIT. He has received eight honorary doctorates, several teaching awards at MIT and Harvard, and numerous prizes for his books The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997), The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002) and The Better Angels of Our Nature. His latest book is The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Steven frequently writes for The New York Times, The Guardian, Time, The Atlantic, and other magazines on diverse topics including language, consciousness, education, morality, politics, genetics, bioethics, and trends in violence.

Steven is the chair of the Usage Panel of The American Heritage Dictionary and has served as editor or advisor for numerous scientific, scholarly, media, and humanist organizations, including the American Association the Advancement of Science, the National Science Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the Linguistic Society of America. For his writing he has been awarded the William James Book Prize three times, the Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize, the Eleanor Maccoby Book Prize, the Cundill Recognition of Excellence in History Award, and the Plain English International Award. He has also received the the Troland Research Prize from the National Academy of Sciences, the Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association, the Henry Dale Prize from the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and the William James Award from the Association for Psychological Science for his groundbreaking research.

He has been named “Humanist of the Year,” Prospect magazine’s “The World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals,” Foreign Policy’s “100 Global Thinkers,” Time magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today,” and Honorary President of the Canadian Psychological Association. He has received FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award.


KATHA POLLITTkatha pollitt 

Katha Pollitt is well known for her witty, biweekly column in The Nation, "Subject to Debate." The column, which won the National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary in 2003, has been called "the best place to go for original thinking on the left" by the Washington Post. Pollitt's writing has gained wide recognition for her cleverly biting style matched with an ability to sense and illustrate social follies.

Pollitt, a New York City native, won the American Sociological Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues in 2011. Her 1992 essay on the culture wars, "Why We Read: Canon to the Right of Me..." won the National Magazine Award for essays and criticism, and she received a Whiting Foundation Writing Award that same year. In 2013, her column won a Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as did her 1993 essay, "Why Do We Romanticize the Fetus?"

Many of Pollitt's contributions to The Nation are compiled in three books: Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism (Knopf, 1994); Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture (Modern Library, 2001); and Virginity or Death! And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time (Random House, 2006). In 2007 Random House published her collection of personal essays, Learning to Drive and Other Life Stories. The book was anthologized in Best American Essays 2003. It inspired the Feature Film of the same title, starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. Her most recent book is Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which The New York Times listed as a Notable Book of 2014.

For her poetry, Pollitt has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her 1982 book Antarctic Traveller won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her poems have been published in many magazines and are reprinted in many anthologies, most recently The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006). Her second collection, The Mind-Body Problem, came out from Random House in 2009. Pollitt is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. She was educated at Harvard and the Columbia School of the Arts. She has lectured at dozens of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brooklyn College, UCLA, the University of Mississippi and Cornell. She has taught poetry at Princeton, Barnard and the 92nd Street Y, and women's studies at the New School University.

She has previously received FFRF's Emperor Has No Clothes Award and Freethought Heroine Award. This year, Pollitt will be given FFRF's new "Forward" Award, to recognize individuals who have moved society forward in progress. Katha will be receiving the first statuette, an original replica of the statue outside the Wisconsin State Capitol, embodying the state motto, "Forward."

PAULA POUNDSTONE1paula poundstone

Paula Poundstone is one of America's top comedians known for her crackling wit and keen social observations. She is listed in Comedy Central's list of "100 Greatest Stand-Ups Of All Time" and has also won an American Comedy Award for Best Female Standup Comic. She routinely identifies as an atheist in her performances. Among Poundstone's claims to fame is her regular appearances as a panelist on NPR's funny weekly news quiz show, "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me."

In 1992, she became the first woman to host the prestigious White House Correspondents dinner in its 72-year history. In 2016, Paula voiced the character "Forgetter Paula" in Disney/Pixar's Academy Award-winning animated feature film, "Inside Out." In June 2016, her first double-live CD, "North By Northwest: Paula Poundstone Live!" debuted at No. 1 on both Amazon's "Hot New Releases – Nonfiction" and "Comedy CD" lists.

Poundstone's second book, The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, debuts May 9 but is already on Amazon's top 10 New Releases chart. In pre-reviews the book is receiving impressive acclaim with Kirkus Reviews calling it "a deeply revealing memoir in which the pathos doesn't kill the humor," and Booklist Booklist praising Poundstone as "a crack writer of uncommonly hilarious observations."

Kevin Price1Kevin Price

FFRF member Kevin Price will be named a Freethinker of the Year for his role as a plaintiff in FFRF’s successful lawsuit against Brewster County, Texas, removing Christian crosses on police vehicles. Kevin is an atheist who “broke off a longtime on-again, off-again relationship with religious superstition” at the age of 30 through researching and reasoning. He grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently lives in Texas. Price is a veteran and formerly worked for the Federal Government.


MARIE SCHAUB1MarieSchaubforConvention

Marie Schaub is the successful plaintiff in FFRF's lawsuit against a Pennsylvania school district over a Ten Commandments monument outside her daughter's school. As the only publically named plaintiff in the case, she was vilified and harassed. In 2016, Schaub received FFRF’s Atheist in Foxhole Courage Award.

She will be named a 2017 Freethinker of the Year.

Julia Sweeney

Julia SweeneyThe oldest in a Catholic family of five children, Julia Sweeney was raised in Spokane, Washington. After graduating from the University of Washington where she studied economics, Julia headed south to Los Angeles to work as an accountant for Columbia Pictures. On a whim, she signed up for classes with the improvisational comedy troupe, The Groundlings. Sweeney studied under Saturday Night Live cast member-to-be Phil Hartman and was discovered by SNL producer Lorne Michaels. She stayed on the show for four hit seasons. Her unforgettable androgynous character, "Pat," spun a feature film, " It's Pat." Julia moved back back to Los Angeles. Within a matter of months, her brother was diagnosed with cancer, and so was she. Her experiences led her to write and star in "God Said, Ha!" The play was released theatrically by Miramax, and earned the Golden Space Needle Award and the New York Film Festival audience award. Sweeney's recording earned her a Grammy nomination for best comedy album.

Julia has appeared on the big screen in her friend Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster "Pulp Fiction." A veteran of live television, Julia was a series regular on "George & Leo" and she guest-starred on "3rd Rock from the Sun," "Hope and Gloria," and "Mad About You." She's acted in feature films "Clockstoppers," "Whatever It Takes," "Stuart Little," "Thick as Thieves," and "Beethoven's 3rd." She also served as a consultant on the hit HBO series "Sex and the City." Her hilarious one-woman show, "In the Family Way" ran off-Broadway in 2003. "In the Family Way" is about the adoption of her daughter, Mulan, from China. In 2004, she debuted a new one-woman show, "Letting Go of God" about her journey from Roman Catholic schoolgirl to atheist.

Kimberly veal1kimberly veal

Kimberly Veal is president of People of Color Beyond Faith, president and host of the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, IT trainer, and community and social justice activist. 


1Roy Zimmerman

Roy Zimmerman is an American satirical singer-songwriter and guitarist with a repertoire of irreverent songs.

He wrote a series of satirical musical reviews in the 1980s that were produced by the San Jose Repertory Theatre. The musicals parodied the excesses of the evolving yuppie culture in Silicon Valley.

Zimmerman founded The Foremen, a Southern California satirical folk quartet. It performed at the national conventions of both major American political parties in 1996. Continuing as a solo act, Zimmerman explained the philosophy behind writing and performing humorous songs on increasingly political subjects: “There’s nothing funny about world peace. Social justice never killed at the The Comedy Store. If we ever attain a worldwide consciousness of peace and justice, I’ll be happily out of a job. But as long as there’s poverty, war, bigotry, ignorance, greed, lust and paranoia, I’ve got a career.”

Zimmerman played in the Rock Beyond Belief concert on March 31, 2012, at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg.

fOrward! Marching band

1forward marching band

The Forward! Marching Band band will play during FFRF's first-ever "Tailgate Party" buffet dinner Friday night. Founded in Madison, Wis., in 2011, the entertainingly quirky marching band gained members and experience marching around the State Capitol in the snow, slush and rain in the crucible of a groundswell of protests held that spring. "We believe in using music to help fuel social change, have fun and build community." Forward! Marching Band is an ever-changing group of musicians of all skill levels, with diverse ages, musicianship and abilities. Instruments run the gamut from traditional band instruments to home-brewed xylophones and washboards. "We love costumes, silly hats and spectacle. It brings lively tunes to protests, marches, rallies, parades and community events."

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