2014 Raleigh Regional Convention Recap


Freedom From Religion
     in the Bible Belt ­— May 2-3, 2014
Raleigh Regional Convention
Sheraton Raleigh, 421 South Salisbury St., Raleigh N.C.

View photos from the Mini-Convention here

View Speakers Video & Transcriptions here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Triangle Freethought Society, its Raleigh-area chapter, will “win hearts and minds for reason and secularism” on the weekend of May 2-3 at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel, 421 South Salisbury St., in downtown Raleigh, N.C.

The conference is for the convenience of Southern and East Coast FFRF’ers but all are welcome. Plan now to avoid disappointment. The convention will provide both edification and entertainment.

Phone the Raleigh Sheraton at 1-800-325-3535 by April 16 and identify yourself as an FFRF member. The rates are $129 single/double, $139 triple, $149 quad and $169 club, plus tax. 

Michael Nugent
Entertainment includes Raleigh's Village Idiots, a local comedy troupe; Dan Barker; FFRF co-president, aka “The Singing Atheist,” who’ll entertain at the piano; a complimentary cake reception; and two group meals, including Saturday’s Non-Prayer Breakfast and a drawing for “clean,” pre-“In God We Trust” currency. Filmmaker Scott Burdick’s 25-minute documentary “Sophia Goes to the Good News Club” will air, featuring local student Sophia Winkler, who will receive a student activist award at the event.



Confirmed speakers include:

kaleiandben  bartehrman maxnielsoncolor toddstiefel  mattkill 

mandisathomas danannie candice  ScottBurdickPortraitPhoto morehead

harry Sue-ProfilePic sophiaphoto tri-sisters  

• Randy Bender, a former Evangelical Lutheran Church of America pastor. 

Bart Ehrman, who is James A. Gray Professor, Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and writes “The Bart Ehrman Blog.” He is author of numerous books including Did Jesus Exist? and Forged, which exposes deliberate forgeries in the New Testament. He graduated from Wheaton College and received both of his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary.

• Max Nielson, winner of FFRF’s 2012 Thomas Jefferson Student Activist Award, is one of 3 plaintiffs in FFRF’s lawsuit over unconstitutional graduation prayer at Irmo High School, S.C., and school board prayer. He’s founded a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance at the College of Charleson. He interned last summer as social media manger of the Secular Coalition and remains a volunteer social media manager.

• Michael Nugent, founder and chair of Atheist Ireland. Michael will fly in from Dublin to give an international flavor to the conference and talk about Irish issues, as well as the growing number of blasphemy prosecutions around the world.

• Todd Stiefel, a Raleigh local, FFRF Lifetime Member and head of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, which has sparked much freethought activism and was an integral sponsor of the Reason Rally. Todd graduated cum laude from Duke University, worked 12 years for Stiefel Laboratories and is now a full-time freethought activist. Todd’s speech will be titled, “The Importance of Living Out.”

• Mandisa Thomas, founder and president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., based in Atlanta. She was featured in a recent issue of JET magazine and is a frequent guest speaker. A married mother of three, she works to encourage more blacks to come out and stand strong as nonbelievers.

• Stuart Wilson, an investigative reporter at WCNC-TV (NBC) Charlotte, who will speak on his megachurch abuse exposés.

• Sophia Winkler, student activist awardee.

• Former clergy in the Raleigh area who are now part of the Clergy Project. FFRF’s Dan Barker is also administrator of the volunteer support group for clergy still in the pulpit who “have seen the light.” He will emcee the panel, which will include Candace R.M. Gorham, a local chapter member who left the ministry and is the author of The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking Out on Religion — and Others Should Too. Matt Killingsworth, a former Pentecostal minister and Texas Bible College grad. 

Other panelists and speakers will be announced as the schedule is finalized.

The mini-convention will include FFRF traditions such as a complimentary dessert reception on opening night, a Non-Prayer Breakfast, a drawing for “clean,” pre-“In God We Trust” currency and entertainment at the piano by Dan, who will co-emcee the conference with Annie Laurie Gaylor of FFRF. Chapter activists will run a “Meet and Greet” social where participants can meet speakers and activists.

Formal proceedings start at 7 p.m. Friday, May 2 (dinner on your own) with registration opening up earlier. Two optional group meals will begin and end Saturday (with Saturday lunch on your own). The event will conclude by 10 p.m. Saturday. Late-afternoon workshops may be scheduled (to be announced) for Friday afternoon.


The Non-Prayer breakfast includes scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, juice, coffee and tea and pastry rolls for $20 (inclusive of 23% service and 7.75% sales tax). A vegetarian option will substitute a tomato for meat. Dinner of $40 inclusive is Chicken Saltimbocca, a chicken breast stuffed with sliced prosciutto, sage and fresh mozzarella served with penne with garlic cream sauce and sautéed asparagus.

A grilled salmon entree or a vegetarian entrée can be substituted. All include a garden salad, warm rolls with butter, sweet iced tea, Starbucks coffee and dessert, a fresh assorted berries tower with lemon zest whipped cream. Salmon and vegetarian options are gluent-free, without bread.

Registration costs

Cost to attend: $50 for FFRF members, $55 for non-FFRF spouse/companion accompanying a member, $90 for non-members (includes $40 to become FFRF member), and $5 for students.

FFRF will be visiting the West Coast for its annual convention, set for the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, on the weekend of Oct. 24-25, 2014.

Future issues of Freethought Today will publish full details on both conferences.

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