Boston cream pie, along with a plethora of author celebrities, activists and state/church attorneys, were served up at the 44th annual convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which took place on Friday, Nov. 19–Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
VIEW CONVENTION PHOTOS HERE
Photos by Ingrid Laas
Photos by Staff Attorney Chris Line
Margaret Atwood, a giant of the global literary world, is the author of more than 50 volumes of fiction, poetry, children’s literature and nonfiction. Her best-known novels include The Edible Woman, The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, which is being adapted into a TV series. A serialized adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale has received 13 Emmy nominations and eight awards, including for Best Drama.
Atwood is the winner of many international literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize, Arthur C. Clarke Award, Governor General’s Award, the PEN Pinter Prize, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has been published in more than 40 languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian.
Atwood recieved FFRF’s “Forward” Award, which is reserved for those who are moving society forward. It includes a statuette designed by world-renowned sculptor Zenos Frudakis.
No video will be available of her performance.
Dan Barker FFRF co-president, is the author of God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, Godless, Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning, The Good Atheist and several books for children. A talented pianist and songwriter, Dan has recorded three music CDs for FFRF. He became FFRF co-president with Annie Laurie Gaylor in 2004. His new books are Free Will Explained and a revised Just Pretend: A Book for Young Freethinkers.
Randa Black of Florida has won FFRF’s 2021 Nothing Fails Like Prayer contest and recited at the convention the secular invocation she gave in Longwood, Fla. Black is a professional actor, appearing in hundreds of television commercials and episodic TV shows. She is a member of the Central Florida FreeThought Community.
Christopher Cameron, associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is author of the new book, Black Freethinkers: A History of African American Secularism. He is the founder of the African American Intellectual History Society, the author of To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement, and a coeditor of New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition.
RANDALL CRAGUN is visiting assistant professor at Birmingham-Southern College, in Birmingham, Ala. He has degrees in psychology and Economics from Oregon State University, and received his Masters and Ph.D in economics at Clemson University. He researches how the contraceptive ecosystem affects fertility, education, career choices and other life outcomes. He recieved a Freethinker of the Year Award representing plaintiffs in FFRF's successful lawsuit ending a religious test to apply to vote in Alabama. Other plaintiffs from the same lawsuit received Freethinkers of the Year awards include Robert Corker, Chris Nelson and Heather Coleman Nelson.
Ann Druyan is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and director specializing in the communication of science. She was the creative director of NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message Project and program director of the first solar sail deep space mission, launched on a Russian ICBM in 2005. She wrote with her late husband, Carl Sagan, the original 1980s Emmy Award- and Peabody Award-winning TV series “COSMOS: A Personal Voyage,” the most watched PBS series in global television history. The duo also co-wrote six New York Times bestsellers, including Comet, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, The Demon Haunted World, Billions & Billions and The Varieties of Scientific Experience. Ann was co-creator and co-producer of the Warner Bros. feature film “Contact,” starring Jodie Foster and directed by Robert Zemeckis.
As founder and CEO of Cosmos Studios, since 2000, Druyan has produced the Emmy Award-nominated “Cosmic Journey: The Voyager Interstellar Mission and Message.” Ann created “COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey,” for the FOX and National Geographic Television Networks. Druyan was the lead executive producer, a director and co-writer on the series, which won the Peabody, Producers Guild and Emmy Awards in 2014. Druyan served as the creator, executive producer, writer and director for the latest season, “COSMOS: Possible Worlds,” airing in 2020. She wrote the companion book to the series of the same name, which was published by National Geographic in February 2020. She will speak after her daughter Sasha Sagan on Saturday night.
Ann recieved FFRF's 2021 Emperor Has No Clothes Award.
Linda Greenhouse, a clinical lecturer and senior research scholar in law at Yale Law School who covered the Supreme Court for The New York Times for 30 years, received FFRF's Clarence Darrow Award and statuette. She writes a biweekly op-ed column on law as a contributing Times columnist. She's received several major journalism awards during her 40-year career at the Times, including the Pulitzer Prize. Her books include a biography of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Becoming Justice Blackmun; Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling (with Reva B. Siegel); The U.S. Supreme Court, A Very Short Introduction; The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right, with Michael J. Graetz and Just a Journalist: Reflections on the Press, Life, and the Spaces Between, published by Harvard University Press in 2017. Her latest book will be published in November, Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months That Transformed the Supreme Court. In her extracurricular life, Ms. Greenhouse is president of the American Philosophical Society, the country's oldest learned society. Photo by Ingrid Laas.
Sikivu Hutchinson, Ph.D. is an educator, author, playwright and director. She received her doctorate from New York University and is the author of Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels and the novel White Nights, Black Paradise, on Peoples Temple and the 1978 Jonestown massacre. She also wrote, directed and produced a short film of White Nights, Black Paradise. Her short plays Grinning Skull and Narcolepsy, Inc. were featured in the Robey Theatre’s 2017 Paul Robeson Festival and the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival. She has contributed chapters to The Oxford Handbook of Secularism and Gender and Planning from Rutgers University and her articles have been published in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, The Humanist Magazine and the L.A. Times.
She is a contributing editor for The Feminist Wire and the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project, a feminist mentoring program for girls of color in South L.A. as well as Black Skeptics Los Angeles. In 2016, she was a keynote speaker at the Mandela and Kathrada Foundations’ Anti-Racism Network conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her most recent novel is Rock ‘n’ Roll Heretic: The Life and Times of Rory Tharpe.
Hutchinson recieved FFRF's "Freethought Heroine" Award.
Megan Phelps-Roper is a speaker, advocate and author of the new bestselling book Unfollow: On Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church.
Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, the Topeka, Kansas church known internationally for its daily public protests against members of the LGBTQ community, Jews, other Christians, the military and countless others. Starting at five-years-old, she participated in the picketing almost daily and spearheaded the use of social media in the church. Dialogue with "enemies" online proved instrumental in her deradicalization, and she left the church and her entire way of life in November 2012. Since then she has become an advocate for people and ideas she was taught to despise — especially the value of empathy in dialogue with people across ideological lines. In addition to her new book, Phelps-Roper gave a powerful TEDTalk on her experience leaving the grip of the church, which has been viewed more than 5 million times.
Phelps-Roper received the $10,000 “Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism” Award.
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, Pinker 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 Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters. 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.
Sasha Sagan was a part of “An Evening with Ann Druyan and Sasha Sagan,” a mother-daughter team, as the Saturday evening keynotes. Sasha is author of the new book, For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World. She is a graduate of NYU, and has worked as a television producer, filmmaker, writer and speaker. Her essays and interviews on death, history and ritual through a secular lens have appeared in The Cut, O, the Oprah Magazine, Literary Hub, Atmos and beyond. She regularly speaks on ways science can inform our celebrations and how we mark the passage of time, inspired in part by the work of her parents, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan. Inverse named Sasha one of their Future 50, “a group of 50 people who will be forces of good in the 2020.”
Andrew L. Seidel is a constitutional attorney, the Director of Strategic Response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and an author. Andrew graduated cum laude from Tulane University ('04) with a B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science and magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School ('09), where he was awarded the Haber J. McCarthy Award for excellence in environmental law. He studied human rights and international law at the University of Amsterdam and traveled the world on Semester at Sea. Andrew completed his Master of Laws at Denver University Sturm College of Law with a perfect GPA ('11) and was awarded the Outstanding L.L.M. Award.
His first book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American hits shelves in May 2019. Renowned constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky has described it as "a beautifully written book" that "explodes a frequently expressed myth: that the United States was created as a Christian nation." When not fighting for the First Amendment, Andrew writes for ThinkProgress, Religion News Service, Rewire News and elsewhere. Andrew joined FFRF as a constitutional consultant on Halloween, 2011.
Sushant Singh is an Indian actor and presenter known for his work predominantly in Hindi cinema. He has starred in period dramas such as Ambedkar and The Legend of Bhagat Singh, and established himself in Bollywood. He has appeared in a few television shows, and hosted the immensely popular crime show Savdhaan India from 2012 to 2019. He has also served as the Honorary General Secretary of CINTAA (Cine & Television Artistes Association), Mumbai. He has appeared in almost 50 movies since 1998.
Singh received the Avijit Roy Courage Award, which includes a crystal plaque and $5,000. The award honors the life and work of the Bangladeshi-American atheist and author assassinated in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2015 by Islamist terrorists. It goes to an individual working toward the spread of rational and logical discourse, and recognizes creative and heroic individuals who have persisted, despite hurdles, in their work to promote science, logic and humane ideas. Singh has been in the forefront of recent protests against the Hindu Nationalist government's discriminatory slew of measures violating the secular Indian Constitution. He was let go for a while from his gig as the host of Savdhaan India, reportedly due to his outspokenness, but has continued his activism undeterred.
Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer. She travels in this and other countries as an organizer and lecturer and is a frequent media spokeswoman on issues of equality.
Steinem, who’s been billed as “the world’s most famous feminist,” is a journalist who co-founded Ms. Magazine in 1972, helped establish the Women’s Action Alliance, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Media Center, and was president of Voters for Choice, a political action committee, for 25 years. She is the founder of the Ms. Foundation for Women, Take our Daughters to Work Day, and many other initiatives. Her books include the bestsellers Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Moving Beyond Words, Marilyn: Norma Jean and My Life on the Road.
Steinem received FFRF’s “Forward” Award, which is reserved for those who are moving society forward. The award includes a statuette designed by world-renowned sculptor Zenos Frudakis. Steinem has previously been named Humanist of the Year.
No video of her performance will be available.
Katherine Stewart is the author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism (Bloomsbury). She writes about religion, politics, policy and conflicts over the separation of church and state for The New York Times opinion section, The New Republic, the New York Review of Books, American Prospect, The Advocate, the Guardian and others. She is also the author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children. In 2014 she was named Person of the Year by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Stewart will speak on her book The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism and will interview Margaret Atwood.
No video of her perfomance will be available.
David Tamayo is cofounder and president of Hispanic American Freethinkers in 2010, which is the first and only national Latino 501(c)(3) educational organization of its kind. He was Vice President of the Reason Rally 2016, former host of the TV Show “Road to Reason – A Skeptic’s Guide to the 21st Century, founding Board Director of Camp Quest- Chesapeake, and host of Contrapuntos Podcast (debates with preachers, science deniers, and other interesting personalities in Spanish). David is the Chief Information Officer for DCS Corporation, a large aerospace engineering company in Washington, DC. He holds a bachelor degree in Computer Science from George Washington University, and a Master in Management in Information Technology from University of Virginia.
Jay Wexler has been a professor at Boston University School of Law since 2001, teaching courses on constitutional law, church-state law, environmental law, marijuana law, and many other subjects. In addition to nearly three dozen academic articles, he is also the author of six books, including Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battleground of the Church-State Wars, When God Isn’t Green: A Worldwide Journey to Places Where Environmentalism and Religious Practice Collide, and Our Non-Christian Nation: How Atheists, Satanists, Pagans, and Others are Demanding Their Rightful Place in Public Life. Prior to teaching, Professor Wexler worked as an attorney advisor for the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice and as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the United States Supreme Court. He holds a B.A. from Harvard College, an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.
David Williamson is co-founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC), an organization of atheists and Humanists fighting for the separation between state and church and building a thriving secular community in the Greater Orlando area. David also serves locally on the Central Florida Commission on Religious Freedom and the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. He is Secretary of the Florida Humanist Association and co-coordinator of the organization’s biennial conference, FREEFLO. David serves two national organizations: the Advisory Board of the Freethought Equality Fund and as Florida State Representative for the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Williamson and other winning plaintiffs in the Brevard Co. lawsuit accepted FFRF's Freethinker of the Year Award. Co-plaintiffs Keith Becher and Jeffery Koeberl also received Freethinker of the Year awards.
Phil Zuckerman is the author of several books, including What It Means to be Moral (Counterpoint, 2019) The Nonreligious (Oxford, 2016), Living the Secular Life (Penguin, 2014), Faith No More (Oxford, 2012), and Society Without God (NYU, 2008), and the editor of several volumes, including The Oxford Handbook of Secularism (2016) and The Social Theory of W.E.B. Du Bois (2004). He is the Associate Dean as well as Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College, and the founding chair of the nation’s first Secular Studies Program. He blogs for Psychology Today. He lives in Claremont, California, with his wife and three children.
FFRF LEGAL STAFF
Four of FFRF’s attorneys joined us for the convention: Legal Director Rebecca S. Markert, who joined FFRF’s staff in 2008 after graduating from Roger Williams Law School; Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel, who joined the staff in 2011, graduating from Tulane University Law School in 2009; Associate Counsel Sam Grover, who joined the staff in 2023 after graduating from Boston University School of Law; and Staff Attorney Chris Line, who joined FFRF in 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
FFRF Staff Attorney's gave two presentations at the convention. The first was our "2021 Legal Report."
The second was a special "Ask An Attorney" workshop.