2018 National Convention

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Dan Barker FFRF co-president, is the author of God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All FictionGodless, 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.



Larry T. Decker joined the Secular Coalition as its Executive Director in December 2015. Larry has spent nearly two decades in Washington, D.C.asa government relations professional in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. A native of Upstate New York, Larry graduated from Ithaca College, where he received his B.A., magna cum laude. He resides in Washington, D.C.

Read Larry’s speech here.


The producers of this 86-minute documentary film are granting FFRF convention participants an exclusive preview of the film, which will be released the following week. The film largely concentrates on The Clergy Project, interviewing many former ministers, including FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. The feature length documentary is about preachers who are not believers, and what atheists do when they miss church. Allowed access to the 600 members of The Clergy Project – a safe haven for preachers from all faiths who no longer believe – the documentary follows ex-members and clergy who are still undercover. It is produced by Zoot Pictures, and the filmmakers will be present to introduce both showings of the film on Friday, Nov. 2.

Representing Zoot Pictures at the conference will be:

Leif Kaldor, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a writer, director and producer of award-winning TV and cross-platform projects. He’s directed drama, written and directed documentaries, written for radio, produced music CDS and videos and is a Juno award-wining music producer and Gemini award-winning multimedia producer. Zoot Pictures documentaries have worldwide distribution via PBS International. Besides “Losing Our Religion,” about preachers who lose their faith, Zoot Pictures has produced documentaries on fracking, drones and air pollution.

Leslie Mair, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has been president and CEO of Zoot Pictures Inc. since 1998. After making experimental films with the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, Leslea moved into researching, writing and producing documentaries. She has written and produced Zoot Pictures’ award-winning documentaries in the genres of history, current affairs, social issues, medical science and environmental science as well as lifestyle series TV with a 3-season run of “The Prairie Dinner.”



Ensaf Haidar was born in 1975 in Jizan, Saudi Arabia. Against the will of her family she married Raif Badawi in 2002. Raif, initially arrested on charges of apostasy, which carries an automatic death sentence, was convicted in July 2013 for founding an internet forum that “violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought,” and sentenced to 600 leashes and seven years in prison, then resentenced in May 2014 to 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison, with a major fine added. His attorney was then sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Ensaf and their three children escaped from Saudi Arabia and were finally granted asylum in Canada. In January 2015, Raif was flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators, creating an international outcry. Ensaf has been desperately fighting to free her husband and raise awareness of Raif’s story across the world. She is the president and Cofounder of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom (RBFF).

Ensaf received 2018 Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award of $10,000.

Read Ensaf’s speech here.


Sarah Haider is an American writer, speaker and activist. Born in Pakistan and raised in Texas, Sarah spent her early youth as a practicing Muslim. She left her faith in her late teens, and later co-founded Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), which advocates for the acceptance of religious dissent and works to create local support communities for those who have left Islam. In addition to atheism, Sarah is passionate about civil liberties and women’s rights. She has spoken at numerous conferences and events and has appeared on a range of television programs, radio shows and podcasts.

Sarah directs EXMNA’s Life Beyond Faith mini-documentaries, a series of video portraits of ex-Muslim atheists and humanists. Sarah is also heading EXMNA’s Normalizing Dissent tour, and travels the United States and Canada to cover a range of issues related to apostasy in Islam. Her work with the Normalizing Dissent tour has been covered by the BBC, Slate and Quillette Magazine. She is currently a columnist for Free Inquiry magazine.

Sarah received FFRF’s “Freethought Heroine” Award.

Read Sarah’s speech here.


1BaileyHeadshotBailey Harris is a 12-year-old author is on a mission to inspire a love of science and a sense of wonder about the universe with her Stardust series of books for young readers, which she co-wrote with her father, Douglas. The first book in the series, My Name Is Stardust, was released in 2017 and has sold thousands of copies worldwide enabling Bailey and Douglas to help spread their passion for science to families across the globe

Bailey was inspired to write the book after watching a TV episode of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” in which the host Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The planets, the stars, the galaxies, we ourselves and all of life — the same star stuff.” Bailey and Douglas developed a story to teach children this concept, along with other areas of science such as evolution and astronomy. The two have been interviewed for iHeartRadio’s The Public Library Podcast about science, education and literature. Douglas was also a featured expert panel speaker on Science and Education at BookCon 2017. The second book in the series, Stardust Explores the Solar System, which will be published this year, explains how our solar system came to be starting with the Big Bang.

Bailey received FFRF’s Beverly and Richard Herman Student Activist Award of $5,000.

Read Bailey’s speech here.


Victor Harris has been a staple on the Bay Area poetry scene since 1999, he has featured at venues in Oakland and Berkeley, and was on the slam finals stage for team Oakland in 2003. His speech title is “Poetry for Seculars.” He is the recipient of the 2001 Frederic C. Fallon Award for poetry from Chabot College, and a 2006 graduate of Cal State University Hayward with a B.A. in Liberal Studies. Victor has been writing and performing atheist/skeptical/rational/science themed poetry since 2007 and has performed at conferences around the country. When he’s not writing, or performing, or DJing, he is the talent behind Reuschelle’s Cheesecakes (www.Reuschelles.com) and won a Best of the Bay award from the East Bay Express in 2009.

Read Victor’s speech here.

1Jared Huffman


Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., one of the founders of the recently announced Congressional Freethought Caucus, has agreed to speak at FFRF’s convention in San Francisco in early November. Huffman will be accepting FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, which is given to public figures who take on the fabled role of the little child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and “tell it like it is” about religion.

Read Jared’s speech here.



David J. Kaloyanides has been practicing law in the federal courts for over 25 years. A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he has been lead trial counsel in over 300 federal cases and has worked as lead trial and appellate counsel in First Amendment Civil Rights actions involving both Establishment Clause violations and Free Speech issues. Mr. Kaloyanides is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, Certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization, and his practice includes complex criminal defenses in both state and federal court. He is a member of the List of Counsel for the Defense for the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands. In the winter months when he is not in court, Mr. Kaloyanides teaches skiing as a PSIA-AASI certified Alpine-1 and Freestyle Specialist-1 ski instructor.

Read David’s speech here.



Mohammed Al Khadra is the founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Jordan (a group focused on raising awareness of atheism in Jordan as well as helping Jordanian atheists) and an outspoken advocate for freedom of speech, secularism and human rights.

Following a speech about Islam at the Freedom of Expression Conference in London in July of 2017 Al Khadra faced potential arrest by the Jordanian government and his life as an open atheist became untenable, prompting him to move to the United States.
With assistance from Freedom from Religion Foundation as well as British and American non-profit organizations Mohammed established a new home in the United States.

Al Khadra continues his activism by public speaking and working to support non-believers in Jordan and throughout the Islamic world.

Read Mohammed’s speech here.



Actor, director and producer John de Lancie is perhaps best known for portraying “Q” in the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

His many film credits include: “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” “The Fisher King,” “The Onion Field,” “Taking Care of Business,” “Fearless,” “Multiplicity,” “Women on Top,” “The Big Time,” “Reign on Me” and “Pathology.” John has appeared in numerous television shows including “The Librarians,” “Torchwood,” “Breaking Bad,” “West Wing,” “Star Trek” and “Legend.” He has been a member of The American Shakespeare Company, The Seattle Repertory Company, The South Coast Repertory, The Mark Taper Forum and the Old Globe. In the world of music, John has performed with most of the major symphony orchestras in America,Canada and Australia. He was the host of the L.A. Philharmonic “Symphonies for Youth” as well as writer/director of “First Nights”, a concert series at Disney Hall. John was co-owner, with Leonard Nimoy, of Alien Voices; a production company devoted to the dramatization of classic Sci-Fi. John has directed a number of operas as well as produced the Netflix documentary on the wonderful phenomenon of Bronies.

Read John’s speech here.


As a veteran stand-up comedian, Leighann Lord will do a standup comedy routine called, “A Comedy Quickie.” She has been seen on Lifetime, VH-1, Comedy Central, HBO, and The View. Leighann is a contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of Leighann Lord’s Dict Jokes: Alternate Definitions for Words You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Will Definitely Never Forget (2014) and Real Women Do It Standing Up: Stories From the Career of a Very Funny Lady (2016).

Leighann was New York City’s face of the “African Americans for Humanism” outreach campaign sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and its “Millions Living Happily Without Religion” campaign. Leighann was featured in author Chris Johnson’s The Atheist Book: A Better Life. She has been a co-host on the Emmy-nominated StarTalk with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Leighann is also a CFI certified Secular Celebrant, officiating at milestone life events commemorated with a nonreligious worldview.


FFRF Legal Staff: Three of FFRF’s nine attorneys are presenting: FFRF Legal Director Rebecca S. Markert, who joined FFRF’s staff in 2008 after graduating from Roger Williams Law School. FFRF Associate Attorney Patrick Elliott joined FFRF’s staff in 2010, graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2009. FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel, who joined the staff in 2011, graduated from Tulane University Law School in 2009. FFRF’s Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow Chris Line is also on hand as a talented staff photographer. Chris graduated from UW Law School in 2017.

DEBRA DEANNE OLSON1DebraDeanneOlsonUpdate 

Debra Deanne Olson, with Dr. Craig West Wilkinson, just authored a book about her atheist grandfather, The Honorable Culbert Levy Olson: Governor of California 1939-1943. She is a political, environmental and peace activist and held volunteer positions on both of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. She was a national senior advisor and a fundraising consultant for the Kucinich for President campaign in 2003. She is the Founder of Peace Solutions.

For the past ten years, Debra has served on the board of trustees for the Coalition for Engaged Education in Santa Monica. Debra has worked for several organizations to help underprivileged youth and women. She remains dedicated to expanding the educational and social justice movement spearheaded by Paul Cummins and The Herb Alpert Educational Village. Debra has been a member of the Clinton Global Initiative since 2006 and has served as a member of the Business Council of Women for Hillary Clinton during the Presidential Primary 2008. Debra also helped organize the Youth Summit in Kenya, 2006 and presented a speech, “Common Sense Solutions” for a sustainable and positive future in Baku, Azerbaijan during the Youth Summit in 2008.

Read Debra’s speech here.


Cecile Richards is a national leader for women’s rights and social and economic justice, and the author of New York Times bestseller Make Trouble. As President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund for more than a decade, Richards has worked to increase affordable access to reproductive health care and to build a healthier and safer world for women and young people. After starting her career as a labor organizer, working with women earning the minimum wage, she went on to start her own grassroots organizations, and later served as Deputy Chief of Staff to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2011 and 2012, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Richards is a frequent speaker and commentator on politics and progressive issues. She and her husband, Kirk Adams, have three children and live in New York City and Maine.

She recieved FFRF’s new “Forward” Award, recognizing individuals who are moving society Forward.

Read Cecile’s speech here.


Among other awards will be the first annual Avijit Roy Courage Award, in honor of the Bangladeshi-American atheist and author who was assassinated in 2015 by Islamists after returning to Bangladesh for a book fair. The recipient is Roopbaan, the first gay magazine published in Bangladesh. One of its founders was murdered by Islamists. Accepting the award in its honor will be a Roopbann co-founder whose life was threatened too, who is now in the United States applying for asylum. On hand to announce the new award will be Rafida Bonya Ahmed, widow of Avijit Roy, who was critically wounded in the attack and has continued to help other threatened secular activists.

Read Roopbaan’s (Rasel Ahmed) speech here.

SALMAN RUSHDIE1Salman Rushdie credit Beowulf Sheehan

Salman Rushdie is one of the most celebrated authors of our time. He has written several classic novels, influenced a generation of writers, and received the Queen’s Knighthood for his “services to literature.” He is also one of the most thought-provoking proponents for free speech.

His novels include The Satanic VersesThe Moor’s Last SighThe Ground Beneath Her Feet and 2008’s The Enchantress of Florence. His masterwork of magic realism, Midnight’s Children, won the presitigious Booker Prize, and later, the Best of the Booker. He is also the author of bestselling memoir Joseph Anton. Rushdie’s Luka and the Fire of Life is a children’s novel and a companion to Haroun and the Sea of Stories. His latest novels are Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, which was a New York Times besteller, and most recently The Golden House, a novel that “depicts Obama’s and Trump’s U.S.”

Rushdie received FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award.

(Sir Rushdie did not permit recording or reprinting of his speech, but here is a short write-up.) 



Due to a family emergency, Mr. Savage was not able to attend our convention.


David Steketee received FFRF’s Freethinker of the Year Award as the principal plaintiff and force behind FFRF, Steketee v. Morris County, N.J., in which he and FFRF won a unanimous N.J. Supreme Court ruling this year barring taxpayer funds to repair churches. He was raised in St. Louis, Mo., and studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He has been an avid student of constitutional law since his years participating in speech and debate in high school, and became engaged with separation of church and state issues when his neighboring state of Kansas voted to exclude evolution from the science curriculum. Over the last 20 years he has advocated for student press rights, student privacy rights, and separation of church and state. He is a cloud architect with a large global professional services firm. David currently resides in Madison, N.J. with his wife Susan and their two children, William, 9, and Emma, 4.

Read David’s speech here.


Julia Sweeney

Julia Sweeney, one of FFRF’s honorary directors, will perform a new stand-up routine called “Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider” for the FFRF audience.

She is joining Second City in Chicago in May. She is a “Saturday Night Live” alum who created and portrayed the androgynous character “Pat,” which spun off the feature film “It’s Pat.” She also created and performed several award-winning one-woman shows, including “God Said, Ha!”, “In the Family Way” and “Letting Go of God,” which was about her journey from Roman Catholic schoolgirl to atheist. She has also been in several movies, including “Pulp Fiction.” She has previously received FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award.

1voicesofreasonVOICES OF REASON

The secular a cappella/community choir of Los Angeles with a humanist/atheist twist will entertain during a 15-minute concert.


Dr. Craig Wilkinson has been a vascular surgeon for 30 years and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his family. He majored in mathematics and double minored in physics and chemistry at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, then graduated from the University of Utah Medical School, combining his interest in science with humanitarian ideals. After Mormonism’s recent aggressive stance against the LBGT community, he sent in his letter of resignation. He serves on the board of Humanists of Utah. He is involved with Citizens Climate Lobby, working on the most pressing problem humanity now faces: climate change. He is co-author with Debra Deanne Olson of The Honorable Culbert Levy Olson: California Governor 1939 to 1943, Humanitarian, Ex-Mormon and Atheist.

Read Craig’s speech here.

Freedom From Religion Foundation