Check out all that Pittsburgh has to offer
By Kim and Stephen Hirtle
FFRF is bringing this year's convention to Pittsburgh, Pa., on the weekend of Oct. 7–9, a city that has been garnering national and international attention for its quality of life and unique features.
Recent accolades for Pittsburgh:
- Listed as one of the best places in the world to visit (Travel + Leisure).
- Rated as the No. 1 food city in 2015 (Zagat).
- Offers America's most stunning views (USA Today).
- Listed as the "coolest American city you haven't been to" (Huffington Post).
Pittsburgh, with a population slightly more than 300,000, is also known for having more bridges than any city in the world, including Venice. The three main rivers — Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio — join downtown at Point State Park. Two inclines (funicular railways) dating back to the late 1800s take tourists and commuters up the side of Mount Washington, just as they did when steel was the main industry.
Downtown Pittsburgh, where the FFRF convention will be held, is known for its striking and varied architecture, notable restaurants and cultural amenities. The Andy Warhol Museum (named for a Pittsburgh native) and the Carnegie Science Center are just across the river on the North Shore. The Carnegie Natural History and Carnegie Art Museums are housed together, a short taxi or bus ride away, in the Oakland neighborhood, which is also home to Phipps Conservatory and two world class institutions: the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.
Across the street from the Cathedral of Learning is the Carnegie Natural History Museum, known for one the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world, including the Diplodocus Carnegii, named in honor of Pittsburgh native and freethinker Andrew Carnegie.
For those seeking outdoor activities, there are bike rental locations downtown, with bike trails throughout the city and along the rivers. Kayak Pittsburgh operates on weekends in October, just a short walk from the hotel, and for a modest fee, you can get out on the Allegheny River for an hour or two of exercise with excellent views of the skyline and stadiums.
FFRF visitors are encouraged to check out Market Square, a large European-style plaza surrounded by 14 restaurants near the hotel.
Those coming to the conference a day early will have the opportunity to visit Fallingwater. Considered to be the most iconic of all of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs, the house was built on top of natural waterfall.
Stephen Hirtle is chair of the FFRF Executive Board and professor of Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh.
After the tour of Fallingwater, there will be a reception from 3-5 p.m. with workshops and complimentary appetizers. Friday dinner is on your own. The formal program begins at 7 p.m. Friday, ending with complimentary dessert and hot beverages. The convention resumes Saturday morning with an optional Non-Prayer Breakfast at 8 a.m. The morning program starts at 9:30 a.m. After a two-hour lunch on your own, the program resumes at 2 p.m. An optional dinner banquet will be followed by evening speaker/entertainment. Annual meetings of the membership and the state representatives are Sunday morning, ending by noon.
Photo: Courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Friday, prior to the start of the convention, FFRF is hosting a tour of the impressive Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater site. The $40 ticket includes admission to Fallingwater and round-trip coach bus transportation. There is also an optional, although highly recommended, box lunch available for $12. (The cafeteria is expected to be too busy to accommodate FFRF on this tight schedule.) The 43-mile route to the captivating Fallingwater is through scenic Pennsylvania countryside during the most beautiful time of the year. Buses depart from Wyndham Grand every 30 minutes beginning 7:50 a.m., with returns beginning 2:10 p.m.
Extra rooms have been set aside at the Wyndham Grand for FFRF members for Thursday night for those interested in going on the tour. FFRF will provide tour times, tickets and other information with mailed convention registration confirmation.
Important Visitor Guidelines
- Fallingwater is a fragile environment. To help protect Fallingwater and its collections, all group tour registrants must adhere to these Fallingwater policies:
- Only small wallets and handheld cameras are permitted on tour. Please leave all larger backpacks, purses, camera bags/equipment, and other cumbersome items on the bus.
- Eating, drinking and chewing gum are prohibited in the house while on tour.
- Smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes, is only permitted in the parking lot. The rest of the Fallingwater site is a smoke-free environment.
- Visitors are asked not to touch the woodwork and collections or to sit on or touch the furnishings.
- Cell phones and other electronic devices must be turned off while on tour.
- Photography is not permitted during one-hour guided house tours. Exterior photography for personal use only is welcome. Complete photography guidelines are available upon request.
- Children under 6 years old, including infants and toddlers, are not permitted on house tours.
- Fallingwater is a carry-in/carry-out facility. We ask that you take your trash with you when you leave.
The tour involves considerable walking and there are challenges on site, including 100 steps (not all at once) and uneven gravel paths on a 1/4 mile walk from the Visitor Center to the house. If you have concerns about mobility, vision or hearing challenges, please read the following details.
For more details about getting the most out of your visit, please see the Fallingwater website .
Check back soon for updates! Register today!
Saturday’s Non-Prayer Breakfast ($30): Scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, chef’s home fried cottage potatoes, muffins and danishes, freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly brewed Starbucks coffee, decaffeinated coffee and a selection of specialty teas. Vegan/vegetarian entree option: Scrambled vegetable and tofu with roasted tomato and cottage potatoes.
Saturday’s banquet dinner ($45): Field greens with grape tomato, Kalamata olives, English cucumber and balsamic dressing, dinner rolls and butter, herb grilled chicken with basil cream sauce, chef’s selection of starch and chef’s selection of seasonal vegetable. Vegan/vegetarian entree option: Tuscan grilled vegetable stack with white and black bean ragout with tomato coulis.
Dessert is New York cheesecake with fresh strawberries.
There is a place on the registration form to indicate whether you need gluten-free meals.
Check back soon for updates! Register today!
* Schedule subject to changes
Friday, October 7
Early registration for Fallingwater tour goers to be announced.
2 p.m. Registration opens – Grand Ballroom Foyer
3 – 5 p.m. Reception with appetizers – Kings Garden 4-5
3-4 Legal Report Workshop - Grand Ballroom1
FFRF Staff Attorneys
3-4 Legal Workshop (“Is Christianity Un-American?”) – Kings Garden 2
FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel
4-5 Legal Report Workshop – Kings Garden 2
FFRF Staff Attorneys
4-5 Legal Report Workshop – (“Is Christianity Un-American?”) Grand Ballroom 1
FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel
Dinner on your own
All evening events held in Grand Ballrooom 1-2, unless otherwise noted.
7 p.m. Opening & Music
FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker & Annie Laurie Gaylor
Secular Invocation & short remarks
"Nothing Fails Like Prayer" Awardee
7:30 Linda LaScola
“Not So Caught in the Pulpit”
8:00 "Adam Mann"
"Clergyman and secret co-founder of The Clergy Project comes out as atheist"
8:30 Lawrence Krauss
Emperor Has No Clothes Award
Booksignings for LaScola and Krauss to follow
Complimentary desserts – Kings Garden 1-3
Saturday, October 8
8 a.m. Nonprayer Breakfast – Kings Garden 4-5
All Saturday events held in Grand Ballroom 1-2, unless otherwise noted.
9:30 Welcome & Highlights of FFRF Year Report
FFRF Directors Lisa Strand, Dan Barker & Annie Laurie Gaylor
9:50 Pittsburgh Welcome
Professor Stephen Hirtle
10 Marie Schaub
Atheist in Foxhole Courage Award
10:30 Lauri Lebo
Freethought Heroine Award
11 Rafida Bonya Ahmed
Booksigning for Lebo to follow
Noon-2 p.m. Lunch & Sightseeing Break
2 p.m. "GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction"
3 "Sick and Tired of 'God Bless America'"
4 "Why accepting evolution and accepting atheism go hand in hand"
Booksignings for Coyne, Jacoby & Barker to follow
6:30 Banquet Dinner – Grand Ballroom 1-2
Drawing for "Clean" Money
"The Singing Atheist" – Dan Barker at the piano
"Has the Dam broken? Omens and worries."
Sunday, October 9
All Sunday events held in Kings Garden 4-5
Room opens at 8:30 with pastries, coffee & tea
9 am Annual Business Meeting
Open to current FFRF members
Annual State Representatives Meeting
Adjourn by Noon
(The following speakers will be signing copies of their books during the convention.) More speakers coming soon!
FFRF co-president, who will speak on his newest book, released this year by Sterling Press, GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, inspired by a line in Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion, with a foreword by Dawkins. Dan will be on hand to sign copies (donating royalties) and entertain with some irreverent ditties on the piano.
JERRY A. COYNE
Jerry A. Coyne, professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, who has written 119 scientific papers and 150 popular articles, book reviews, and columns, and a trade book about the evidence for evolution—Why Evolution is True, a New York Times bestseller. Coyne plans to speak on the topic of “Evolution and Atheism: Best Friends Forever.” He previously was honored with FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, is an honorary director and will sign copies of Why Evolution is True, and his newest book, Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible.
Daniel Dennett, one of the so-called “Four Horsemen of New Atheism,” and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, will speak on “Has the dam broken? Omens and worries.” Dennett, an honorary director, received FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award in 2005. Dennett will sign copies of his book, including Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.
Nadia Duncan was the winner of this year College Essay Contest for Freethinkers of Color. She is from Vienna, Va., and is a student at SUNY Purchase College.
Susan Jacoby, author of 11 books, most recently, Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion, which came out this March, and will sign books at the conference. Her articles have appeared frequently in the op-ed pages of The New York Times, including one in February, “Sick and Tired of ‘God Bless America.’ Jacoby, an honorary director, is a previous recipient of FFRF’s Freethought Heroine Award.
Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and author and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. An atheist, he has won numerous international awards for both his research and his efforts to improve the public understanding of science. He is also the author of nine books, including bestsellers The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing. Krauss will be honored with this year’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award and will do a booksigning.
Lauri Lebo is an author, radio station owner and former reporter from Harrisburg, Pa., where she was the principal local reporter covering the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2004-05 while working for the York Daily Record. She was featured prominently in the Nova documentary Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, both because of her coverage and because her father, who owned Christian radio station WWII-AM in Harrisburg, sided with the Dover School Board in the controversy. Lebo will be presented with FFRF’s Freethought Heroine Award, and will sign copies of her book, The Devil in Dover.
Marie Schaub is a plaintiff in FFRF’s suit over a Ten Commandments monument in Pennsylvania's New Kensington-Arnold School District. The case has been appealed after a judge ruled that Schaub and her daughter did not have standing. Marie is the only publicly-named plaintiff in the case, has been vilified, and will be honored with FFRF’s Atheist in Foxhole Courage Award.
David Williamson is a state/church activist and community organizer in Central Florida. He, along with his wife, Jocelyn, founded the Central Florida Freethought Community, FFRF’s only chapter in Florida. David is on the Advisory Board for the Center for Freethought Equality and co-chairs the Florida Humanist Association’s state conference, FREEFLO. He is a certified Humanist celebrant, having been ordained by the Humanist Society to serve as an ambassador of humanism, ceremony officiant, and scholar of humanism.” He will be receiving a “Nothing Fails Like Prayer Award” for a secular invocation and giving an update on FFRF’s and Central Florida Freethought Community’s litigation with AU and ACLU over censorship of a secular invocation in Brevard County, Fla.
Henry (Hank) Zumach is an avid activist for freethought and separation of church/state issues. He has taken leadership in organizing a group of plaintiffs for a FFRF federal lawsuit and in starting the 150 member La Crosse (Wisconsin) Area Freethought Society. At 74 years of age he hopes to create a lasting legacy by establishing the annual Zumach Award for the organization or individual that is judged to have done the most to diminish the influence of fundamentalist religion.
Check back soon for updates! Register today!
Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown - SOLD OUT for most dates in our block.
600 Commonwealth Pl.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
You may want to call the hotel in case of cancellations. Room rates for FFRF guests are $159 single or double occupancy. Phone 412-391-4600 (direct) or 888-317-0197 (toll-free). Refer to the group name “Freedom From Religion Foundation” to receive the guest rate. The cut-off date to reserve rooms is Sept. 12.
The Westin Convention Center Hotel
Location .9 miles from the Wyndham
1000 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
A small number of rooms (single or double occupancy) are available at the $159 convention rate for October 5-7. (For three or more guests, add $20 per person.) Unfortunately, Saturday is sold out. Please check with the hotel for availability at other rates. The cut-off date to reserve rooms is September 16.
You may wish to check Hotels.com, Travelocity, other online travel sites or a local travel agent for other hotel availability. Our apologies for the inconvenience.
Register now for FFRF’s 39th national convention in Pittsburgh
You aren't going to want to miss the 2016 FFRF national convention in Pittsburgh held the weekend of Oct. 7-9!
The national convention, hosted at the Wyndham Grand hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, will include such notable speakers as cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, award-winning author Susan Jacoby, biology professor Jerry Coyne and theoretical physicist and author Lawrence Krauss.
After eight years as a closeted atheist in the Bible Belt, a former conservative pastor will be coming out publicly at the convention. "Adam Mann" is co-founder of The Clergy Project, a group for current and former religious professionals without supernatural beliefs. Media outlets are interested in covering Mann's announcement.
Another co-founder of the Clergy Project who will speak at the convention is Linda LaScola. She is co-author, with Dennett, of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind and Preachers Who Are Not Believers. She is also editor of the Patheos blog, "Rational Doubt: With voices from the Clergy Project." Linda is a clinical social worker with years of professional experience as a qualitative researcher and psychotherapist.
The Clergy Project was also founded by FFRF's Dan Barker and Dennett, who will be one of the convention's keynote speakers. His Saturday night speech is titled, "Has the dam broken? Omens and worries."
Friday night's keynote speaker will be Krauss, the internationally known theoretical physicist. He will receive the Emperor Has No Clothes award from FFRF.
Jacoby is the author of 11 books, most recently, Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion. Jacoby is a previous recipient of FFRF's Freethought Heroine award. Coyne is professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. He has written 119 scientific papers and 150 popular articles, book reviews and a trade book about the evidence for evolution — Why Evolution is True.
Humanist activist Rafida Bonya Ahmed, who survived a machete attack in Bangladesh, will receive FFRF's new "Forward" award. Author Lauri Lebo, who covered the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial, will be named 2016 Freethought Heroine. Marie Schaub will speak after being honored as an "atheist in a foxhole" by FFRF for her work as plaintiff in a case against a school district for having a granite Ten Commandments monument in front of a high school. FFRF College essay contest winner Nadia Duncan will also speak.
And, of course, FFRF's Barker will take to the podium to discuss his lawsuit against Congress and his new book, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.
And before you get to see and listen to all these great speakers, don't forget about the tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater on Friday. It's a great way to kick off convention weekend!
For more information on convention specifics, click on these links.
MONONA TERRACE - 1 John Nolen Dr, Madison, WI 53703
ABOUT THE MONONA TERRACE
Frank Lloyd Wright originally proposed a design for a “dream civic center” in 1938. His architectural vision for the City of Madison – a curvilinear gathering place that would link the shore of Lake Monona to the State Capitol – has now been realized. With interiors redesigned by Taliesin architect Tony Puttnam, Monona Terrace spans ninety feet out over shimmering waters, incorporating thoroughly modern technology and amenities with the architect´s signature organic design.
Monona Terrace offers a full range of amenities such as:
- Wireless Internet Access
- Courtesy In-House Phones
- Pay Phones
- Food and Beverage Service
- Telephone and Electrical Services
- Audiovisual and Sound Services
- Event/Facility Security
- Guest Service Greeters
- Badge Checkers
- Internal Event Posting Monitors & Outdoor Marquee
- Coat/Luggage Check
- Baby Changing Facilities
- Ample Restrooms on All Levels
- ATM Machine
Parking at Monona Terrace is $1.50 per hour up to a maximum of $12 for daily parking.
MAPS OF MONONA TERRACE
Level 1 - Lakeside
Level 2 - Mezzanine
Level 4 - Meeting Rooms & Grand Terrace
Level 5 - William T. Evjue Rooftop Gardens