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‘DO Mess with Texas’: FFRF convention to meet in San Antonio

The Freedom From Religion Foundation announces that its 45th national convention will meet in San Antonio at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk, 123 Losoya St., on Friday, Oct. 28 through Sat., Oct. 30, followed by Sunday morning membership and state representative meetings.

The convention theme, apropos of Gov. Greg Abbott’s direct admonition of FFRF “not to mess with Texas,” is: “DO Mess with Texas.”

Please plan to arrive early to tour San Antonio’s famed Riverwalk and nearby historic sites and museums. A reception for “early birds” will be held Thursday, Oct. 27. The conference will take place all day Friday and Saturday.

The convention registration will be online by early March at, along with links to make hotel reservations. The April and future issues of Freethought Today will carry more details and updates.

Invitations to speakers and honorees are underway, but confirmed speakers to date include:

John Irving. The novelist of 14 books, including The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules, will be receiving FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award. Irving has won the National Book Award, the O. Henry Award, an Oscar for best adapted screenplay and a Lambda Literary Award for his novel In One Person. His all-time bestselling novel is A Prayer for Owen Meany. FFRF offered Irving the award after his column, “The long, cruel history of the anti-abortion crusade,” appeared in The New York Times on June 23, 2019. In it, he noted, “We are free to practice the religion of our choice, and we are protected from having someone else’s religion practiced on us. Freedom of religion in the United States also means freedom from religion.”

Daniel Mach. Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Mach will accept on behalf of the ACLU FFRF’s Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award, which has grown to $35,000. The award is personally endowed by FFRF Lifetime Member Henry Zumach, with 5 percent of the interest going annually to the award. Mach leads a wide range of religious liberty litigation, advocacy, and public education efforts nationwide, and often writes, teaches, and speaks publicly on religious freedom issues. Mach currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at the George Washington University Law School, focusing on constitutional law and religious liberty. 

Elle Harris. FFRF will be awarding its debut “Out of God’s Closet” $5,000 student scholarship, given by Diane Uhl in memory of her late husband Stephen Uhl, to 11-year-old Elle Harris, author of two books, including Elle the Humanist. Elle is a fifth-grade student living in California. As a third-grader, Elle became aware that most of her classmates were religious and “had a hard time imagining someone who didn’t go to church or pray.” Her conversations with classmates resulted in a book to clearly and warmly introduce humanism to young readers. Elle is the sister of Bailey Harris, who won a previous student scholarship award for her series of “Stardust” books.

. She will be named FFRF Freethought Heroine 2022. She is an actress, author of Wayward: A Memoir of Spiritual Warfare and Sexual Purity, and the founder of Dare to Doubt. Midwest-raised and LA-based, Alice’s nomadic childhood moved her around the United States until her modeling career as a teenager led to an acting career in Hollywood. Her own story includes a painful but rewarding transition from evangelical Christianity to atheism, a journey that inspired her to found, a resource site for people detaching from belief systems they come to find harmful.

Hector A. Garcia. He is the author of Alpha God and Sex, Power and Partisanship: How Evolutionary Science Makes Sense at Our Political Divide. He has given a TED Talk. Garcia is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. 

Godless Gospel. An “atheist choir” will debut with “godless gospel” songs, a collaboration of music producer/songwriter Andre Forbes, and FFRF Co-President (and songwriter/piano player) Dan Barker. Among the expected members of the choir will be Black Nonbelievers President Mandisa Thomas, Black NonBelievers of D.C. activist Rogiérs, jazz vocalist Tahira Clayton and Freedmen of Chicago organizer Cynthia McDonald.

Also included will be the usual reports on FFRF’s achievements over the year, including the report by FFRF’s team of attorneys and a reprise of last year’s popular “Ask an Attorney” workshop. The convention includes several optional group meals, book and sales tables, the Nonprayer Breakfast and the drawing for “clean,” pre-In God We Trust currency.

The 2020 convention was originally to take place at the San Antonio hotel, but the pandemic, of course, forced the postponement. 

“We’ve heard from a few members who, due to various Texas policies including S.B.8, the draconian abortion ban, wonder why FFRF is holding a convention in Texas at all,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “We not only feel our ‘DO Mess with Texas’ can raise awareness, but are contractually obligated, due to the negotiations required in 2020 to postpone. FFRF will be making the most of the venue to get out our point of view.” 

For updates, see

Alice Greczyn
Elle Harris
Daniel Mach
Hector Garcia
John Irving