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FFRF adds two more to convention line-up

Jen Castle
Amanda Tyler

Planned Parenthood Director Jen Castle and Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Director Amanda Tyler are the two latest additions to FFRF’s national convention speaker line-up. The two will each be presented with prestigious FFRF awards.

FFRF’s 46th annual convention will be held at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, Wis. The city is home to FFRF’s headquarters, Freethought Hall. 

The convention will be held over two full days on Friday, Oct. 13 and Saturday, Oct. 14. (An optional early registration and late afternoon tour of Freethought Hall, with its auditorium, library and studio, will take place that Thursday, Oct. 12.) The annual membership and State Representatives meeting will take place Sunday morning, Oct. 15.

For registration and hotel information, please turn to the back page.

Accepting the $35,000 Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award on behalf of Planned Parenthood will be Jen Castle, the national director of abortion service delivery at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She leads a team that supports the delivery of exceptional abortion care by Planned Parenthood affiliate staff across the nation through training, mentoring, and consultation. Prior to joining the national Planned Parenthood office in 2015, she spent 14 years at PP Northern New England as a clinician, health center manager, director of abortion services, and associate medical director. Jen has worked and provided training in all abortion care clinical roles, and has been doing her heart’s work as an abortion provider since 2005. She is one of a very few nurse practitioners in the country trained to perform procedures later in pregnancy, and has long served as a clinical preceptor, training innumerable residents, fellows, and other advanced practice clinicians in abortion care. 

Amanda Tyler will be receiving FFRF’s Champion of the First Amendment Award. She is executive director of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), which upholds the historic Baptist principle of religious liberty: defending the free exercise of religion and protecting against its establishment by government. She is the lead organizer of BJC’s Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign and co-host of BJC’s “Respecting Religion” podcast. She received her J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law. She oversaw the co-production with FFRF of the report, “Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection” and testified before Congress in 2022 about the ways in which Christian nationalism provides cover for white supremacy. 

Other convention speakers and award winners will include:

The Godless Gospel, which performed for the first time at FFRF’s convention in San Antonio in 2022.

Emily Olson, a member of the city council in Owosso, Mich., a town of 15,000 residents, will receive FFRF’s “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” award. She is a small business owner and new member of the council. Her refusal to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance and her brave motion to discontinue prayers to open council meetings failed by a 5-2 vote and resulted in a serious death threat. 

Lizz Winstead will be given FFRF’s “Emperor Has No Clothes Award.” She was co-creator and head writer of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” forever changing the way Americans get their news. She also co-founded Air America Radio in 2004, co-hosting “Unfiltered” every morning with Rachel Maddow and hip hop legend Chuck D. Her book of essays, Lizz Free or Die, was published by Riverhead Books (2012). She writes satiric commentary for a number of newspapers, does regular commentary on MSNBC and makes appearances on HBO, CNN and Comedy Central Presents. A prominent abortion rights activist, Lizz is one of the founders of Abortion Access Front, a team of comedians, writers and producers who use humor to destigmatize abortion and expose the extremist forces working to destroy reproductive rights access in all 50 states.

Kate Cohen will receive FFRF’s “Freethought Heroine” Award. She is a columnist for the Washington Post, where she has written about America’s reflexive deference to religion and its effect on education, health care and human rights. Kate is the author of We of Little Faith: An Atheist Comes Clean (And Why You Should Too), forthcoming from Godine Press. She will sign copies of her book at the convention. 

Mary Ziegler, a noted abortion rights expert and advocate, will receive FFRF’s “Forward Award,” given to those who are moving society forward. Her newest book is Roe: A History of a National Obsession. Ziegler is a law professor at the University of California-Davis. She will also sign copies of her books.

There will be a panel of secular, nonreligious state legislators. Already confirmed for this panel are Minnesota state Rep. Mike Freiberg and Wisconsin state Sen. Kelda Roys.

Freiberg has served as a Minnesota state representative since 2013, after serving on the Golden Valley (Minn.) City Council for nine years. He is a founding member of the Secular Government Caucus. As a legislator, he has focused on issues related to health care, local government, the environment and election policy. Freiberg works as an attorney for a nonprofit organization committed to improving public health. He has also worked as an adjunct law professor, teaching courses in legislation and public health law. 

Roys, who was first elected to the Wisconsin state Assembly in 2008, served as minority caucus chair in 2011 and was elected to the state Senate in 2020. Kelda earned her B.A. in drama, politics and cultural studies, magna cum laude, from New York University in 2000, and her J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2004. She has worked as an attorney, a small business owner, and former nonprofit executive. An ardent supporter of abortion rights, she currently serves on a number of committees, such as Administrative Rules, Finance and Judiciary.