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FFRF convention: Julia Sweeney joins San Antonio speaker lineup

“Letting Go of God” comedian and actress Julia Sweeney, an FFRF honorary director, will speak at FFRF’s national convention in San Antonio in October. (Photo by Ingrid Laas)

FFRF has added comedian and author Julia Sweeney to its powerful speaker lineup for its 2022 convention in San Antonio.

Sweeney last spoke at FFRF’s convention in Madison in 2019 when she performed a portion of her “Older and Wider” one-person monologue. Sweeney is a former “Saturday Night Live” actor and also the author of several books, including If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother and God Said ‘Ha! 

FFRF’s 45th annual convention will be held Friday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Hyatt Regency on the Riverwalk. The conference begins with an optional “early bird” registration and reception late Thursday afternoon, Oct. 27, and concludes after the Sunday morning meetings of the membership and FFRF State Representatives, ending by noon.

The theme is “DO Mess with Texas,” a state which has become ground zero for theocratic policymaking.

Please make your room reservations soon, and no later than Oct. 7 at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio, 210-451-6200, ffrf.us/hotel, site of the convention, with overflow options at the Hilton Garden Inn or Menger Hotel. (See full details on hotels, menus, etc., at ffrf.org/convo-2022.) 

Headliners include John Irving, the bestselling award-winning novelist of 14 books, including The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules, who will be receiving FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award. He will give the keynote Saturday night. 

Iconic Texan commentator and writer Jim Hightower, “America’s most popular populist,” will help open the conference. Another speaker who is an expert at “messing with Texas” will be Val Benavidez, director of the Texas Freedom Network.

Abortion rights advocate Amy Hagstrom Miller, principal plaintiff in the lawsuit against Texas’s draconian abortion ban, SB 8, and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, a series of abortion clinics, will be named FFRF’s 2022 “Forward Award” honoree. 

Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt, who publicly identifies as an atheist, is a stalwart against Christian religious extremists in her home state, and will receive FFRF’s “Champion of the First Amendment” award.

Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, will accept on behalf of the ACLU FFRF’s Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award.

The Richard & Beverly Hermsen $5,000 Student Activist Award will go to Max Nibert, the brave 18-year-old Huntington (W.Va.) High School student who helped organize a walkout after the school held Christian-themed assemblies in the public school. He is now principal student plaintiff in FFRF’s ongoing federal lawsuit. Also appearing will be 17-year-old activist Will Larkins, a nonreligious student who became a national figurehead in testifying against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and leading a walkout at his high school.

As a special musical treat, “Godless Gospel” — a collaboration between artistic producer Andre Forbes and FFRF Co-President Dan Barker — will debut. The distinguished singers include Candace R.M. Gorham, author of The Ebony Exodus Project, Tahira Clayton, a New York City jazz vocalist who also belts out gospel, Rogiérs Fibby, president of Black Nonbelievers of DC, Cynthia McDonald, an activist with Freedmen of Chicago, DeAngela Morant, of Florida, and Mandisa Thomas, president of Black Nonbelievers. They will also participate in a panel discussion on African-American nonbelievers.

Actress and founder of Dare to Doubt, Alice Greczyn, will be receiving FFRF’s “Freethought Heroine” Award. Other speakers include the author of Alpha God, Hector A. Garcia, of San Antonio. He’s given a TED Talk and has also written Alpha God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression.

The youngest honoree will be 11-year-old Elle Harris, receiving the debut “Out of God’s Closet,” a $5,000 student scholarship endowed by the late Diane Uhl, as the author of Elle the Humanist. 

Concurring optional workshops Friday at noon will include one on what people can do to help stop the religious war against reproductive rights, conducted by FFRF’s contributing writer Barbara Alvarez, and another, “On Death, Dying and Disbelief,” led by Candace R.M. Gorham, based on her book of the same name.

Included will be reporting on FFRF’s achievements over the year by FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, the report on legal activism and achievements by FFRF attorneys, headed by Legal Director Rebecca Markert, and a reprise of last year’s popular workshop, “Ask an Attorney.” 

The convention will feature book and product sales tables, the popular “NonPrayer Breakfast,” and a drawing for “clean,” pre-“In God We Trust” currency.

Register online at ffrf.org/convo-2022 or send in the registration form on the back page.

See you in October!

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