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Tamayo, Phelps-Roper, Singh join convention

Making worry-free convention arrangements

If you are concerned about how uncertainty over the coronavirus may affect plans for FFRF’s late November convention, worry no more! It’s full-speed ahead at FFRF with convention planning at present.

However, if it were to become incumbent upon FFRF to cancel the convention due to the coronavirus, your registration with FFRF would be fully refunded. Hotel reservations at the convention hotel site can be cancelled up to 72  hours before your first night’s reservation.

If you are traveling by air and like to book ahead, FFRF recommends booking a refundable ticket and/or purchasing flight insurance. Most carriers offer a refundable/rebookable ticket at a level beyond basic. Ask if you are not sure.

Sushant Singh
John Irving
Phil Zuckerman
Sikivu Hutchinson
Gloria Steinem
Megan Phelps Roper
David Tamayo
Katherine Stewart
Margaret Atwood

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has added more speakers — Megan Phelps-Roper, Shusant Singh and David Tamayo — to the illustrious lineup for the 2020 national convention in San Antonio from Nov. 13-15, along with a presentation from FFRF’s Freethinkers of the Year.

They will join legendary activist Gloria Steinem and literary titans Margaret Atwood and John Irving, along with many others, at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio on the famed Riverwalk. The convention venue is limited to about 900 attendees, so please plan ahead. For more details and to register for the convention, turn to the back page or go to

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, the Topeka, Kan., church known internationally for its daily public protests against members of the LGBTQ community, Jews, other Christians, the military, and countless others. As a child, teenager and early 20-something, she participated in the picketing almost daily and spearheaded the use of social media in the church. However, dialogue with “enemies” online proved instrumental in her deradicalization, and she left the church and her entire way of life in November 2012. Since then, she has become an advocate for people and ideas she was taught to despise — especially the value of empathy in dialogue with people across ideological lines. In 2019, she wrote the book Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church.

She will be receiving the $10,000 Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award.

Sushant Singh is an Indian actor and presenter known for his work predominantly in Hindi cinema. He made his film debut in 1998 with Ram Gopal Varma’s “Satya,” but rose to stardom with the 2000 film “Jungle,” and received rave reviews for portraying slain bandit Durga Narayan Chaudhary. He then went on to star in period dramas such as “Ambedkar” and “The Legend of Bhagat Singh,” and established himself in Bollywood. He has appeared in a few television shows also, and hosted the immensely popular crime show “Savdhaan India” from 2012 to 2019. He has also served as the Honorary General Secretary of CINTAA (Cine & Television Artistes Association), Mumbai. He has appeared in almost 50 movies since 1998.

Singh will be receiving the Avijit Roy Courage Award, which includes a crystal plaque and $5,000. The award honors the life and work of the Bangladeshi-American atheist and author assassinated in Bangladesh in 2015 by Islamist terrorists. Singh has been in the forefront of recent protests against the Hindu Nationalist government’s discriminatory slew of measures violating the secular Indian Constitution. He was let go for a while from his gig as the host of “Savdhaan India,” reportedly due to his outspokenness, but has continued his activism undeterred.

David Tamayo is cofounder and president of Hispanic American Freethinkers, which is the first and only national Latino nonprofit educational organization of its kind. He was vice president of the Reason Rally 2016, former host of the TV Show “Road to Reason – A Skeptic’s Guide to the 21st Century,” founding board director of Camp Quest – Chesapeake, and host of Contrapuntos podcast (featuring debates with preachers, science deniers, and other interesting personalities in Spanish). David is the chief information officer for DCS Corporation, a large aerospace engineering company in Washington, D.C. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from George Washington University, and a master’s in management in information technology from University of Virginia.

Steinem and Atwood both will receive FFRF’s “Forward” Award, which is reserved for those who are moving society forward. The award includes a statuette designed by world-renowned sculptor Zenos Frudakis.

Steinem will take part in a conversation with FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor on Friday, Nov. 13, at 3 p.m., breaking for audience questions. A private reception with Steinem afterwards is sold out.

Steinem, who’s been billed as “the world’s most famous feminist,” is a journalist who co-founded Ms. Magazine in 1972, helped found the Women’s Action Alliance, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Media Center, and was president of Voters for Choice, a political action committee, for 25 years. She is founding president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, Take our Daughters to Work Day, and many other initiatives. Her books include the bestsellers Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Moving Beyond Words, Marilyn: Norma Jean and My Life on the Road.

A life-long reproductive rights activist, Steinem has said: “Do not hang out any place where they won’t let you laugh, including churches and temples.”

“An Evening with Margaret Atwood” will take place Friday night, to include a conversation with journalist Katherine Stewart, who will be speaking herself on Saturday. Atwood has agreed to sign books after her talk. The book signing will be followed by a private reception, which is also sold out.

Atwood is the author of more than 50 volumes of fiction, poetry, children’s literature and nonfiction. Her best-known novels include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Edible Woman, The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, which is being adapted into an HBO TV series by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. A serialized adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale has received 13 Emmy nominations and eight awards including for Best Drama.

Irving, who will receive FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, has been nominated for a National Book Club Award three times, winning it in 1980 for The World According to Garp. In 2018, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize honored Irving with the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. He won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Cider House Rules” in 2000. He achieved international acclaim after the success of Garp. Many of Irving’s books, including The Cider House Rules (1985), A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) and A Widow for One Year (1998) have been bestsellers.

Others confirmed to speak at the convention include:

• Journalist and author Katherine Stewart. In addition to conducting the on-stage interview with Margaret Atwood, Stewart will talk about her new book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism. She is also the author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. In 2014, she was named Person of the Year by Americans United for her coverage of religion, politics, policy and state/church conflicts.

Phil Zuckerman is the associate dean and professor of sociology at Pitzer College, and the founding chair of the nation’s first Secular Studies Program at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. He is the author of several books, including What It Means to be Moral (2019), Living the Secular Life (2014), Society Without God (2008) and Faith No More (2012), among others. Zuckerman is also the editor of several volumes, including The Oxford Handbook of Secularism (2016) and The Social Theory of W.E.B. Du Bois (2004). 

• Black Skeptics Los Angeles founder, novelist and activist Sikivu Hutchinson, Ph.D, will be receiving FFRF’s Freethought Heroine Award. Hutchinson is an educator, author, playwright and director. Her books include Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars (2011), Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels (2013) and the novel White Nights, Black Paradise (2015) on the Peoples Temple and the 1978 Jonestown massacre. She also wrote, directed and produced a short film of “White Nights, Black Paradise.”

Brian Bolton, an FFRF Lifetime Member, has recently endowed a professorship at the University of Texas at Austin that will focus on the growing segment of the population that adheres to a secular worldview. The executive wing of FFRF’s office, Freethought Hall, is named for Bolton, due to his support of FFRF’s headquarters expansion. FFRF will be publishing Bolton’s new work, tentatively titled Why the Bible Is Not a Good Book, this year. Bolton is a retired academic psychologist with a background in mathematics, statistics and psychometrics. He has edited and authored 10 books.

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