Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Sarah Vowell to speak at FFRF’s convention

Vol. 36 No. 03 April 2019
Sarah Vowell                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Best-selling author Sarah Vowell has been added to the growing list of speakers for FFRF’s 42nd annual convention the weekend of Friday, Oct. 18, through Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive, in Madison, Wis.

Other speakers added recently include women’s rights activist Wendy Davis, Americans United for the Separation of Church & State President Rachel Laser and “Liberal Redneck” comedian Trae Crowder.

As always, it will be a weekend of great speakers, awesome people, good food, irreverent music and wonderful conversation. See the back page for convention information. Or go to

FFRF’s confirmed speakers include:

Sarah Vowell

She is the New York Times best-selling author of seven nonfictions books on American history and culture. Her more recent books include Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Unfamiliar Fishes, The Wordy Shipmates and Assassination Vacation. By examining the connections between the American past and present, she offers personal, often humorous accounts of everything from presidents and their assassins to colonial religious fanatics.

Vowell was a contributing editor for the public radio show “This American Life” from 1996-2008. She was one of the original contributors to McSweeney’s, also participating in many of the quarterly’s readings and shows. She has been a columnist for, Time, San Francisco Weekly, and is a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times. Vowell has made numerous appearances on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and the “Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” She is the voice of teen superhero Violet Parr in “The Incredibles,” and its sequel, “Incredibles 2.”

Rachel Laser

She will be accepting the $10,000 Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award on behalf of Americans United for the Separation of Church & State (AU). Laser is president and CEO at AU. She is a lawyer, advocate and strategist who has dedicated her career to making our country more inclusive. She has a proven track record of uniting both faith and secular leaders and advocacy organizations to make tangible progress on some of the most important issues of our time. Prior to her role at AU, she served as the deputy director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, directed the Culture Program at Third Way and worked as senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. She also serves as a national board member of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Wendy Davis

Davis, who gained na­tional prominence in 2013 when she held a 13-hour filibuster to protect women’s reproductive freedoms in Texas, will receive FFRF’s 2019 Forward Award. The award recognizes those who are moving society forward. Davis, raised by a single mother, herself a mother by 19, became the first in her family to grad­uate from college, ultimately graduating with honors from Harvard Law School. Elected to the Texas state Senate in 2008, she sponsored bills on everything from cancer prevention to payday lending to protecting victims of sexual assault. In 2016, Davis founded Deeds Not Words to give women the tools needed to make real progress.

Trae Crowder

He has recently earned national attention (or notoriety, depending on your viewpoint) for his “Liberal Redneck” series of viral videos. Crowder has been performing his particular brand of Southern-fried intellectual comedy in the Southeast and beyond for the past six years.

Trae’s videos have received more than 70 million views. He is coming off an 80-plus city sold-out standup comedy tour in support of his best-selling book Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin Dixie Outta the Dark.

He has appeared on “Nightline,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “The View,” “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” “WTF with Marc Maron,” and NPR.

Frederick Clarkson

Clarkson is a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, Mass. He is the author, co-author or editor of several books, including Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy and Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. He has written about politics and religion for a wide range of publications for more than three decades, from Mother Jones, Church & State, and Ms. Magazine to The Christian Science Monitor and Last year in Religion Dispatches, he broke the story about Project Blitz, a Christian Right state legislative campaign with long-range theocratic intentions.

Anthony B. Pinn

Pinn, who will be receiving FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and professor of religion at Rice University. He received his B.A. from Columbia University, Master of Divinity and Ph.D. in the study of religion from Harvard University. He is the founding director of the Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning also at Rice University. In addition, he is director of research for the Institute for Humanist Studies. He is the author/editor of over 35 books, including When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer: Humanism and the Challenge of Race (2017); Humanism: Essays in Race, Religion, and Cultural Production (2015); Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist (2014).

Andrew L. Seidel

Seidel, an attorney and author, is the director of strategic response at FFRF, where he uses his law degree to challenge religious bullies. Seidel’s first book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American features a foreword by author Susan Jacoby and a preface by FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

The Founding Myth comes out in May and is highly anticipated with positive reviews by many, including evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne (“Seidel has done a great service, strengthening Jefferson’s wall between church and state”) and renowned constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who described it as “a beautifully written book” that “explodes a frequently expressed myth: that the United States was created as a Christian nation.”

Mandisa Thomas

Thomas, who will be named FFRF’s 2019 Freethought Heroine, is the founder and president of Black Nonbelievers. She has a number of media appearances to her credit, including “CBS Sunday Morning,” CNN, and Playboy, The Humanist and JET magazines. Thomas currently serves on the Boards for American Atheists and the Reason Rally Coalition, and previously for Foundation Beyond Belief and the Secular Coalition for America. Additionally, she was named the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association’s 2018 Person of the Year.

More details and online registration can be found on the back page or at