Boston beckons for FFRF’s exciting convention

Steven Pinker (Photo by Ingrid Laas)
Sikivu Hutchinson
Gloria Steinem
Anny Druyan
Margaret Atwood

When you think of Boston, what comes to mind first? The marathon? Baked beans? The Red sox or Celtics? 

Well, for Freedom From Religion Foundation members, maybe it’ll be that FFRF’s 44th annual convention will be held there from Friday, Nov. 19–Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. (The event is limited to those who are fully vaccinated for Covid-19. See back page for details on “Covid rules.”)

“We look forward to a celebratory event and warm reunion with members,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’ve put together an amazing line-up of leading authors and freethought and secular activists.”

The conference will open informally on Thursday night, Nov. 18, with early registration and a two-hour appetizer reception at the Boston Park Plaza. Registration resumes at 7 a.m. Friday, Nov. 19, with early morning coffee, tea and breakfast pastries. Registration continues throughout the conference. The full, two-day program formally opens at 9 a.m. Friday and continues through Saturday night. The membership meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Sunday, followed by a short meeting of the State Representatives, concluding by noon.

Headliners previously announced include distinguished author Margaret (The Handmaid’s Tale) Atwood, freethinking feminist Gloria Steinem, Power Worshippers author Katherine Stewart and Secular Studies pioneer Phil Zuckerman. Joining that list are now veteran Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse, whose new book, Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months That Transformed the Supreme Court, will be just released, as well as FFRF Honorary President Steve Pinker, whose latest book, Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, will also be hot off the press. Greenhouse will receive FFRF’s Clarence Darrow Award for her outstanding legal reporting and analysis.

Additionally, the mother-daughter duo of Ann Druyan and Sasha Sagan will end the conference Saturday night following the banquet dinner. Druyan co-authored with Carl Sagan many classic science books, and writes and produces the award-winning “Cosmos” TV series.

Druyan will receive FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award, reserved for public figures who make known their dissent from religion. Her daughter Sasha is author of the well-received new book, For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World.

FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel, author of Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American, will lead a workshop on Christian nationalism and its ties to Jan. 6. Professor Chris Cameron will speak about his book, Black Freethinkers: A History of African American Secularism. David Tamayo, co-founder of Hispanic American Freethinkers, will speak. 

Activists honored at the event will include secular students, Freethinkers of the Year such as FFRF member David Williamson and other recent successful state/church plaintiffs and Black Skeptics Los Angeles founder and author Sikivu Hutchinson, who will be receiving FFRF’s Freethought Heroine Award. Indian actor Sushant Singh, who has protested against Hindu nationalism, is scheduled to receive the Avijit Roy Courage Award.

Megan Phelps-Roper, author of the new book Unfollow: On Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, will receive the Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award.

The event will include a report on FFRF accomplishments by Gaylor and Co-President Dan Barker, an hour-long legal report by FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert and FFRF’s attorneys, a little music at the piano by Barker, FFRF book and product tables, the traditional drawing for “clean,” pre-“In God We Trust” currency, and some complimentary food receptions. There will be opportunities for socializing and meeting with authors during book signings.

There will also be two optional author receptions. After “An evening with Margaret Atwood” Friday night, involving a moderated conversation with author Katherine Stewart, a short private reception for Ms. Atwood will take place, limited to 100 individuals. Tickets to the reception are $500 and will include a copy of The Testaments, her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. 

Friday evening will end with a complimentary dessert reception and hot beverages for all participants.

Gloria Steinem will be interviewed by FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor on Saturday afternoon, taking some audience questions, followed by a half-hour reception limited to 50 individuals. That $500 ticket will include a copy of Ms. Steinem’s newest book, The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off! Thoughts on Life, Love, and Rebellion. Both Atwood and Steinem will receive FFRF’s “Forward Award,” reserved for those who have moved society forward.

The schedule and updates will be published in upcoming issues of Freethought Today and on FFRF’s website, ffrf.org/convention-2021.

Pre-registration deadline is Oct. 31, 2021, unless the convention sells out earlier. We encourage you to plan ahead.