The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s 41st Annual Convention was a resounding success. Held November 2-4, 2018, in downtown San Francisco, just steps away from the California Street cable car, a BART station and ferry terminals, the location was ideal, even if the hotel itself was a little less friendly than we expected. For example, a simple request to the hotel staff, asking to remove the bibles from the rooms was ignored, resulting in a growing collection of rejected bibles in the hallway. Due to scheduling conflicts, the meeting rooms were on three different floors on three different days, some with clear gathering spaces near the meeting rooms but others with narrow hallways and little room to congregate with old and new friends. As a result, one did not see as many people gathering in the common spaces outside the meetings as has occurred during conventions in the past. Not surprising, many attendees were also drawn to the city outside, which was not unreasonable given the sightseeing opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area.
Despite those logistical problems, the schedule of speakers was excellent. On Friday afternoon, Salman Rushdie gave one of the most notable keynotes that I have heard, engaging the audience with a mixture of thought, emotion, and humor. U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, the founding member of the new Congressional Freethought Caucus, gave a rousing speech that demonstrated that belief in a god is not necessary to be an active member in Congress. (With representatives in California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, it would be great to have a Pennsylvania Representative added to the list). The first day ended with a presentation by actor John de Lancie and an engaging 90 minute monologue by former SNL member, Julia Sweeney.
Saturday morning was a mix of reports by groups, such as the Secular Coalition of America and the FFRF legal team, followed by an afternoon of several international freethought battles being wage in countries outside of the US with the support of FFRF. The afternoon ended with Cecile Richards being interviewed on stage by Annie Laurie Gaylor in a free-flowing discussion on Texas politics, Planned Parenthood and women’s rights. After the conference dinner, the evening ended with the stand-up comedy of Leighann Lord, a Very Funny Lady as confirmed by her website is www.veryfunnylady.com. It turned out that the moniker was not misplaced and her wrap up the weekend activities was a great end to the formal conference activities.
All in all, a good time was had by the participants at the largest FFRF Convention to date. For those interested, the dates and locations for the next three conventions are set:
- October 18 – 20, 2019: Madison, WI
- November 13 – 15, 2020: San Antonio, TX
- November 19 – 21, 2021: Boston, MA
If you missed it this year, you should start making your plans for the at least one of the next three conventions.