On May 2-3, 2014, the Freedom from Religion Foundation held a conference in downtown Raleigh “Freedom From Religion in the Bible Belt.” I gave one of the main addresses at the conference, and there were lot of other interesting speakers. In addition to the public talks, the organizers taped a number of interviews, that were then put together into a kind of documentary format, found here. My comments are interspersed throughout, along with those of the other participants.
Other participants included:
- Randy Bender, a former Evangelical Lutheran Church of America pastor.
- Max Nielson, winner of FFRF’s 2012 Thomas Jefferson Student Activist Award, is one of 3 plaintiffs in FFRF’s lawsuit over unconstitutional graduation prayer at Irmo High School, S.C., and school board prayer. He founded a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance at the College of Charleson. He has also interned as social media manger of the Secular Coalition and he remains a volunteer social media manager.
- Michael Nugent, founder and chair of Atheist Ireland. Michael flew in from Dublin to give an international flavor to the conference and talk about Irish issues, as well as the growing number of blasphemy prosecutions around the world.
- Todd Stiefel, a Raleigh local, FFRF Lifetime Member and head of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, which has sparked much freethought activism and was an integral sponsor of the Reason Rally. Todd graduated cum laude from Duke University, worked 12 years for Stiefel Laboratories and is now a full-time freethought activist.
- Mandisa Thomas, founder and president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., based in Atlanta. She was featured in a recent issue of JET magazine and is a frequent guest speaker. Her special emphasis is on encouraging more African Americans to come out and stand strong as nonbelievers.
- Stuart Wilson, an investigative reporter at WCNC-TV (NBC) Charlotte, particularly interested in megachurch abuse exposés.
- Sophia Winkler, a student activist awardee of the Foundation.
Others active at the conference were former clergy in the Raleigh area who are now part of the Clergy Project, which is designed to provide support and career guidance to clergy who have come to be agnostic/atheist and are trying to figure out how to move on with their lives (some of these people remain in ministry). FFRF’s Dan Barker is a successful author and one of the founders of the group; he emceed the panel, which included Candace R.M. Gorham, a local chapter member who left the ministry and is the author of “The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking Out on Religion — and Others Should Too” and Matt Killingsworth, a former Pentecostal minister and Texas Bible College grad.
Please Note! The below 45 minute documentary video is not made public, it is a hidden link. It is shared here only with paying and trusted members. Please do not share this link on any public forum, friend, or any social venue like Twitter or Facebook. This video must remain unseen until the RDF and FFRF have launched the campaign in September 2014.