Monday, October 13, 2008

Freethought Day

Well, yesterday I got to meet Lori Lipman Brown AND Matthew LaClair! Actually, Bill and I went to a Freethought Day fundraiser the night before and listened to them both speak, but didn't really meet them.

Freethought Day is a Celebration of Reason, Freethought and Church-State Separation held in Old Sacramento in October. It commemorates the decision 300 years ago by Governor William Phipps of the Colony of Massachusetts that spectral evidence would no longer be admissible in court, bringing an end to the Salem Witch Trials. Freethought Day is jointly put on by Atheists and Other Freethinkers of Sacramento (AOF) and the Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area (HAGSA). This year, Lori Lipman Brown emceed, and Matthew was the featured speaker.

Lori is the director and lobbyist for the Secular Coalition of America. This is the national lobby representing the interests of atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans. I mentioned this group in a previous post. She was also on The Colbert Report recently.

As a 16 year old high school junior, Matthew secretly recorded his history teacher teaching creationism and telling kids that they would go to hell if they didn't accept Jesus Christ. He then warned the school about what the teacher was doing. The principal called him in to a meeting with the teacher (not allowing his parents in) where the teacher denied it. Matthew produced the CDs proving that he did and was lying (isn't there some sort of commandment against bearing false witness or something? Maybe that's not the same thing as out-and-out lying). The school STILL didn't do anything about it so Matthew eventually took the story to the media. When people started calling him a liar, Matthew also went public with the recording he had secretly made of the meeting with the principal and the teacher. Don't EVER mess with Matthew!

Matthew is an amazing young man, who is willing to stand up for his own and other people's rights. And he's an extremely good public speaker.

I don't know if the featured speaker is always put to work setting up. What teenage boy wouldn't jump at the chance to pound things with a sledge hammer, though?He also enthusiastically helped tear down.

It was a really windy day. This is Paul Geisert, co-founder and co-Director of The Brights, holding down the canopies while Matthew pounded the stakes in. We were a little concerned that he might be carried away. They are big canopies. Bill Potts, President of HAGSA is standing next to him. This is Mynga Futrell, the other co-founder/co-Director of The Brights. Can you tell it was chilly?It did warm up a little.Lori and Matt standing near my table. I have manned a table for Mynga several times now which displays the California approved resources that she and Paul developed for teachers teaching about religion.

I, of course, managed to get my picture taken with Lori. Since she was standing right there.Matthew speaking:
While Matthew was speaking, the crowd was actually standing room only.
Another speaker was Dr. Michael Newdow, a Sacramento lawyer and physician, who sued to have the words "under God" removed from public schools' recitals of the Pledge of Allegance. I completely agree with him. From a very young age, I have always just left it out, and nobody has ever noticed. He's got a really good singing voice, too.Some of the books at the Banned Books booth.We went out to eat (and drink) afterwards.It was a long day, but a lot of fun.

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