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California Freethought Day

Past Years


Our event, which started out with two dozen people on the steps of the Sacramento Courthouse, has now celebrated its twentieth anniversary. Reflecting on those last twenty years, we can how our event and the world around us has changed. For every wonderful accomplishment there have been heartbreaking setbacks.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still on our minds, our 2021 event was held live via Zoom and multicast to Facebook and YouTube. Speakers, authors, podcasters, and attendees from across the country came together for an afternoon that closely resembled the in-person events of prior years.

Ian Harris emceed the event and introduced a powerful set of women speakers throughout the day including Yvette d'Entremont and Sarah Levin. Debra Olson, the granddaughter of California's only outspoken atheist governor, shared memories about her grandfather.

Live and pre-recorded entertainment perforated the program with performances from Scarlett Rabe, Joey Fabian, Ron Swallow, and Abraham Mackey. And, an engaging panel of authors and podcasters (including Ross Blocher, Carrie Poppy, and Cheryl Abram) was facilitated by Thomas Smith.

In our 20th year, we recognized our co-founder Mynga Futrell with our first lifetime achievement award, and presented awards to Margaret Downey, Bruce Gleason, and Karina Quintanilla.

2020: Reason in the Voting Booth

Reason in the Voting BoothOne of the cornerstones of our country's democracy is the right to vote. But, that right has been challenged and diminished at every level of leadership in every state. On the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, it's our hope that this year's event will not only encourage voter registration and participation in the electoral process -- but to inspire a new generation of elected officials who will draft laws and policy with respect to our country's secular foundation.

This was the first year that California Freethought Day wasn't an in-person event. Due to the global pandemic, we asked our speakers and guests to pre-record videos that we stitched together into an hour-long production and streamed it live to hundreds of viewers.

Emceed by Kavin Senapathy, the "event" featured videos from Sean Omar Rivera, Seth Andrews, Erin Louis, and Juhem Navarro-Rivera. We presented the winner of our scholarhip contest, Merit Onyekwere, and award winners Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Evan Clark, and Arlene Rios. Shelley Segal provided musical entertainment and we added Susan B. Anthony and Nella Larsen to our growing list of freethinking inductees.

2019: Think Again

Sunday, October 13 - California State Capitol

Think AgainHave you ever changed your mind? It's not always easy, especially on something that you've thought was true your entire life. Maybe it's something you learned from your history class, a believable urban legend passed on from your parents, or any of the other hundreds of things we hear every day that go unchallenged.

Our theme was to Think Again about those things we believe to be true, especially the facts we hold most dearly, and to admit with excited humility when we've changed our mind... because others might be wrong, too.

Our speakers included Hemant Mehta, Monica Miller, Debbie Goddard, and Sarah Gillooly, and was emceed by Victoria de la Torre. We enjoyed the comedic talents of Raul Martinez and the musical talent of Hello Again.

2018: Discover Reason

Sunday, October 14 - California State Capitol

Discover ReasonFor centuries, we have been bombarded with ideas about a reality that simply does not exist. Our grandparents' snake oil salesmen and doomsday prophecies have evolved into a sophisticated network of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, deliberate omissions from our children's education, and worse. The problem persists in headlines, in schools, and in politics.

At our 2018 event, our speakers shared their experiences and concerns relating to scientific discovery and how those discoveries are communicated, portrayed, and used in our modern society. In turn, we hope this helps people everywhere become more critical of everything they see and hear, demand stronger evidence, and encourage our legislators to be prudent stewards of scientific progress.  

This year's event -- with its focus on science communication -- headlined with Eugenie Scott, the former Executive Director of the National Center for Science and Education. We also heard from Dr. Abby Hafer and science writer Kavin Senapathy. Sharing with us their experiences as activists and lobbyists, Seráh Blain and Evan Clark took the stage in the afternoon. Our speaker was Steve Hill, once a candidate for the California State Senate.

Entertainment was headlined by Greydon Square, a hip hop emcee and producer and Iraq War veteran with a penchant for science. We also introduced actor Sean O'Brien, an actor that performed as Robert Ingersoll (the "Great Agnostic").

New sponsors of this year's event included the Atheist Community of San Jose, Compassionate Humanists, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the Secular Coalition for America.

2017: Engage with Reason

Sunday, October 15 - California State Capitol

Engage with ReasonA community is what its members make of it. Does it lean politically to one side or another, or span the entire spectrum? Does it focus on legislation, improving awareness, responding to crisis, social bonding, scientific literacy, or… all of the above?

The secular community is as diverse in its focus as it is in its membership. This may be its greatest weakness as well as a powerful strength. Whatever its focus, our goal this year is to empower individuals to become more active within the community by shaping it to something closer to their own, personal vision... something they want to be a part of.

A movement, and its community, is only as strong as the people who drive it forward. It is for this reason we hope that our audience will be inspired to Engage with Reason.  

Our 16th year introduced our new, simpler logomark. Speakers included Sikivu Hutchinson, David Tamayo, David Smalley, and Jessica Xiao. Ryan Bell emceed the event.

Larry Decker, of the Secular Coalition for America, co-presented an award to Senator Richard Pan (CA) for his work on removing non-medical exemptions for legally required vaccines. Larry also introduced Arizona State Senators Athena Salman and Juan Mendez who spoke on their experiences running for office.

Thomas Smith, of the podcast Serious Inquiries Only, hosted our Authors' and Podcasters' Panel featuring ɘlbe spurling, Candace Gorham, David Fitzgerald, and Evan Davids. And throughout the weekend, we were entertained by the musical talents of Dr. Roberta Chevrette, the comedy of Keith Lowell Jensen, the poetry of Victor Harris, and the electic jazz of Marie Bain. Even Uncle Sam made his usual appearance.

This year's sponsors included Applied Office, Reason Center, Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area, Black Humanists and Non-Believers of Sacramento, and many others including for the first time: Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and

2016: #SecularPride

Sunday, October 16 - California State Capitol

For too long, our community has feared the stigma that comes with the labels with which we self-associate. We see this around the dinner table, at the workplace, and in our polling places. And while our religious friends proudly wear symbols of their faith and place them on their cars, many in our community hide in the closet.

As a result, people are shocked to learn that one out of three abstains from religion, and that we are the fastest growing worldview. Our theme for 2016, “#SecularPride”, was meant to encourage change – for people to proudly proclaim the secular labels that ring true to them. Tweet it, share it, wear it, and say it.

Atheist? Agnostic? Humanist? Skeptic? Bright? Pastafarian? None? Whoever you are, show your #SecularPride.

Speakers in 2016 included Steve Hill, Cidney Fisk, David Silverman, and Aron Ra. We also welcomed authors and podcasters such as Dan Arel, David McAfee, and Bill Zuersher.

And for the first time in our history, we introduced two secular candidates that were running for elected positions in local government: Mercedes Macias and Karalee Hargrove. This year also introduced our new logotype.

We must thank our 2016 sponsors, including Applied Office Computer Training, the Original Motto Project, Reason Center, Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area, and many others.

New Inductees: Feminist and pro-choice advocate Anne Gaylor, and writer and activist Cleo Kocol.

2015: Spread the Reason

Sunday, October 11 - California State Capitol

We've all seen posts on social media about bad science, overblown anecdotes, far-fetched hoaxes, and fearmongering. Skeptical thinking, for many people, is at an all-time low. People are getting heath advice from self-proclaimed dietary experts and pushers of alternative medicine. The effects are hurting us from low vaccination rates to a stagnant fight against climate change. And worse, the public perception of science, non-religion, and the secularity of our Constitution is polarizing and volatile. To help change this for the better, our theme for 2015 was "Spread the Reason".  

The event started with a celebration of life from Sunday Assembly Sacramento, with keynote speaker Greta Christina. Event speakers included Jason Torpy, Mandisa Thomas, Dr. Jason Heap, and Chris Johnson.

Sponsors of the event included Applied Office Computer Training, an anonymous donor, Atheists and Other Freethinkers, and the Black Humanists and Non-Believers of Sacramento. Ten local organizations also exhibited at the event, including Sacramento for Bernie Sanders, Health Care for All, and three Secular Student Alliance affiliates.

2014: The Wonders of Magic and Reason

Sunday, October 12 - California State Capitol

Freethought Day 2014 Event PosterThe universe is a big place and, although we’ve learned so much about it, there is still much to be discovered. Humanity is naturally curious about our universe. We see something unknown and demand to know what it was or how it happened. Our wonderment touches every aspect of life from biology to sociology, from politics to chemistry sets. We have a thirst to understand. And so we ask, we test, and we share. The scientific method cultivates our curiosity into knowledge. Humanity’s spirit is embodied in The Wonders of Magic and Reason.

2014's Freethought Day marked our first move to the California State Capitol Building, a symbol of our bold focus on the political influence of the secular movement.

In celebration of our theme, Bay Area magician Ryan Kane entertained audiences with his skeptical magic and comedy. Joining Ryan on the stage was podcaster Rebecca Watson and sociologist Phil Zuckerman.

Sponsors included Applied Office Computer Training, an anonymous donor, the Atheist Alliance of America, and Kate Wooley for SCUSD School Board, along with the support of the United Coalition of Reason and Camp Quest West.

2013: The Many Voices of Reason

Saturday, October 12, 2013 - William Land Park

Freethought Day 2013 Event PosterAs the freethought movement grows, it becomes something larger than its parts. But it is those parts that we should never lose sight of.

For decades, activists within the secular movement were minorities in a religiously-dominated nation. And while gradually overcoming that reality, other minorities - of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation - were neglected from the progress that was won.

In recent times, however, we have seen the freethought community grow in all directions, representative of the country we live in. Every day we are becoming a more-inclusive group that is partnering with others in new and exciting ways. On Freethought Day, we celebrated this diversity and the many voices of reason from within our community.

Moving to the beautiful William Land Park amphitheater, with a gorgeous lake behind us, Freethought Day attendees enjoyed powerful speeches from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Sean Faircloth, Greta Christina, Jason Frye, Heina Dadabhoy, and others.

2013 marked the first "Secular Lobby Day" (now Secular Advocacy Day), hosted by the Secular Coalition for California.

Sponsors included Applied Office Computer Training, an anonymous donor, Applied Behavior Consultants, along with the support of the Secular Student Alliance and Camp Quest West.

2012: Vote for Reason!

Freethought Day 2012 PosterSaturday, October 6 - Ben Ali Shrine Center

In 2012, Freethought Day aimed to educate and motivate the public about the political process and what the freethought movement needs to do to take back our freedom. As in previous years, we united as one to educate, to rally, and to support. We showcased the importance of a secular vote and to equipped them with the knowledge and assistance needed to make a difference for future generations.

Highlighting the event were speakers Michael Werner (American Humanist Association), Mikey Winestein (Military Religious Freedom Foundation), and Jessica Ahlquist -- the student activist that successfully removed a prayer banner from her public high school. We were also joined by speakers Chris Lombardi, A.J. Johnson, Rebecca Hensler, Steve Newton, and special entertainment guests Brian Dalton (Mr. Deity), Baba Brinkman, and Victor Harris.

2012 introduced the first of our Author Panels, and in attendance were authors Richard Carrier, Dave Fitzgerald, and Brendan Powell Smith, among others.

Sponsors included Applied Office Computer Training, an anonymous $1000 donor, the National Atheist Party, Paul Storey, Applied Behavior Consultants, and many, many more.

View the great photos from 2012 on Facebook.

New Inductee: Bayard Rustin

2011: "Come Out and Celebrate Reason!"

Freethought Day 2011 Event FlyerSunday, October 21st -  McGeorge School of Law

Celebrating a decade of Freethought Day, our 10th year enjoyed an increase in size and scope creating the largest event of its kind in Sacramento. Over 350 attendees heard motivating speeches by Fred Edwords and Elisabeth Cornwell. They were entertained by comedian Keith Lowell Jensen and rockabilly science heroes The Phenomenauts.

Simultaneously, two movies were screened followed by Q&A from the films' director and staff, and the Secular Student Alliance held workshops on advancing the movement on campus.

The theme, to Come Out and Celebrate Reason, was colorfully demonstrated on the McGeorge campus with a family-friendly atmosphere, balloons in every direction, and the contagious feeling of celebration. The campus provided a wonderful location with plenty of free space for everyone to enjoy the full-day event.

A fundraising reception the night before offered our supporters to meet additional speakers like Dan Barker - who serenaded the group with his insightful songs - and to thank Mynga Futrell for her 10 years of hard work and dedication to Freethought Day. View more photos from Freethought Day 2011.

New Inductee: Frank Zappa


2010: "Equality for Everyone!"

Freethought Day 2010 ResolutionSunday, October 10th - Cesar Chavez Park in Downtown Sacramento

Marie Bain, in her dramatic ladybug dress and spotted umbrella, stepped in at the last minute and proved one of the best emcees so far. Both the City of Sacramento (city council) and the Governor issued proclamations acknowledging the community's Freethought Day. Local leaders of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom remarked on the contributions of Gallery honoree Jane Addams.

This year's event theme emphasized the civic values and egalitarian principles that underpin most of the actions, whether historical or contemporary, honored on Freethought Day. Radio personality Bruce Maiman presented an informative survey of the history of citizen equality in the US.

Musical Entertainment included sets by Roberta Chevrette and the James Israel Band.

The Gallery was made the centerpiece of the event grounds.

New Inductee: Jane Adams

2009: "Stay Curious!"

Freethought Day 2009 FlyerSunday, October 9th - César Chávez Park in Downtown Sacramento

Late relocation of the event from Waterfront Park to César Chávez Park lost a few of the event regulars but resulted in new curious visitors coming to survey the Gallery with its brief portrayals of independent thinkers and their contributions to human progress.

New entertainers included John Ross, a professional comedian and a jazz group. Cleo Kocol, freethought poet, provided several selections, and Brian Jones remarked on the contributions of the Gallery inductee, Luther Burbank.

Musical Entertainment included sets by Midtown Jazz, James Israel Band, and Michael Newdow. New displays included jewelry for sale.

New Inductee: Luther Burbank

2008: "Celebrate Our Secular Heritage!"

Freethought Day 2008 FlyerSunday, October 12th - Waterfront Park in Old Town Sacramento

Kristi Craven brought a new voice to the Freethinker's anthem, and lobbyist Lori Lipman Brown (Secular Coalition for America) took a turn as emcee. There was storytelling by Constantine Lobos, a lesson and perspective by activist Paul Geisert, and comedy by Keith Lowell Jensen of Coexist Comedy Tour. Then, a young man with a solid understanding of the nation's secular heritage, Matt LaClair, ACLU's "Youth Scholar 2008", told his fascinating story of countering a teacher's classroom proselytizing. Remarks by Vince Wales preceded the introduction of the Gallery inductee. Liberty and Justice for All from Mike Newdow had its inauguration as the closing song ("tradition"!).

Musical Entertainment included sets by Paul Martin, Jammin' James & Friends, and Michael Newdow.

New displays included the typical activities, such as Camp Quest West's "wheel of science" everyone could spin (not just children), freethought books and banned books displays, etc.

New Inductee: George Orwell

2007: "Reason & Act... Boldly."

Freethought Day 2007 FlyerSunday, October 12th - Waterfront Park in Old Town Sacramento

The sixth annual event continued with magic and mind challenges as well as with poetry (A Celebration of the Natural World, delivered by poet Stephen Meadows). Paul Geisert spoke on Our Secular Nation: Where Worldviews Need Not Clash, and Mike Newdow delivered a lesson on separation of church and state (The Constitution Does So Say That).

The highlight was the presentation on Roger Williams, the original thinker and liberal social architect, Roger Williams. Karen Scott (Interfaith Religious Liberty Foundation's director) and program chair Mynga Futrell spoke in turn of how profound has been his influence on governmental protections of "liberty of conscience" for citizens of all worldviews.

Musical Entertainment included sets by the band One 2 Many, led by James Israel, and Michael Newdow. New displays included Segway of San Francisco, who gave rides around the park.

New Inductee: Roger Williams

2006: "Embrace Reality"

Freethought Day 2006 FlyerSunday, October 8th - Waterfront Park in Old Town Sacramento

The fifth annuel event had displays of fossils and "real(ity) rocks." The various traditional program features continued, and for a second year, Mel Lipman, president of the American Humanist Association, emceed.  Mike Newdow gave a history lesson about the Constitution. The founding director of the Secular Coalition for America addressed the crowd in the main speaking slot, and the first African American freethinker was inducted into the Gallery.

Musical Entertainment included sets by James Israel, Roberta Chevrette and Mike Newdow. New displays included Camp Quest West's jump house that drew in more folks from the street, and a blood pressure health check for all who wanted it.

New Inductee: Butterfly McQueen

2005: "Stand Up for Reason"

Freethought Day 2005 ProclaimationSunday, October 9th - Waterfront Park in Old Town Sacramento

The park was festooned with a huge painting by the artist. A magician and ventriloquist entertained, as did emcee Mel Lipman, adding humor throughout. Karen Scott spoke on Liberty of Conscience is for Everybody and the Pearcys described their Iraq War dissent . The program concluded with an "Olde Time Reason Revival" skit with songs like, Give Us That Old Time (Reason), Stand up, Stand up for Reason, and What a Friend We Have in Reason. Mynga Futrell distributed copies of her invented secular lyrics so the audience could join in the most familiar "gospel" songs, and participants raised their voices in praise to "Revive the Enlightenment!"

Musical Entertainment included sets by James Israel Band, Roberta Chevrette, and Joel Pelletier. New displays included "A Freethinker's Bookshelf" and Critical Thinking for Everyone hosted by Camp Quest.

New Inductees: Mary Wollstonecraft and Frederick Douglas.

2004: "Dare to Think for yourself!"

Sunday, October 10th - Waterfront Park in Old Town Sacramento

Religious Liberty quotations, a magician, poetry, humor, and raffles added to the presentations at the main stage: Our Thoughts are Free!, A Sense of Civic Pluralism, Nonconformity and Progress, Courage to Think for Yourself, and Taking a Stand: Liberty and Justice for All.

Musical Entertainment included sets by the James Israel Band, Rev. Michael Newdow, and Roberta Chevrette.

New displays included "Banned Books" (thanks to the Sacramento Public Library), Different Drummers (a display of youth education curricula on nonconforming thinkers loaned by the nonprofit Objectivity, Accuracy and Balance In Teaching About Religion), "Learn/Think/Vote" (with help of Sacramento County), and Ladybugs and Mystery Boxes (for children).

New Inductees: Ernestine Rose and Emma Goldman

2003: "Liberty of Conscience"

Saturday, October 12th - Waterfront Park in Old Town Sacramento

Organizer and emcee Mynga Futrell began the event with the introduction of a pictorial display of nine historical figures with an accompanying printed program, inviting attendees to peruse the display hung on wires from the trees nearby and flapping in the breeze. (Promotion for the event had extended the invitation to "Witness a public ‘hanging' of freethinkers!"

The conscience ideal formed the centerpiece of the main on-stage program. From noon to two there were 13 brief mini-speeches by volunteers about persons admired now (in retrospect) for actions not always in tune with that of their contemporaries.

Poets Cleo Kocol and Anatole Lubavich read poetry and Jerry Sloan gave proclamation readings on the hour, with revised wording provided by Paul Geisert to better mesh with the desire to get broader civic acceptance of the Freethought Day. Among the literature tables available for scrutiny was a display of "A Freethinker's Bookshelf". There was a smattering of live music and a raffle.

The event was closed with a sing-along of Die Gedanken Sind Frei.

2002: "Delight in Freethinking!"

Saturday, October 12th - Sacramento County Courthouse Plaza

Sacramento's first Freethought Day program featured two invited speakers, the out-of-town activists (Bobbie Kirkhart, President of Atheist Alliance International, Los Angeles) and Henda Lea (Director of Bay Area Communities of Reason).

Local presenters besides the event coordinators Mynga Futrell and Jerry Sloan were Hank Kocol (scientist and freethought activist), Paul Geisert ("Reason House" facilitator), Cleo Kocol (freethought poet), Ron Fegley (humanist activist), and Kevin Schultz (atheist activist).

Central to the inaugural event was the reading of a Freethought Day Proclamation" ("Commemorating 310 Years of Reason in Law").

Led by Henda Lea and Mynga Futrell (on guitar), the gathering of about 30 also engaged in group singing of Die Gedanken Sind Frei ("Our Thoughts are Free!"). Both the proclamation and the group song of that first celebration day have been incorporated as traditions in subsequent Freethought Day events.

Initial Inductees: Thomas Paine, James Madison, Frances Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Green Ingersoll, Mark Twain, and Clarence Darrow.