Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Atheists select Des Moines for national convention
Citing a desire to build upon the excitement that has already been generated by state and regional groups, American Atheists announced Monday that they will “caucus in the heartland” when they bring their national convention to Des Moines in April 2011.
Ed Buckner, president of the group, said the decision to hold the convention in Des Moines was based on a wide variety of factors that included value for attending membership, accessibility and an overall interest in the city itself.
“The major factor, though, was the rapidly growing activism and presence of atheist, freethought, secular and humanist groups throughout the region,” he said. “We have been very impressed by this, and want to do all we can to help and to further energize these groups.”
Activism of state groups was on display during the 2010 legislative session. After The Iowa Independent reported that certain lawmakers had teamed up with the Iowa Family Policy Council to offer a so-called Christian education series screening in the state Capitol building, Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers asked an Iowa State University professor to appear at the capitol to further explore the topic of evolution and “intelligent design,” a focal point of the Christian series.
“Our preference would be for this to be a non-issue and neither [event] to have been at the Capitol,” Dave Grzeskowiak, vice president of the Iowa group, said in March. “But, because one already is, we feel it is our responsibility to present both sides.”
“In Iowa specifically, groups like Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, Iowa Secularists, Iowa State University Atheist and Agnostic Society, Siouxland Atheists, UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers and others are really making tremendous progress in the never-ending struggle for rationality and religious liberty,” Buckner said.
Although none of the spokespersons from American Atheists have directly indicated that their decision to hold the convention in Des Moines was in any way related to the 2012 Iowa Caucus, the convention theme is “Atheists Caucus in the Heartland.” Even if the decision was made with a nod toward national politics, it is not unusual for advocacy groups to come into Iowa in the lead-up to the first-in-the-nation caucus in hopes of driving the national conversation or influencing policy decisions.
Dave Silverman, vice president and communications director for American Atheists, said that the convention typically attracts about 500 people from out-of-state, and some international attendees as well.
“We will have international guests, and we think the 2011 meeting will attract people from throughout the country because of its wonderful, central location,” he said.
The convention will run from April 21 to 24 at Embassy Suites on the River in Des Moines, and organizers plan wide variety of speakers, panels, activism workshops and social events. Although convention registration fees are still being set, would-be participants are encouraged to keep their eyes on the organization’s website for the latest information.