Metro Weekly

Secular Pride Day: Reason Rally 2016

Thousands to attend 2nd Reason Rally in D.C. in support of LGBT equality, scientific thought, and humanism

GMCW opened the Reason Rally - Image via Reason Rally / Youtube/Mythicist Milwaukee
GMCW opened the 2016 Reason Rally with three songs – Image via Reason Rally on YouTube/Mythicist Milwaukee

Update: Watch Live video here (having problems, though) —

Maryland’s Jamie Raskin made an excellent speech that put the development of a secular U.S. government into an historical context.

Councilman David Grosso singled out the influence of bishops and religious members of Congress over D.C.’s government.

Dave Garcia, of the LA LGBT Center, made an impassioned speech against the negative effects of religious ignorance and bigotry directed at LGBT people worldwide.

Original post:

If you live in DC, you may have noticed advertisements lately adorning the sides of buses and bike rental stations. The ads depict photos of smiling people who are declaring themselves to be the faces of atheism. Sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, they appear to be part of a promotion for the second coming of The Reason Rally.

This year’s gathering is scheduled to take place at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, June 4, from 10 am to 7 pm.

The event promises to be a mixture of music and political solidarity between atheists, freethinkers, skeptics, former believers, and others who think that secular values and science are better for America than religious doctrine. What the organizers and participants do have a strong belief in is “the separation of church and state,” and their list of other current concerns includes LGBTQ equality, climate change, women’s reproductive rights, and sex ed.

A page on the Rally’s site states: “Religion should never be an excuse to deny public accommodation nor should it be an excuse for nonperformance of a person’s duties as a government employee. Yet, a Kentucky county clerk refused to issue marriage certificates to LGBT couples — even after being ordered to do so by the courts — because doing so violated her religious principles. Is that reasonable?”

The Rally may not be specifically aimed at gay people, but a number of gay and LGBT-supportive personalities are scheduled to address the crowd on Saturday — either live or via video. The Rally’s official site promotes inclusiveness, safety and respect for transgender attendees and takes a stand against behavior that could be deemed transphobic or homophobic. The current controversy surrounding trans people and public bathrooms is promised to be a topic of interest.

At the first Reason Rally, in 2012, speakers addressed the mistreatment of gay people around the world. Some leaders of the movement, such as Professor Richard Dawkins, have repeatedly implored atheists and nonbelievers to “come out” and be counted — a call for visibility and group empowerment that is closely modeled after the successful gains of the gay rights movement.

Participants of the Reason Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on June 4, 2016
Participants of the Reason Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on June 4, 2016

Saturday’s Main Stage lineup is set to include both locals and nationally known celebrities. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, Councilmember David Grosso, Maryland Senator Jamie Raskin, and Virginia Representative Bobby Scott will represent the DC metro region.

Celebrity appearances will include Bill Nye (the Science Guy), Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller), Lizz Winstead (Daily Show), John de Lancie (Star Trek TNG), members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Julia Sweeney (SNL), John Davidson and Paul Provenza. Prominent atheists will include James “The Amazing” Randi, Lawrence Krauss, David Silverman, Cara Santa Maria, Dave Rubin and many others.

"This is what an Atheist looks like" reads the t-shirt in a FFRF poster, one of many similar ads spread throughout DC ahead of the Reason Rally - Photo: JD Uy
“This is what an Atheist looks like” reads the t-shirt in a FFRF poster, one of many similar ads spread throughout DC ahead of the Reason Rally – Photo: JD Uy

Unfortunately, fans of Richard Dawkins will have to settle for an appearance via video. The eminent biologist stated in February that he had suffered a stress-induced hemmorhagic stroke from which he continues to recover. Others appearing by screen will be comedians Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais and Lewis Black.

Actor Johnny Depp  was set to be a headliner, but a recent Facebook post explained that Depp had to drop out of the event. “Due to unforeseen and personal circumstances, neither Amber Heard nor Johnny Depp will be in attendance at the Reason Rally. We thank them for their support to this point and want them to know they will both be missed.”

Also, comedian Margaret Cho was featured in early promotional materials for the Rally, however, she does not appear to be on the currently posted schedule for Saturday’s event. Fans can catch Cho later this month in DC when she will take part in a Tribute to Joan Rivers at The Kennedy Center on June 22.

There may be some presence of pro-Christian activists at the rally, too. Creationist Ray Comfort tweeted that 800 people had registered to do “outreach.” He had reportedly planned to hand out thousands of dollars worth of Subway gift cards. However, a press release from Comfort’s Living Waters claims that police are preventing his group of evangelists from assembling near the Rally.  “To the D.C. police, that constituted a protest and therefore we needed a permit to gather. We would have to stay at the other end of the National Mall, and they said that if we persisted to approach atheists to speak with them we would be arrested.”

FFRF’s Annie Laurie Gaylor stated back in 2012  that “God and government are a dangerous mix,” and she referred to the Bible as a “grim fairytale.” So, if you think you might enjoy a day of provocative dissent from similar minds, some bawdy language, and possibly a little rain, the Reason Rally at the Lincoln Memorial may be of interest to you.

Visit for details about the weekend-long series of events. The Rally will be broadcast online, too; and clips of speakers will likely be posted to YouTube, like this reports from 2012:

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