Thousands of atheists and their allies are expected to converge on Washington, D.C., next month for a “Reason Rally.” The first Reason Rally, held in D.C. in 2012, attracted about 20,000 people in the rain, according to organizers.
“We expect to double those numbers,” said Margaret A. Downey, president of the Freethought Society, based in Pocopson.
She predicted the rally will be the largest national gathering of secular people ever. It’s sponsored by a coalition of secular groups, including the Freethought Society.
The rally will be the centerpiece of a four-day event promoting the separation of religion and government, Downey said.
The rally begins 10 a.m. June 4 in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The D.C. Gay Men’s Chorus will sing at the rally, and Margaret Cho, an openly bisexual comedian, will be another entertainer.
Speakers at the rally include actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, scientists Bill Nye and Lawrence Krauss, rapper Baba Brinkman, writer John de Lancie, comedian Paul Prevenza, actor John Davidson and openly gay magician James Randi.
“They’re all strong advocates for equal rights, rational thinking and separation of religion and government,” Downey said.
She said the nontheist community has a long history of working with the LGBT community, and she predicted a strong LGBT presence at the rally.
“The LGBT community has much in common with the nontheist community,” Downey said. “Both communities know the harm that’s done by negative stereotyping, unfounded bigotry and blurring the line between religion and government.”
Other activities during the four-day event include lobbying, two gala parties, a mini-conference and smaller gatherings attended by well-known atheists and allies.
She said extensive lobbying efforts will take place June 2 and 3.
“We’ll be flooding Congress with secular activists,” Downey said. “While we don’t necessarily expect that every politician will be receptive, we hope that some of our points will be well-received.”
Throughout the event, guided walking tours will be offered of sites related to 19th-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll, who lived in D.C., Downey added.
“We hope the activities will foster networking and camaraderie among participants,” Downey concluded. “The entire four-day event is intended to inspire and strengthen bonds. Then, when people go home, they’ll have the tools and ideas and encouragement to continue representing the secular community.”
For more information, visit www.reasonrally.org.