While many will celebrate Easter this weekend, a group with a totally different view on religion opens its convention in Des Moines Thursday. Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers spokesman, Jason Kelley, says they will have a record turnout for their annual convention.
He says they had a record of 500 people registered last year and they’ve already registered 675 people this year and are expecting to top 700. Kelley says the group has become more visible and that’s probably part of the reason for the increase in numbers.
Kelley says visibility is part of it, and he says it’s now less of a taboo to admit that you are an atheist and he predicts more and more people will attend as time goes on. Kelley says the convention is another way to draw attention to their group.
“There’s atheists everywhere, you work with them, you live with them, you interact with atheists all day, all throughout the week, and that’s one part of this, the visibility that atheists are among us,” Kelley says. He says there’s also the education and outreach as he says they will have discussion on separation of church and state, and what it means to be an atheist.
The group had created some controversy with bus advertisements last year, and then billboards this year, that question religion and tout their convention. Kelley though doesn’t expect any major protests at the convention. Kelley says they’ve historically had some protest, but says they haven’t had a convention this big in the past, so he’s not sure if there will be much protest.
He says they do have “contingency plans” for security if there are protests, but they don’t anticipate any “actual violent, loud protests.” The convention opens Thursday at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines and runs through Sunday.