After Dr. Buckner's speech, the mic was passed to the executive director of the Libertarian Party of Texas, Robert Butler.
Mr. Butler promoted not only a separation of church and state, but a separation of school and state as well. While I did agree with his sentiment that individuals must take responsibility for the education of their children, I cannot agree with the suggestion that public education should be abolished. However, I am hesitant to further criticize his speech as I lacked the gumption to question him directly afterward. I only wonder at the suggestion that public education is not a suitable area of government involvement when Thomas Jefferson--the cited source of the Libertarian Party's principles--was himself one of the earliest proponents of public education.
Following Mr. Butler was David Smalley, the editor of the American Atheists magazine.
A few other speeches followed. However, I failed to catch the names and respective organizations of all of the speakers. Hey, I never said that I was a journalist. ;) I cannot remember the name of this next speaker, but please leave his name in the comments if you recognize him!
The emcee of the event was Kathleen Johnson, the vice president and military director of the American Atheists.
Musical interludes were provided by Joe Broome, a musician and Texas high school teacher.
Also speaking was Joe Zamecki, the American Atheists Texas State Director.
Although Christopher Hitchens was invited to speak at the rally, he unfortunately had a conflicting engagement and was unable to attend. However, he did write an essay to be read aloud by Dr. Buckner. (I'm trying to track down the full text of Hitchens' essay.)
A diverse crowd had gathered in front of the podium to listen these speeches. Because Thomas Jefferson graces the $2 bill, many people had pinned bills to their shirts. I failed to get a picture of this as I could not find a polite way to ask anyone if I could take a picture of their chest. However, I did manage to get plenty of pictures of the numerous signs promoting truth and honesty in our education system.
There were a few Christians in the audience expressing their disdain for the SBOE's agenda. While some held signs clearly identifying themselves as Christians, others were less direct. The following sign confused me and several other people:
The couple holding the sign were very polite and had no objection when I asked to take their picture. I do not want to inaccurately label this as a Christian sign because I did not directly ask the couple about their intended message. (One thing that I definitely learned from this experience is to ask more questions!) However, later I was told that the "Come and Take It" line is likely in reference to an event in the Mexican Revolution in which Texans fashioned the following flag:
The flag depicts a cannon which Mexican forces were trying to seize from the Texans. (There is a lengthy backstory; see the Wiki link above for details.) Therefore, the flag has become a symbol of freedom and defiance towards opposing forces who may attempt to seize control of something. We guessed that the protesters' sign had substituted a Bible in place of the fabled cannon, signifying defiance against any effort to remove the Bible from the school. However, perhaps the book on the sign was supposed to signify a schoolbook and yield a message opposing the SBOE's agenda to suppress quality education. Either way, I'm kicking myself that I did not ask the couple for further details.
After the rally, everyone met at the Dog and Duck Pub for lunch. I had a fabulous time sharing drinks and laughs with other freethinkers and I really cannot wait to move to Austin so that I can attend events like this more often. Of course, we had to pose for a ThinkAtheist photo op! From the left are Anthony (Shanika's husband), Shanika, SilveryLox, and myself.