July 2019 Newsletter
Upcoming HAAM Events
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, July 21st, Salisbury House Garden City, 787 Leila Avenue, 9:30 – 11:00 AM.
Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.
New? Curious about who we are and what we do? Summer’s a good time to check us out.
Click here for event details.
Save the Dates
HAAM and Eggs Brunch – August 18th
Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival – August 23rd to 25th
Fall meeting dates – September 14th, October 5th, and November 16th
Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Steinbach Pride Parade – July 6th
Links to event details are on our Community Events page.
Religion still present in Manitoba courtrooms
Bibles are still routinely being used in Manitoba courtrooms. Should they be? This question was raised by a HAAM member who was recently summoned to appear as a witness. Along with the subpoena, she received an information sheet which includes the following instruction:
“When you are asked to testify, you will go to the front of the courtroom to be sworn in. The court clerk will ask you to take the Bible in your right hand, state your full name and swear to tell the truth. You must give your name and promise to tell the truth, but you do not have to swear on a Bible if you do not want to.”
A similar document intended for participants in small claims court states:
“You and your witnesses are required to give evidence under oath or affirmation. A Bible is available in the courtroom, or you may affirm to tell the truth without swearing an oath on the Bible. If you or your witnesses wish to make an oath on another sacred object or sacred book, please bring it with you to court.”
Seriously? Doesn’t this violate the principle of privacy and impartiality? It means that participants in court cases are being identified to spectators (and more importantly, jurors, lawyers, and judges) according to their religious beliefs – or lack thereof. That alone could cause prejudice before the witness even speaks.
The Winnipeg Free Press published an excellent editorial on this subject back in January, after the RCMP added the option of allowing witnesses to testify while holding an eagle feather rather than a holy book. A nice gesture, and well-meaning, but what’s next? Can someone swear on their lucky rabbit’s foot? Their favorite baseball card? This is not to say that witnesses should not be allowed to bring their favorite holy book, eagle feather, security blanket, or any other object that gives them comfort – but why does the rest of the room need to see it? And what is its relevance to telling the truth? Is it any less of a crime to lie when testifying if one has not sworn on a holy book? Is there any evidence that people who swear on a holy book or object are more honest than those who don’t? And why should one religion’s holy book be provided by the courts, while members of other religions must provide their own?
Why is any of this necessary at all? It’s just one more tradition that needs to be consigned to the trash heap of history. Eliminating religious rituals from the courtroom will help keep our justice system impartial and fair for everyone.
Outreach Report – World Religions Class
On June 12th, Heather Murray and Helen Friesen (both from the Eastman Humanist Community) and I visited the Grade 12 World Religions class at Green Valley High School in Grunthal, Manitoba. HAAM has been invited for the previous 6 years to speak to this class. The class had previously heard presentations from representatives of various Christian denominations, and Jewish and Islamic faiths. This was the first time that Heather, Helen and I had been involved.
The class was small, with only 9 students. It appeared that all students considered themselves to be Christian. We did a short presentation describing HAAM and the EHC and our personal backgrounds. We then talked about our paths to atheism or non-belief. This led to a question and answer session in which most of the students participated actively. I was especially interested in the discussion of sexism in the bible. Some of the students defended some of the more controversial passages, while other students expressed more progressive views. Some students already had thoughts about the traditional male-dominated leadership that is present in many churches.
I found this opportunity to engage with young students very worthwhile and would recommend that HAAM and EHC continue to participate in this event. – Arthur (last name withheld)
Editor’s Note: This speaking engagement was part of HAAM’s ongoing Ask an Atheist program. We’re happy to arrange to have someone to speak to any school or community group and answer questions about atheism and Humanism. See our Outreach page for more information.
Book of the Month – What is Humanism?
If you’re a secular parent looking for ways to explain your value system, there aren’t very many books out there to help you, but here’s a good one. A member recently brought to our attention this colorful little (48 pages) book about Humanism by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young. You might recognize Rosen as a well-known children’s author (does “Going on a Bear Hunt” ring a bell?), but here he tackles more serious subject matter in a light-hearted way. When this book was published in 2015, the British Humanist Association crowd-funded a campaign to provide it free to British schools, and by mid-2017, almost 4000 schools had requested a copy.
What is Humanism? How do you live without a god? And other big questions for kids explains Humanist values like empathy, critical thinking, human rights, and social responsibility, in positive terms and without bashing religion. It examines topics traditionally handled by religion, like the meaning of life, ceremonies marking birth and death, the origins of life, where we get our morals from, and what is consciousness. It includes open-ended discussion questions designed to develop critical thinking skills.
The age range for this book of course depends on individual children and circumstances, but it’s likely best suited for late elementary and middle school (about grades 4-8). However, it would also be a great introduction to Humanism for teens and adults who have had limited exposure to perspectives or beliefs outside their own religious communities.
HAAM does not yet have a copy of this book, but we intend to get one. In the meantime, it’s readily available at the Winnipeg Public Library (13 copies). Summer is a great time to discuss life’s big issues with your kids. Happy reading!
Outreach Report – Summer in the City
For the first time, the Humanist outreach booth at the Steinbach festival was completely staffed by members of the Eastman Humanist Community, and by all accounts, it was a great success. Volunteers reported that there were some productive conversations and positive reactions from visitors, as well as the usual critics and shocked expressions from passers-by.
The EHC developed their own signs, pamphlets and banners for the booth. Congratulations to all involved!