bigotry

February 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – Animal Attraction 

Saturday, February 10th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM 

February 12th is International Darwin Day, so we focus on science and nature at our February meetings.  

This year’s meeting will be about sex. Click here for details and more information.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, February 25th, Original Pancake House (Polo Park), 1445 Portage Avenue, 9:30 AM 

Join us for our regular Sunday morning brunch. Details here.

See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our Events page. 

 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism World Tour 2018 

Sunday, 8 April 2018, Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St 

 

For details on this and all upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page. 

 

 

Charity of the Month CARE Cat Community Outreach Program 

C.A.R.E. (Cat Advocacy Rescue & Education) is a non-profit organization made up of concerned animal lovers and veterinary professionals who work to alleviate the serious cat overpopulation by spaying and neutering cats. The program was founded in 2011 in response to the overwhelming number of stray and feral cats in the North End of Winnipeg. Since then, CARE has spayed/neutered more than 900 feral, stray, and low-income owned cats; over 700 at Machray Animal Hospital and the rest through the Winnipeg Humane Society’s SNAP (Subsidized Spay and Neuter Program). 

In partnership with The Winnipeg Humane Society and Winnipeg Animal Services, CARE helps people get their cats fixed year-round. The funding for these surgeries comes from the FixIt Grant; money raised directly from cat licensing.  

Winnipeg residents are essentially paying for these cats’ surgeries, so only cats within city limits qualify for the program. Through CARE, low-income families can get their kitty spayed or neutered, tattooed, licensed and vaccinated for only $5!!!!  

HAAM member Heather McDonell is one of the veterinarians who works with CARE, and it was our Charity of the Month once before, way back in Sept 2013, so we’re happy to help them again. The group is always looking for additional donations, as well as volunteers to transport cats to and from the clinics, since most of the people the program serves can’t afford vehicles or taxis. CARE has no website, just social media, as this is a grassroots effort. Visit their Facebook page or call the office at 204-421-7297 to make an appointment or obtain more information.  

Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Latest News 

Film Fest Ideas Wanted 

Our annual Film Fest will take place at the March 10th meeting, and we’re currently looking for films. Suggestions are welcome.  

If you know of a film that your fellow Humanists might like (something funny, provocative, inspirational, or educational), let us know. Length can be anything from a couple of minutes to a full movie (but not a really long movie). 

More details to follow in the March newsletter. 

Seeking Secular Therapists 

We have again had a request from someone seeking a counsellor or psychologist who does not invoke religion or suggest prayer during treatment. A while back, we started a list with the names of a few such professionals for future referrals – but we currently only have 3 names on it. There must be way more than 3 mental health professionals in Manitoba who don’t include religion as part of their practice.  

There is no requirement that therapists be non-believers; only that they use evidence-based, secular treatment methods in their professional practice. We do not post their names publicly due to professional regulations and ethics.  

If you are aware of a secular therapist whose name we can add to our list, please Contact Us. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential. Note that providing a referral cannot be construed as an endorsement by HAAM. 

Library News  

Our past-president Jeff Olsson has again been busy cleaning off shelves, and he’s made another large donation to the HAAM library – books, this time. Jeff is well-read and has eclectic taste in subject matter. There’s something here for everyone – ethics and philosophy, astronomy and climate science, atheist humor, psychology and psychoanalysis, skepticism and counter-apologetics (defending non-belief), history and archaeology. Here are just a few of the books he donated:  

-The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) 

-Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming 

-Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion 

-God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (Penn Jillette) 

-God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer (Bart Ehrman) 

-In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension 

-Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History 

-The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Freud) 

-Right to Die: A Neurosurgeon Speaks of Death with Candor 

-Universe: A Journey from Earth to the Edge of the Cosmos 

-Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith (Richard Carrier) 

-Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time 

Check out the complete list on our Library page. Thank you again, Jeff! 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.  

Call to Action – No Funding for Anti-choice, Anti-LGBTQ2+ Groups 

Please add your voice in support of human rights 

The BC Humanist Association haslaunched a petition in support of new application requirements for the Government of Canada’s Canada Summer Jobs program. 

The program provides wage subsidies to employers to hire high school and post-secondary students. The new policy requires applicants to attest that neither the job nor the employer’s “core mandate” are contrary to human rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of transgender Canadians. 

Until now, many churches, bible camps and other faith-based organizations could apply for funding under the program, some received tens of thousands of dollars in support to hire summer staff. Religious organizations are still eligible for the funding, but those groups must now affirm their support for safe access to abortion and LGBTQ2+ rights. 

Unhappy with the change, some conservative faith groups are suing the government claiming religious discrimination. 

While we’d hope to see an end to public funding going to religious organizations entirely, ensuring that public funds aren’t given to groups that work to undermine fundamental human rights is a positive step. 

It’s important for the government to hear from Canadians who support these actions, not just the small but vocal lobby for the religious right. 

Sign the petition:No funding for anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ2+ groups 

We’ll submit the petition to the government by February 2, 2018, when applications close for the Canada Summer Jobs program. 

In Humanism, Ian Bushfield
Executive Director BC Humanist Association  

And while we’re on the subject…  

Publicly Funded Groups Must Respect Human Rights  

You won’t want to miss Pat Morrow’s analysis of the ‘kerfuffle’ that has developed as conservative religious groups protest their loss of permission to use public money to undermine the rights of others.

Click here to read Pat’s article. 

 

Being an Ethical Omnivore 

Those not in attendance for our January presentation missed out on a remarkable speaker, Dr. Charlene Berkvens, who singlehandedly runs her 80-acre farm in addition to working a full-time job as a veterinarian. An engaging and interesting guest speaker, the considerable amount of Q and A and group participation throughout attested both to the quality of her presentation and devotion to her life’s work.  

Dr. Berkvens’ accomplishments and dedication to her passions of animal welfare and environmentally sustainable farming practices are truly inspiring, and take their mandate from the principles of permaculture (sustainable agriculture that renews natural resources and enriches local ecosystems) and the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which are:
1) Freedom from hunger and thirst
2) Freedom from discomfort
3) Freedom from pain, injury and disease
4) Freedom to behave normally (according to their species)
5) Freedom from fear and distress 

By the end of Dr. Berkvens’ presentation, there was no room left for ambiguity. Animal welfare and sustainable farming practices are inextricably tied to human interests, in terms of both our health and that of the land. It will take the willingness of ethical consumers, who critically examine their choices, to drive change. In the end, cheap food is not really cheap.    — Rob Daly 

Learn more about  Charlene’s farm – the Fostering Change Farm, by visiting its website or Facebook page. For those interested in supporting sustainable farms with their grocery dollars, Dr. Berkvens provided us with the following list of local food sources in Manitoba, along with links to some of the topics covered, after her presentation:  

Direct Farm Manitoba – list of many local, direct marketing farmers in Manitoba as well as farmers’ markets, etc. 

Harvest Moon Local Food Marketplacesustainably produced, fair local foods directly from local farms 

Bouchee Boucher – restaurant and butcher supporting local farmers 

Feast Cafe Bistro – restaurant that supports local farmers and features local and First Nations foods 

Stella’s – restaurant with some dishes using local food 

Prairie 360 – restaurant with some dishes using local food 

Prairie Box – business that delivers weekly fresh meals with local food  

For more information on some of the ideas / concepts we discussed: 

Holistic Resource Management 

Polyface Farms (Joel Salatin) 

Verge Permaculture 

I would also encourage folks to check out and support: 

The Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program  

Fort Whyte Centre, Oak Hammock Marsh, The Forks, and Assiniboine Park are great places to enjoy wildlife and the environment in the Winnipeg area.  

A few others to consider checking out include: 

Manitoba’s Tall Grass Prairie Preserve 

Nature Conservancy of Canada (Manitoba) 

As well as the many, many beautiful provincial parks and of course, Riding Mountain National Park. 

A Primer on Assisted Dying in Manitoba 

Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID) has been legal in Canada for 18 months now, but the process and guidelines are poorly understood. Here’s what people need to know: 

 * Manitoba has one centralized MAID team that serves the entire province. Other provinces require that your doctor initiate the evaluation and application process. Here, if you have a terminal diagnosis or a disease that causes you enduring and increasing suffering, you are free to contact the MAID team yourself to discuss whether you might qualify and find out what the next steps are. 

 * MAID is not part of the palliative care program in Manitoba. If you are receiving palliative care and you mention that you might be interested in MAID, it doesn’t mean they’ll start the inquiry for you; it’s best to contact the MAID team yourself or to ask a friend or family member to help you make contact. 

  * You do NOT (and should not) have to wait until your body begins to fail before you apply. The application process takes a minimum of 2 weeks, and some patients wait so long that they end up missing the window of opportunity and suffering needlessly in death. 

  * After you make initial contact with the MAID team and they agree you might qualify, they arrange for your first assessment. The assessment team usually consists of a doctor, a nurse, and a social worker. The team interviews you and reviews your medical records. One part of that interview involves speaking with you alone to be sure you’re not being coerced into applying. 

  * An appointment is then arranged with the second assessment team, composed of a different doctor, nurse, and social worker. The two teams don’t communicate with each other about you (the patient) until after both assessments are finished. 

  * After both assessments are complete, the two assessment teams meet and compare notes. If they agree that you qualify, then they recommend that you fill in an application form for medical assistance in dying. 

  * The application form must be signed by the patient (or a proxy, if the patient is physically incapable of signing) in the presence of two independent witnesses. An independent witness is defined as someone who is over the age of 18, a Canadian citizen, not a beneficiary of the patient’s will, and not involved in the patient’s health care. These are the same requirements for serving as a proxy. 

  * Once the application form is filled out, a mandatory waiting period of 10 days begins. You are eligible to receive the service on day 11 after the application form was signed, assuming that in the meantime, the assessment teams have approved you for the service. Note that these 10 days must be “clear” days, meaning that you are mentally coherent; these ‘clear’ days do not have to be consecutive, however. 

  * A significant proportion of MAID applicants do not know two people who are not named in their will, not involved in their health care, and/or who would be appropriate for other reasons to serve as witnesses. Members of Humanist groups across Canada (including many members of HAAM), have been serving as witnesses. Most of these volunteer witnesses also belong to their local chapter of Dying with Dignity. 

  * On the day that you choose to die, you must be mentally coherent and capable of giving consent. Nobody else can give this consent on your behalf, and you cannot consent in advance. 

  * The process of assisting someone to die involves having the MAID provider insert two intravenous lines (one as backup), and deliver 4 drugs through those lines. In Manitoba, this is the only approved method used. The drugs put the patient into a deep sleep and then into a coma, and then cause the heart to stop.

  * Most insurance companies accept the cause of death as being the underlying medical condition, but you should check with your insurance provider to be sure, since those who list the cause of death as suicide can withhold life insurance payments for 2 years after death. 

For links to the MAID team, related legal information, and more, visit the Dying With Dignity Winnipeg Chapter’s website at https://dwdwinnipeg.weebly.com.

— Cheri Frazer is co-coordinator of the Winnipeg Chapter of Dying with Dignity 

2018 HAAM Executive 

The following members were elected at our January AGM.  

President: Donna Harris   Vice President: Pat Morrow 

Secretary: Name Withheld*   Treasurer: Henry Kreindler 

Members at Large: Tammy Blanchette, Rob Daly, Norm Goertzen, Tony Governo, Sherry Lyn Marginet, and Dorothy Stephens. 

Welcome Rob Daly to the team!  

For future reference, the list of executive members can always be found here. 

Thanks to all who attended the AGM.

*Sadly, not everyone can safely identify publicly as non-religious. 

 

Don’t forget to renew your membership! (click here)  

Publicly Funded Groups Must Respect Human Rights

The January 25th edition of the Steinbach Carillon published a column by Michael Zwaagstra regarding the attestation that applicants for the Federal Summer Jobs Program are required to sign before receiving public money. (The column is behind a paywall.) Mr Zwaagstra is a teacher, a Steinbach city councillor, an evangelical Christian, and a contributor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (a conservative think tank based in Winnipeg). Most of the religious concerns he expressed were alleviated by the federal government’s clarification notice, announced just two days before the column was published, and probably not reviewed in time for the paper’s deadline.

Normally I wouldn’t respond to what the religious right has to say about abortion, or about how someone else’s rights offend them, but the column makes some errors, as well as mentioning HAAM, so I thought I’d offer this response.

Thought Police?

Zwaagstra referred to the attestation as an “ideological purity test”, and stated “it’s one thing to withhold funds based on an activity, it’s another entirely to withhold funds based on a belief”. Since the clarification was released, we can all see this issue is about the former criterion. The actual statement that prospective employers must sign reads as follows: “I attest that… Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.” (P. 21 Sec 4.5 of the Canada Summer Jobs Applicant Guide)

It seems anti-choice groups and the religious right believe that signing the attestation is a violation of their religious freedoms when it clearly is not. No one is telling them what they have to believe. The statement does ask them to affirm the rights of the LGBTQ community and the reproductive rights of women. Mr. Zwaagstra may feel that this is just a euphemism for “unfettered abortion on demand”, but anyone familiar with abortion services in this country knows the expression “abortion on demand” is just rhetoric for the credulous. Just try to get an abortion on demand. (For anyone wondering just what reproductive rights are, the Women’s Legal, Education, and Action Fund has a good description.)

Acknowledgement ≠ Endorsement

Essentially, what we have here is the religious right treating the constitution like their holy books – picking and choosing the bits they like and reinterpreting or discarding the rest. To use an analogy – as Humanists we support freedom of religion; this is a fundamental right we acknowledge without hesitation. This not to say that we support the genital mutilation of young girls* and boys, or the promotion of ignorance like young earth creationism, climate change denialism, opposition to vaccines, and other anti-scientific views supported wholly or in part by religion and religious believers. Nor do we support scaring children with tales of eternal damnation, or prolonging the suffering of those who seek medically assisted death. Support for the right to freedom of religion is not the same as support for religious actions or ideas. Support for women’s rights is not support for abortion.

As I said, in his column Zwaagstra mentions HAAM, and the link to the petition in support of the summer jobs program requirements currently posted on our website. While I am flattered he thinks it’s our petition, it is not. It was developed by Ian Bushfield and the BC Humanist association (which is clearly stated). Zwaagstra goes on to quote Ian: “While we’d hope to see an end to public funding going to religious organizations entirely, ensuring that public funds aren’t given to groups that work to undermine fundamental human rights is a positive step.” I fully support Ian’s quote. But Zwaagstra continues with the fallacious assertion that this is a “stepping stone to eliminate all public support for faith-based organizations”. It’s not; there is no hidden HAAM agenda.

Who should qualify for public funds?

Religious organizations should not be allowed (or denied) public money just because they are religious organizations. If Zwaagstra had read a little more of our website, he might understand our position a little better. We support a different charity every month, and one of our selection criteria is that “the charity or service must be secular, or if associated with a religious or faith-based organization, its services must be provided without proselytization of clients.” HAAM has supported Agape Table and Welcome Place. Both organizations have ties with faith-based groups but don’t promote religion or discriminate in the delivery of their services. Yes, Mr Zwaagstra, HAAM has given money to faith-based organizations, so why would we oppose public money going to religious groups for charity purposes? However, religious organizations that exist primarily to proselytize, promote bad ideas, or limit others’ human rights should not be eligible for public money. The difference is in the details.

In Winnipeg we have Siloam Mission, which receives public money in part to help the homeless. Although the organization is faith-based and staffed mostly by Christians, they are all about providing services to the less fortunate. They don’t proselytize or make attending religious services a condition. They accept people as they are – any colour, any place in society, and it doesn’t matter the sexual orientation. Public money would be permissible in this situation.

On the other hand, a Christian organization called Samaritans Purse bills itself as a charity giving presents to needy children around the world. All the while their primary goal is to evangelize to these children; the gifts are just bait. Organizations like this should not get public money. Nor should faith-based groups like ‘pregnancy crisis centres‘ that disseminate misinformation.

What if the situation were reversed?

Zwaagstra goes on to wonder how HAAM would react if a future government made everyone sign an attestation to “the supremacy of God and the rule of law” in order to receive public money. Although we find the phrase “supremacy of God” mentioned in the preamble to the constitution, unlike women’s rights the supremacy of God holds no legal weight. It is not a right, so the analogy doesn’t hold… it doesn’t even make sense.

click to enlarge

But it’s an interesting thought experiment. When this future government announces their new ‘supremacy of God’ attestation, and after the laughter dies down, the question would be “whose god?” Ultimately the idea of the supremacy of a god is an absurd idea, and Mr. Zwaagstra would be quite right. It would be a violation of our charter rights. A court challenge would be incredibly exciting, as the government would have to first pick which god is the right one, and then demonstrate its supremacy. The irony is that this would be a violation of Zwaagstra’s freedom of religion if the god they chose turned out not to be his, and a violation of everyone else’s if it was. (The Canadian Secular Alliance has more about the history and absurdity of the ‘supremacy of God’ clause in our constitution and why it should be removed.)

In the end, the government could have been clearer on what was meant in the attestation, but really this kerfuffle has much to do with the theology of certain sects of Christianity. When you combine a loss of privilege with the theological need to be persecuted and a mission to stop abortion at all costs, one can’t help but go looking for something to be offended about.

Pat Morrow is Vice President of HAAM

*Note that although FGM is illegal in Canada, it is still practiced by some religious sects.

Update

30 January 2018

In addition to sharing the petition started by the BC Humanist Association, HAAM was one of 80 pro-choice and human rights groups from across Canada that signed an open letter in support of the government’s move to require groups seeking funding through the Canada Summer Jobs program to respect human rights.

A lawsuit by an anti-choice group requesting an injunction preventing the attestation from taking effect was dismissed in court for lack of grounds.

July 2016 Newsletter

bigotryIn this issue:

  • Outreach report from our first Summer in the City
  • Bigotry is a lifestyle choice
  • Commenting on social media? Think twice!
  • Is blasphemy a victimless crime? Stand up for free speech!
  • and more…

July newsletter

 

Reactions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

There has been no shortage of controversy in both the mainstream and social media networks lately over Syrian refugees. Canada has committed to accepting 25,000 of them over the next few months. This has prompted criticism – and worse – from every kind of fear-mongerer, racist, and xenophobe. Meanwhile, desperate people are trying to escape terrorism and get to safety. Look at this heartbreaking image from a news article about where refugee children sleep.

where children sleep

In spite of that, posts like this one are appearing on social media pages:

I see the posts against allowing the refugees and I see the posts condemning those people who don’t want the refugees. Here’s the problem with the refugee’s – it only takes 1 member of ISIS to hide among them and be allowed in. Only 1. To live in a free country means to preserve that freedom, at all costs. To some I know that sounds so savage and uncaring, but it’s my country too. My free & safe country and I believe that it should be protected at all costs.

One of HAAM’s executive responded to that post:

Terrorists are already here, and Canada will likely be attacked at some point whether we help suffering people or whether we don’t. My values as a humanist don’t allow me to say “I’ve got mine, so screw you” to people whose kids are being bombed and shot at and starved (or drowned in their desperate escape attempts) by the same extremists who attacked Paris. The world needs more courage in the time of ISIS, not less. If I or my loved ones die in the service of humanism, so be it. I believe your bible says in Leviticus, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbour’s blood is shed.”

“First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.”

-Martin Niemöller, 1946

Reply from the original post:

I think I come at it from a different, more – for lack of a better word, selfish – angle, and I hate that it makes me look selfish, that it makes me look uncaring and unyielding because I am not. The freedom of Canada is becoming more and more diluted the more we accept others’ values, beliefs and mores over the ones that created the country. While I agree that evolution is evolution – change has to occur in order to have progress; truth be told, many of the beliefs and values of those entering Canada are not in tune with that freedom, and more and more those holding those beliefs are asking to be more and more recognized. Sharia law for instance – it’s practiced here on our free land and my fear is that one day it will actually be recognized. To accept more and more beliefs that are completely anti-freedom (those beliefs and values that fly in the face of freedom like women’s rights, gay rights, and humanitarian rights) well, that is a slippery slope. Freedom comes with the responsibility of preserving it. How do we preserve it? Right now in Canada we have some of the highest child poverty rates among 1st world nations, cities with no family physicians available so thousands of people have to rely on a ‘walk in’ system, wait lists for surgeries that extend into months, sub-par education and education facilities, failing infrastructure in most major urban centers, a CPP that arguably won’t exist in 20-30 years, an aging population that health care will not keep up with, unaffordable housing in most major urban centers – how do we cope with that while allowing thousands upon thousands of refugees in? I know it’s selfish of me, I hate that it is… but I don’t know how to blend these issues so that they make sense.

A final response from our exec:

Ah, so people in Canada have the “freedom” to be exactly like you are. And it’s OK to let innocent bystanders from a war zone suffer and die by the thousands because they might want to come here and cause you inconvenience with their differences. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not OK with allowing what I consider to be backward and horrid practices here, like ‘honour’ killings or gender segregation, but I certainly am not harmed by having the necessary conversations about them. And that’s a different topic from giving necessary aid to humans in desperate need. We already have hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Canada (among many other groups) and we’re OK. Having challenging conversations about how we build our society together doesn’t deserve to be in the same sphere of conversation as whether we should save people from genocide. We can afford to be inconvenienced by crumbling roads and dwindling CPP as the worst problems of our mismanaged wealth; people can’t survive *at all* in a genocide. It’s a no-brainer.

This attitude isn’t new

Sad to say that historically, fear and rejection of newcomers is nothing new. Anne Frank might be a 75 year old woman living in the US today if her family had been able to get out of Germany in the 1930’s. Dr Seuss, who later wrote children’s books, drew this political cartoon in 1938, and it still rings true today.

seuss refugees

 

“Foreigners’ weren’t always so welcome here in Manitoba, either, decades ago, as history shows.

ukranian immigrants 2

Ideas do not always deserve respect, but people do

It can sometimes be difficult to separate out criticism of ideologies from bigotry against entire groups of people. But separate them we must, because the lives of innocent victims are at stake. Here is an example of a meme that’s been circulated lately on social media. It illustrates the kind of conflict that develops when people confuse the two.
being an atheist

HAAM member Dorothy Stephens shared this response:

I’ve seen this in my newsfeed a few times lately and I feel the need to address point #2.
Promotion and acceptance of irrational and superstitious beliefs is NOT okay.
People deserve respect. Ideas and ideologies do NOT automatically deserve respect. Ideas should be open to debate in the public sphere, where they must earn respect based on their own merits.

Religious ideologies – ALL of them – fail in this regard, because religion itself is not based on evidence or rational thinking. Perhaps many Christians have forgotten that it wasn’t so long ago their own religion was burning witches at the stake. There are plenty of evangelical leaders today who are just as fervent about their own brand of theocracy as Muslim leaders are about theirs. The level of violence hasn’t been equaled – yet – but the potential is there (for an example, look up Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill).

At best, religious thinking leads people to make decisions without sufficient evidence, and which are therefore often not in their own, or society’s, best interests. On a personal or local level, such bad decision making leads to individuals taking comfort in the supernatural rather than seeking legitimate treatment for ailments like mental illness, PTSD, or addictions; and children being denied proper health care and education. On a societal level, it leads to poor policy decisions on issues like global warming, denial of basic human rights to minority groups like the LGBT community, and, at the extreme end, terrorist attacks. I will continue to call out nonsense and irrational thinking when I see it, and I’m not apologizing for that.

Speaking out against irrational ideas, however, is NOT the same thing as attacking individual people. Unfortunately, every new terrorist attack brings out the xenophobes – the anti-immigration rants, the racists, the gun-toting right-wing nut-jobs. Adding this kind of hatred and intolerance to an already violent situation only makes the atmosphere more toxic and the situation more desperate for the victims.

Refugees are fleeing the same terrorists that the rest of the world is fighting, and most have no place to return to. As fellow human beings we need to offer assistance and place to stay. Have we already forgotten the lessons of WWII?

syria

If you are still concerned about accepting Syrian refugees, read this.

The Niqab – Yes or No?

Note: The following article expresses the views of the author and may not represent the views of all HAAM members.

niqabI have no use for any religion – to me, Islam and Christianity are on equal playing fields. I think both are equally dangerous, and both have done tremendous harm to humanity. Without going too far into church history (and I could go back to the early days and start from there; it’s rife with bloodshed and evil), I’m going to point to the last 100 years – the very recent treatment of Aboriginals in Canada. The massacre and genocide of so many native children was directly done in the name of God. And that was mainstream Christianity – we’re not even talking about extremism. Present day, there are still extremist groups that are violent and dangerous. They’re not as profiled as often as Muslim religions are, but they exist, and they’re doing huge amounts of damage. I address this recent phenomenon as “Islamophobia” because that’s what it’s called, but it’s really not fear/hatred of the religion – it’s actually pure racism. If there were this level of hatred/fear/mistrust against Caucasians called “Christianityphobia”, I would definitely have the same reaction. Racism, however it’s disguised, is NEVER OK.

Christians like to complain that there’s hatred for Christianity, but what it really is, is disagreement, and calling out the fact that Christians have been using their privilege to wield their power and beliefs on everyone else. Historically, Christians have enjoyed an imbalance of power in Canadian society, and that imbalance is now being straightened out, which means that the privilege/power is being lost. Naturally, that’s uncomfortable, and I can understand how it feels like persecution/hatred, but it’s not. It’s just leveling out the playing field for everyone. If you’re Christian, nobody is challenging your right to believe and worship as you would like. Nobody is telling you to go back to your home country unless you completely assimilate and become like the majority of Canadian society. Nobody is telling you to remove important symbols of your faith on your private property because the rest of us don’t like it. We’re just saying that it’s no longer ok to force your beliefs on the rest of us – that is all.

And now, my favorite part. I read an article about Muslim woman saying that the niqab isn’t a part of Islam, and this is where it hits close to home for me. I was raised in an extremist Christian cult called the Church of God Restoration, which for this purpose I’m going to compare to the ISIS branch of Islam. (Not saying that we went about killing people with guns, although if we could have gotten away with it, we probably would have…) So. This article is comparable to a mainstream Mennonite woman writing something similar about her religion. No, the head covering isn’t a part of her mainstream Mennonite religion, and she doesn’t think that the Bible says she needs to wear it. For Hutterite, Holdeman, Conservative Mennonite, etc. etc. etc. women, however, the head covering absolutely IS a part of their religion. They have rock solid backing in their interpretation of the Bible for wearing it, and to force them to take it off would be humiliating and violating beyond belief. Yes, the rest of us may look at those women with pity, thinking that they’re oppressed by men, and we would be partly right. That form of religion is absolutely subjugating the women, and awarding them less status than men.

But, having been inside a similar circle, I sympathize. Yes, I may have been oppressed and in bondage – no arguments there. HOWEVER, the clothes that I wore were my safety, my way of obeying God, and my way of fitting in in my culture. It was MY CHOICE to wear those clothes, and if someone had told me that I had to put on a pair of jeans and a tank top… gosh, I’m hyperventilating just thinking about it. I don’t think I can even start to describe the panic and violation I would have felt at that. Some strange person, from outside my group (so I already would have had no trust, because I didn’t trust anyone on the outside) was telling me that what I was wearing was wrong, that the men in my group were forcing me to wear it, and now they (the men outside of my group) are telling me that I CANNOT legally wear it? That would have traumatized me beyond belief, and I would never, ever have trusted an “outsider” again. It was MY CHOICE to wear those clothes, and it had to be MY CHOICE to take them off. Even that was brutal; even though I reasoned my way through it, and had good reasons for putting on 3/4 length sleeves or pants, I still felt naked and evil. It’s a part of who these women are- they have deeply held beliefs, which we may think are wrong, but it’s not for us to force them to change. We have to respect their choices, just as we would want ours to be respected. If a political party were to attack Christianity, telling Mennonite women that they had to take their head coverings off, I would have exactly the same reaction as I have to this. It’s a violation of personal beliefs and choice, and that is never OK. As individuals, we need to have the freedom to worship (or not) as we please, to dress as we feel as our religion dictates, etc. I believe in equality, but I fail to see how a white male telling a Muslim woman what she can’t wear is any better than a Muslim man telling her what she has to wear.

Of course, if a woman’s identity needs to be verified, we need mechanisms in place that allow that, absolutely, but we have to do so in a way that that is not humiliating her, and does not violate her personal security or beliefs. Back to the parallel of me in the Church of God Restoration. One of my greatest fears was that my bun (with the dozens of hairpins I used to keep it secure) would set off the machines at airport security, and I would be forced to take down my hair in front of a bunch of men. That was the height of immodesty, and would have reduced me to unbearable tears of shame. Nothing ever happened, but if it had, the compassionate thing would have been for a female security guard to take me into a secluded room for me to take my hair down, thus sparing me from the humiliation of having men see my hair. Whether we agree or not, the thought of exposing her face to strange men is incomprehensible to a Muslim woman who wears a niqab.

I may fiercely disagree with religion, but I will always fight for your right to believe and practice it. That is what makes us Canadians- we have the freedom to choose. The way to go about this is to educate and empower women to make choices for themselves. Period. If their choice right now includes wearing a niqab, then that is their right. In time, as they’re exposed to different schools of thought and education, they may or may not decide to ditch it. Again, that needs to be THEIR CHOICE. Nobody can make it for them. Period.

– Gloria Froese

Je Suis Charlie

Je Suis CharlieFor the record, as a statement of our values, we at HAAM wholeheartedly denounce the violence wrought in Paris, France, by terrorists who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo. This cold-blooded act of murder is offensive to our beliefs and is causing us much heartache and grief. Our sympathies go out to all of those impacted by this tragedy.

There is no guarantee in the world that, as adults, we will never be insulted, offended, or hurt by the actions of others. We can protest, exchange insults, write letters, start a law suit, or take any number of other actions in response. Violence, however, is not an acceptable reaction. Acts of terrorism are especially heinous, being anonymous.

While we may not be fans of the brand of satire practised by Charlie Hebdo, we still assert and agree with their right to freedom of speech.

Right now, we may feel helpless, wondering what action we can take; what can we do to help stop these kinds of events. At HAAM, as a positive action we have decided to support the Centre for Inquiry and Humanist Canada in their efforts to repeal Canada’s archaic and useless blasphemy laws.

In conclusion, we would like to just remind those reading of the names of the twelve victims. May their loss not be in vain.

  • Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker
  • Franck Brinsolaro, 49, Protection Service police officer
  • Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, cartoonist
  • Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist of Jewish religion
  • Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist, and editor-in-chief
  • Philippe Honoré, 74, cartoonist
  • Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
  • Ahmed Merabet, 42, a Muslim police officer of Algerian descent
  • Mustapha Ourrad, 60, copy editor, Muslim French-Algerian
  • Michel Renaud, 69, guest at the meeting
  • Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist.
  • Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist born in Tunisia of Jewish descent

March 2013 Newsletter

tracie harris_0Our March newsletter. Tracie Harris is our guest speaker (via Skype) for our March meeting. And we discuss bullying and the Office of Religious Freedom.

Upcoming HAAM Events
  1. Stonewall Outreach 2018

    August 17 @ 6:00 pm - August 19 @ 4:00 pm
  2. Morden Outreach 2018

    August 24 @ 10:00 am - August 26 @ 5:30 pm
  3. HAAM and Eggs Brunch

    September 2 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am
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October 13
November 17

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