The Humanism of Star Trek
Saturday, November 19th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 – 8:30 PM
Secular Parents’ Book Club Meeting
Thursday, November 24th, 7 – 9 PM, location TBA
Winter Solstice Party
Saturday December 17th, Heritage-Victoria Community Club, 950 Sturgeon Road, 5:30 PM
For more information on these events, check out our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.
You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.
Prayer at City Hall Update
Tony Governo has filed a formal complaint about the prayers at city council meetings with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. He recently learned that his complaint has been registered. This means that it will be served on the Respondent (the City). They will be asked to provide a reply within 30 days. Then the complaint will be investigated, which could take 8-10 months from the time it is assigned. The investigator then makes a recommendation to the Board. The Board then decides to dismiss or take to next stage.
Tony was recently interviewed by CTV News about the threats he received on social media after his complaint. And also in October, Edmonton’s city council decided to comply with the Supreme Court ruling and ended the practice of opening their meetings with prayer. After contemplating a ‘moment of reflection’ instead, they ultimately decided that it made more sense to just skip the whole thing and just get down to business. Wouldn’t it be nice if Winnipeg could do the same?
If you have not previously read about this issue, you can catch up here.
Openly Secular Day is Tuesday, November 15th
Are you openly secular? Not everyone is – and not everyone can be. Too many people cannot reveal that they no longer believe, for fear of negative repercussions from their family, business/employment, friends, or community. But if we’re ever going to reduce the stigma of being a non-believer, and dispel the notion that atheists believe in ‘nothing’, more people have to come out of the closet.
The mission of the Openly Secular Campaign is to decrease discrimination and increase acceptance of atheists and Humanists by encouraging as many people as possible to let others know that they are non-religious. November 15th is Openly Secular Day, and it’s no accident that the date is just around the beginning of the holiday season – a time when so many people get together with family and friends. The goal on that day is to have as many people as possible ‘come out’ to just one other person. If you can do this, check out their website for more information and resources, and to take the ‘One Person Pledge’.
October event recap
October was a busy month! Our evening showing of the film A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy and Meaning in a World Without God was truly inspirational. President Donna Harris opened with a brief presentation about what Humanism is and how it differs from atheism. A big thank-you goes to Kumaran Reddy for recording it for us.
For a number of people, it was their first HAAM event, and one of those new people won our door prize – a copy of the book version of A Better Life. If you were unable to attend that evening, it is possible to view the film at home for a small fee. Check it out here.
If you couldn’t make it to our meeting to learn about the Humanist Outreach program in Uganda, and HAAM’s support of a secular school there, you missed a great evening. You can read news coverage of the meeting here.
Watch this short (2 minute) video message from Robert Bwambale of Kasese Humanist School.
Here is our sponsored student, John Bogere, saying hello to us.
Religious Exercises in Schools?
Just a reminder – Section 84(8) of the Manitoba Public Schools Act reads “If a petition asking for religious exercises, signed by the parents or guardians of 75% of the pupils in the case of a school having fewer than 80 pupils or by the parents or guardians of at least 60 pupils in the case of a school having an enrolment of 80 or more pupils, is presented to the school board, religious exercises shall be conducted for the children of those parents or guardians in that school year.”
This petition must come from the parents/community, NOT the school. The Minister of Education has ruled that public schools must be non-sectarian and that staff at the school cannot participate in recruiting students for prayer groups by contacting parents or sending home permission slips to be signed. It has come to our attention that some schools are still doing this, and one school division recently ended the practice simply because a parent brought it to the attention of the superintendent.
If this is still happening at your child’s school, we would like to know about it. Please contact us.
Call to Action – Speak up about Operation Christmas Child
If you’re involved in a school or other organization that collects for Operation Christmas Child, there are some very good reasons NOT to participate – even if you’re Christian (and especially if you’re not).
Spread the word!
Book of the Month – Pale Blue Dot
With Star Trek as our meeting topic, this seems like a good month to feature a book about our place in the universe. We have a copy of Carl Sagan’s 1994 classic Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. The title is, of course, based on the famous photograph of the same name – a picture of the Earth from 4 billion miles away, taken by Voyager 1 in 1991 as it approached the outer limits of our solar system.
The book begins by examining the idea that humans think they are uniquely important in this vast universe. Sagan continues by exploring our solar system in detail, and discussing the possibility of life on other planets, suggesting that our very survival may depend on the wise use of other worlds. He argues that in order to save the human race, space colonization and terraforming (the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology of another planet or moon to make it habitable by Earth-like life) should be considered.
Watch this very moving tribute to Sagan and the Pale Blue Dot, produced by Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist). It’s only 5 minutes long.
Charity of the Month – The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre
The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre is just east of Main Street, near Dufferin Avenue. The address alone provides a wealth of information about the clients it serves. Its mission is to promote a safe, healthy, vibrant community for women and families, by offering programs designed to provide support, training, resources, and opportunities to women in the area. The centre arose out of a project sponsored by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg in 2000, to address problems caused by poverty and a lack of resources. Today it is a community hub where women and their families gather.
- A drop-in safe space with snacks, activities, computer and phone access, laundry facilities, and a clothing and household items collection
- Counselling and domestic violence recovery support
- A neighborhood oven for community baking and events
- Community safety programs
- Health, fitness, and nutrition programs
- Support and referrals for women dealing with stressors such as shelter, employment, emergency food and clothing, school, Child and Family Services involvement, legal help, Employment and Income Assistance disputes, daycare, etc.
What to Donate
Currently, the centre has a particular need for the following items that they go through very quickly
- Feminine hygiene products
- Baby formula
Please bring these items to the monthly meeting and we will deliver them to the centre. Of course, money likely wouldn’t be turned down, either. 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 link on the right sidebar. Just include a message letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Partners for Life Update
Yay! HAAM members are now up to 15 donations for 2016! We have 11 members registered in the program, 7 of whom have donated at least once this year. We’re still just ahead of Steinbach Bible College, (with 13 donations), and there are almost 2 months to go! Let’s get a few more units in by New Year.
There’s no prize for donating blood – just bragging rights and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that Humanists are helping their fellow humans. So get out there and do it!
You can donate at the main clinic on William Ave (across from HSC) during their regular hours (Mon 10-2 and 3:30-7:30; Tues 1:30-7; and Wed-Sat 8-2), or attend one of these mobile clinics in the Winnipeg area.
Here are two new points worth noting (thanks Janine Guinn):
- The recommended time between donations for women is being increased to 84 days, because of the ongoing risk of low hemoglobin. (The interval for men remains at 56 days.)
- If you book an appointment at least 48 hours ahead, you can now have your pre-donation health questions sent by email and complete them online before you go, saving a bunch of time.
Note that you must register with the Partners for Life program in order for your donation to be credited to HAAM. Click here for more information and instructions on how to sign up.
We Need You!
It’s time to start looking ahead again to the upcoming year. Please consider volunteering to serve on our executive! We need people who are enthusiastic about building a supportive community, promoting a secular society with fairness for all, and advocating for critical thinking in the larger world. If you can contribute ideas, energy, time, and/or effort, you’re welcome to join us! The more committed people we have, the more we can accomplish.
Meetings are usually held monthly, (dates and times determined by mutual availability), with online contact in between. Please consider volunteering, or accepting the offer to join if you are approached. Many hands make light work, and enable HAAM to offer more events and programs, and make a bigger difference to our members and community.
Elections will be held at our AGM on January 14th – so you have some time to think about it or talk to members of our current executive if you have questions.
Outreach has been very busy since our last newsletter. Tony Governo and Tammy Blanchette have been out to speak to another high school class in southern Manitoba. I enjoyed meeting with a local hospital chaplain who is taking a class on world religions in an effort to become better at his job in spiritual care. His overall goal was to learn how to best to approach a “Humanist/atheist person” (his words) with regards to their spiritual care. It was a helluva starting point, but the ensuing discussion was interesting for two people who are, metaphorically speaking, from different planets.
A little later in October, Donna Harris and I (with Todd De Ryck along as an observer) spoke to a U of W class called “Crises in Faith” – an exploration of five major contemporary critiques of religion. We explained the usual atheism and Humanistic philosophy. The students’ questions were sometimes challenging, and as often happens when discussing philosophy, the conversation goes off in the strangest directions. We found ourselves having to explain why, when making societal decisions, both religious and non-religious people are welcome at the table of ideas, but religion itself shouldn’t and can’t be granted special privileges. I also found myself in the really odd position of explaining why the national socialism of the Nazis in the middle of the twentieth century was not a secular government. This is why we love outreach and especially visiting school classes; you really don’t know what someone will say next.
We’re looking forward to November and our visit to the newly formed Steinbach Humanist group; that should be fun. – Pat Morrow
When Good Intentions Cross Ethical Lines
In this issue:
- Report on another successful Outreach
- Secular group forming in Steinbach
- Blood drive update
- Back to school – beware of proselytization
- and more…
In this issue:
- We’re gearing up for our Summer Outreach in Morden and River City Reasonfest in September
- An apologist responds to Dr Arthur Schafer’s speech about the ethics of religion, and HAAM provides a rebuttal
- Updates on Outreach and Religion in Schools
- and more…
- Updates on the stories we’ve been following on religion in our public institutions,
- Details about all our upcoming events (including speakers who will be appearing at our River City Reasonfest conference in September), and
- A link to view the presentation on the Ethics of Religion if you missed it at our May meeting.
1976 was my last year at Principal Sparling, a little elementary school in the West End of Winnipeg. It was also the first year that Winnipeg #1 School Division did not open the morning exercises with the Lord’s Prayer or Christian Bible readings. There would be no more kids with the name Goldberg, Mahmoud, or Singh standing in the hall while Christian storytelling was going on inside class. It was a big step to a more secular school system – and we may be on the verge of another one.
At the present time Manitoba’s Public Schools Act states in section 80(2): “the school board SHALL pass a by-law authorizing instruction in religion in compliance with the (parents’) petition.” In effect, all that’s needed to have your religion (or any other religion for that matter) taught in public schools at lunchtime or after class is the signatures of a few of the schools’ parents, and your religion is in. No debate, no discussion.
A motion brought forward in April by trustee Lisa Naylor asks the provincial government to alter a single word – change “SHALL pass a bylaw authorizing instruction in religion” to “MAY pass a bylaw “. This tiny change in the act would give school divisions the necessary leeway to accept or reject a petition for religious instruction. This motion was much discussed at a very, very long school board meeting attended by several HAAM members just recently.
Speaking in favour of the motion (our side) was HAAM’s Tony Governo. His presentation was well researched and to the point, but unfortunately there’s only so much you can pack into 10 minutes. Tony pointed out that the way the act reads now could possibly be unconstitutional, as it leaves no recourse for minority religions, ones that cannot garner the required number of signatures. He pointed out that some provinces, such as British Columbia, have legislated a completely secular public school system. A great deal of his presentation and this meeting was spent commenting on the only religious group on record that as ever taken advantage of the religious petition system – the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF).
The CEF is an international organization that teaches an inerrant fundamentalist version of Christianity. A quick stroll on the internet will show that their primary goal is the religious conversion of children to their form of Christianity. They brought four people to speak against the motion – a husband and wife, a former volunteer, and the director of CEF Manitoba. The four presentations are far too much to cover in this article but their arguments are similar and seem to share the same central point: They believe that the wording change seeks to undermine religious freedom and restrict parents’ freedom to teach their own children their beliefs. It doesn’t, as trustee Naylor explained – the motion simply would give school boards the autonomy to evaluate religious programming being taught in public schools. At home, parents are free to teach their children whatever they choose.
It’s noteworthy that all four presenters against the motion were connected to the CEF either as present or former workers, or parent supporters. After each presentation I found another common theme among the CEF speakers – their ability to punch gaping holes in their own arguments. When the first presenter, a parent, was asked if there was any active recruiting going on by children in the CEF program, she replied “no”; then continued “but they (her children) would ask other children to go”. She also stated that her children “are very vocal about their Christian background and they have a right to continue that”. She later felt the need to add that her children were “vocal but never forceful”. I guess for Christians, recruitment has a different meaning?
The second presenter used his full 10 minutes to talk about constitutional and parental rights and how he feels this will limit them. He made the statement “if you’re going to refuse one religion you have to refuse them all”. I would agree, but this is not what the bill was about. When asked if the school board should have the right to screen out groups, either political or religious, that might be harmful to the kids, he wholeheartedly agreed. With that admission I don’t think he realized he threw his full support behind Ms. Naylor’s motion, which seeks to do exactly that – protect the kids from harmful beliefs.
The third presenter, David Hudson, has been director of CEF Manitoba for the last 26 years. He spoke about rights, freedoms and what he believes the CEF is primarily about – teaching children the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, almost every question that was asked of him in during the lengthy Q & A was met with sidestepping, obfuscation or just refusing to answer.
Some time was spent actually discussing what the CEF would teach in their classes. When asked to name an issue CEF is concerned with, Mr. Hudson brought up bullying, stating that bulling was very important. He was asked “if a child who was being bullied came to a CEF classroom what would be the take-home message for that 6-7 year old child?” Mr. Hudson’s answer was not that he would tell the child to report it to authorities, or to tell their parents, or even to find a teacher. According to CEF teaching, it is the child’s responsibility to love the bully, because, as Mr. Hudson stated, if you love the bully they can’t bully you back. Moreover, if the child is being bullied because they have two moms, this is a “non-issue” for CEF. The child should love the bully because, as he said “if people abuse you and you love them back it’s very hard for that abuse to continue”… No, I’m not making this up. I give Mr. Hudson credit as this is one of the few questions he answered directly.
Hudson repeatedly made the point that “the gays and lesbians” are a non-issue for the CEF, even though this organization has, from 2001-20012, donated $3,056,704 to anti LGBT organizations in the U.S. Yet he still insists it is a non-issue? When this was pointed out, the director simply dismissed it as inaccurate, even though it is a matter of public record and easily researched. The subject of the LGBT community was dodged so much that one trustee was prompted to ask “Mr. Hudson, you do realize evasion is a form of lying, don’t you?”
Hudson was also asked what are children told happens to unsaved people after they die; where do they go? Would they be cast into the lake of fire, eternal torment? No – according to the director, it’s just a “separation from God”. Of course, this puts him at direct odds with Section N (the statement of faith) on his organization’s own webpage; not to mention most of the course material that he actually sends out. So much for courage of conviction.
When asked about creationism he replied “The beauty of an education system is to teach both theories”. When asked about sex, specifically premarital sex, the director lamented “it’s a non-issue for us.” Sex is a non-issue? I think this is a first for any Christian group supposedly teaching right from wrong.
The final speaker, a former CEF volunteer who currently teaches at a private Christian school, spoke passionately on the importance of religious rights and parents’ rights. She believes that the Public Schools Act should remain the way it is, and that the motion to change it would restrict parents’ rights to teach their children as they see fit. Trustee Freedman picked up on a point Tony Governo made in his opening presentation: as the act is written it may be unconstitutional since it restricts smaller religions from the same access to schools as larger ones. Freedman, in a short exchange, was able to show this as inequality. The speaker agreed, and when pressed further, she agreed to gladly send a letter to the Minister of Education asking to change Section 80 of the act. The very section she came in to support!
It’s unfortunate that all the highly religious presenters that night couldn’t see the real issue; they are all victims of their own ignorance and religious indoctrination. They can’t see the difference between cultural study and promoting a religion as truth. They believe that promoting diversity and pluralism, and protecting children from harm, equals taking away their rights to teach their religious beliefs to their children. They equate a loss of privilege with a loss of rights. For some it forces them to lie about their faith. The cognitive dissonance must be painful.
I’m confident this motion will pass. Then it will be up to us, the people of Manitoba, to change our education act….. We’ll keep you posted.
– Pat Morrow
Spring is sprung! And HAAM is buzzing with activity. Registration is now open for HAAM’s very first conference…. River City Reasonfest, September 19 and 20, 2015. Buy your tickets now for the low, early bird rate of only $99 for the entire weekend. http://rivercityreasonfest.org/
In this issue: upcoming events including the Pride Parade, our Solstice Party, and a Summer Book Club; a special announcement will be forthcoming from our Humanist Celebrant; updates on religion in public schools and in the workplace; and more!
April can bring daffodils or blizzards and just about everything in between! But don`t miss out on the latest news. In this month`s newsletter we get details on our April meeting, learn about a call to action here in Winnipeg regarding the Child Evangelism Fellowship in local schools, and learn which book we`re recommending this month.