Upcoming HAAM Events
Monthly Meeting – Film Fest: Shorts Night
Saturday, March 10th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM
We’ll be sharing a series of short videos on a variety of topics. Suitable for pre-teens and up.
Click here for details.
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, March 18th, Stella’s on Pembina, 1463 Pembina Hwy, 9:30 AM
Everyone’s welcome! Details here.
Save the Dates
April 14th (Monthly Meeting) – What’s Wrong with Private Schools?
May 12th (Monthly Meeting) – Stealing Reason: Christianity’s Theft of Human Values
June 23rd – Summer Solstice Party
Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!
Details for all upcoming HAAM events are on the 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
Do you have your tickets yet? Lots of HAAM members are going. Don’t be left out!
Click here for details and ticket information.
Debate: Morality – How Should We Live Our Lives?
Saturday, 21 April 2018, New Life Sanctuary Church, 618 Muriel Street
Dig Deep Fundraiser Gala for the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre
Saturday, 28 April 2018, Morden Manitoba
More information on these upcoming non-HAAM events is on our Community Events page.
Charity of the Month
Manitoba doesn’t end at the perimeter highway, so our donations shouldn’t either. After all, we are the Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics of Manitoba – not just Winnipeg. So this month, for a change, we’re venturing outside the city.
Blue Sky Opportunities Inc. is a non-profit organization in Altona, committed to maximizing the independence of adults with intellectual disabilities.
Blue Sky’s vocational program provides training and employment, followed by ongoing workplace support and mentoring for its clients. Their projects include the manufacture of wooden products (pallets, crokinole boards, clothes dryers, custom woodwork, fencing, and furniture); the assembly of combine feeder and elevator chains; blue box and cardboard pickup in the area; lawn care services for local businesses and private homes; and the operation of an e-waste collection site. They also do contract work (such as product assembly, packaging, electrical wire assembly, paper shredding, and rug weaving) for local businesses, and assist with special projects and peak work loads.
Blue Sky also offers non-vocational programming in the areas of communication, physiotherapy, life skills and recreational activities to enhance the quality of life. Their life skills program focuses on activities such as meal preparation, cleaning, laundry and bicycle safety. They currently operate 10 homes in Altona, as well as providing supports for people living in their own home within the community.
Blue Sky Opportunities relies on fundraising to provide the capital needed to support their programs and facilities. They recently completed a new Recycling and Chain Assembly Building (in photo), and donations will be used to pay off the mortgage owing on it. Let’s do what we can to help!
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 ‘Donate’ button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Proselytization in Manitoba High Schools
Manitoba’s anti-bullying legislation is intended to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. Although initially, the most significant social issue prompting the development of the legislation was opposition to Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA’s) in high schools, the guidelines apply equally to all student groups and clubs.
A government publication titled Safe and Caring Schools: Respect for Diversity Policies outlines the application of this legislation. (The full document can be downloaded here.) It applies to all Manitoba public schools, and publicly-funded private schools. The FAQ’s in Appendix E (page 26) make it clear that
“…students wanting to form a religiously based student-led group would be accorded equality of opportunity to do so. Students should be allowed to form after-school clubs or have activities based on religion, as long as membership is voluntarily open to any student in the school and the activities of the group are conducted in a safe and inclusive manner. The club should be used as a vehicle to discuss issues that have an impact on the members as students. It is important to recognize that such groups are like any other club that is available at a school except they have a religious connection. Therefore, they should be treated the same as any other student-initiated club in the school such as a GSA, chess club, astronomy club, or judo club.” (emphasis ours)
Religious clubs forming
A coalition of youth pastors, known as the Manitoba Youth Workers Network (MYWN), is taking advantage of this opportunity to spread Christianity to public schools. They have collaborated to develop an outreach program aimed at Winnipeg high school students. The way it works is that these youth pastors are training teenage members of their own churches to evangelize directly to their classmates at school. The training is based on the new Alpha Youth Series program, a series of flashy apologetics videos targeting young people. The next step is for these teen evangelists to launch student-led Alpha programs in their own high schools. They believe that “Jesus is calling [them] to reach the city”.
In January 2018, the MYWN completed their first ‘training’ course with 70 teens from churches around Winnipeg, eager to encourage their friends to ‘come to Christ’. There are Alpha programs running in at least three Winnipeg high schools already. Expect more to appear. You might find that your teenager has joined a group like this before you even knew it existed.
What can I do?
Clearly, it’s not enough to raise your children in a secular home and think that by the time they are teens, they won’t be gullible enough to listen to fairy tales.
– Teach them critical thinking skills. Encourage them to be skeptical and to ask questions.
– Make sure that they learn about other belief systems and world religions.
– Teach your kids how to think, not what to think.
– Remember, critical thinking skills apply not just to religion, but to miracle cures, conspiracy theories, get-rich-quick schemes, fad diets….
Our Religion in Public Schools page has been updated with this information. Look there to learn about more ways that religion insinuates itself into Manitoba public schools.
Secular Help for Addictions
In addition to requests for the names of secular mental health professionals, we’ve recently had several inquiries about secular addictions counselling and support groups. Here are the names of some organizations with members in the Winnipeg area, supplied by one of our members who works in addictions counselling.
– Secular AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) There is an AA group in Winnipeg called ‘Beyond Belief’, which meets weekly in a St Vital church. (They are not affiliated with the church. They only rent the space for their meetings.) They still use the 12-step program, but they take out the references to god and a higher power. There is good recovery at this meeting, which is mostly made up of atheists and non-believers.
– O.S. (Secular Organizations for Sobriety) welcomes anyone sincerely seeking sobriety from alcohol addiction, drug addiction and behavioural and/or process addictions. Weekly meetings are held in two Winnipeg locations.
– SMART Recovery helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors, including alcoholism, drug abuse, substance abuse, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, cocaine addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities. The Winnipeg group meets weekly.
– LifeRing Secular Recovery an abstinence-based, worldwide network of individuals seeking to live in recovery from addiction to alcohol or to other non-medically indicated drugs. There are no in-person meetings in Winnipeg at present; however, LifeRing offers online meetings, online chat groups, and literature.
You can also contact the Manitoba Addictions Helpline at 1-855-662-6605 or mbaddictionhelp.ca.
The names of these organizations have been added to the Help and Advice page for future reference. The addictions counsellor also supplied our executive with some contact and meeting information for the local groups. Contact us if you would like this information. (All enquiries will be kept strictly confidential.)
‘O Canada’ Should Include All Canadians
The official lyrics for Canada’s national anthem were recently updated (despite opposition from conservatives) to make them more inclusive of women. At least it’s a step in the right direction – but it’s not enough. The new words still exclude two significant segments of the Canadian population.
Results from the 2016 census show that more than one fifth of our citizens were born in a foreign country – so Canada is not their ‘native land’. And on the 2011 census (data on religion is only collected every 10 years), almost one quarter of Canadians reported no religious affiliation. Shouldn’t all Canadians be able to sing their national anthem without feeling like second-class citizens?
Here’s some good news. If you change just a couple more words, you can sing a truly inclusive version of O Canada. “O Canada for Everyone” lyrics can be found on the Secular Connexion Séculière website. The additional changes are in the lines “our home and cherished land”, and “we’ll keep our land glorious and free”. It’s that easy.
Click here to see the complete inclusive lyrics in both official languages.
Book of the Month – Robert Latimer: A Story of Justice and Mercy
Who remembers this photo of Robert Latimer with his seriously disabled daughter Tracy? Their story dominated the news in the mid to late 1990’s, after he ended Tracy’s life rather than subject her to another painful surgery. Was he really guilty of murder, or is ‘mercy killing’ ever justified? And was it necessary for the parole board to treat him with such vindictiveness, years later?
In this book, reporter Gary Bauslaugh, who followed the Latimer case from the beginning, describes the two trials, discusses the conflicting views of Latimer’s sympathizers and detractors, and examines the ethical and legal dilemmas raised by the case. Bauslaugh makes an excellent case for the application of mercy to those caught in horrific circumstances.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
Upcoming HAAM Events
Saturday, July 22nd, Assiniboine Park, 6:30 PM (Note the time)
An Evening with Richard Carrier
Saturday August 19th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 7 PM
Date TBA, Birds Hill Park
And don’t forget about our Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival August 25-27.
Details for all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page, or click the name of the event on the right sidebar.
Save the Dates
Our fall monthly meetings will be September 9th, October 14th, and November 18th, and our winter Solstice Party is booked for December 23rd. Details TBA.
Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!
July Community (non-HAAM) Events
Thursday, July 13th, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, 7:15 PM
(click poster to enlarge)
Steinbach Pride March for Equality
Saturday, July 15th, 11 AM
For details on these upcoming community events, visit our new Community Events page.
Guide to Religion in Manitoba Schools
Every year, we hear concerns from parents wanting to know how to handle a situation in their child’s school related to religion. Usually the concern involves questions regarding the legality of a current practice, or complaints from parents who already know that their local school is flouting the law.
To help clarify the issues surrounding religion in Manitoba’s public schools, and provide parents with current information about what is – and is not – allowed, we have added a new web page to our site under the Resources tab. Check it out! And please provide us with your feedback so that we can add additional information to the page.
Tough Questions from the Old Testament
An encounter with a Christian apologist at our outreach booth at the Summer in the City Festival in Steinbach in June led one of our members to watch a sermon examining the character of the god of the Old Testament. Read highlights of that sermon, and our atheist’s commentary, on our Perspectives page.
Partners for Life Update
Just a reminder that if you can donate blood, please do! Summer is always a busy time for the blood banks, and Canadian Blood Services is already short. HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program, a friendly competition among businesses, schools, and community groups to show how generous their members can be. We know that Humanists are good people who donate blood! Our goal for 2017 is 25 donations, and as of the end of June we have 13, so we’re on track to meet it. Yay!
If you aren’t registered with Partners for Life, the instructions are here (or see link in right sidebar). And if you have already donated this year and weren’t registered, don’t worry. Just sign up now, and all your donations in 2017 will count toward HAAM’s total.
Steinbach Outreach Report
An Eye-Opening Weekend
Another summer outreach season is upon us. Here at HAAM we always look forward to it, but especially so this year, because for the first time, we were joined by three brand-new volunteers from the Eastman Humanist Community (EHC) in Steinbach. I would like to thank these people, especially since, being their first time doing something like this, they really didn’t know what to expect. I think I can speak for all when I say that it was a very eye-opening experience for them. A couple of comments they made that I found humorous were “That sign is causing some serious chiropractic neck adjustments” (referring to folks whose eyes read our front banner in disbelief as their feet kept moving). And later “This sign is like catnip for some Christians”. (See our 2017 Event photos for a picture of it.) After the outreach, I asked one of them for his reflections on the weekend, and he had this to say:
“During my few hours there, hundreds of people took note of the booth but most were unwilling or too shy to approach. Of those who did, it was interesting the variety of comments we received. A good number indicated that they were Christians and asked questions like:
- Where do your morals come from if you don’t have God?
- So when you die you think that there’s nothing – you just cease to exist? and
- What caused the big bang? Wouldn’t it be easier to admit that God made it?
Most encouraging, were the 25+ people who were excited to see us and who took our contact information. If only half come out to our next meeting, we’ll have to re-arrange our space to accommodate them!
A pleasant surprise were the several ‘gentle’ Christians who came by and said things like: ‘I’m sorry for the hostility you folks must be getting’ or ‘I agree with many of the things you stand for; this place needs you.’
It will be interesting to see the ripples that come from this weekend!”
I think the ripples he refers to are threefold:
- First, the impact our outreach will have on the growth of the EHC.
- Second would be the effect on our new volunteers. A second volunteer, who, from what I was able to observe, knows just about everybody in Steinbach, had many longtime friends and acquaintances of his stop by. Some seemed surprised that he was “with this group”; others saw him in the booth and just kept walking. His non-belief was previously no big secret, but I do have to admire a man who is willing to out himself so publicly.
- Third, the effect on the community. For those unfamiliar with Steinbach, the city has deep religious roots, which in the last few years have been challenged by its growth and the diversity that comes with that. Anecdote: One of our members was having a yard sale a block or two from the festival when a trio of senior ladies walked up. She asked the trio if they had been to the festival. With no further prompting one of them replied “Yes, … do you know there are atheists there!” Yup, the ripples will be interesting.
A Conversation Worth Having
For me, the best conversations seem to take place near closing time, and often with younger believers. This is pure conjecture on my part, but I think folks like that see our booth and want to talk, but it takes all weekend for them to work up the courage. I suppose in the last hours of the festival they decide: now or never. That seemed to be the case on Sunday.
Our booth was approached by a young man and a couple of his supporters, or what I prefer to call listeners. The young man was well-spoken but not rehearsed, and I do mean that as a compliment. Many visitors show up with memorized apologetic arguments; they parrot what they’ve heard but really can’t go beyond what they’ve memorized. This young man from Steinbach Christian High School asked honest non-leading questions, with a genuine interest in who we were and why we don’t believe in God.
The conversation started with the usual clearing up of misconceptions and misrepresentations about Humanism, atheism and agnosticism. In outreach this has become standard practice when engaging someone who has the limited worldview of a Christian education. I explained that Humanism isn’t a religion as there is no supernatural belief, no holy books, and no dogma. I went on to explain the fundamental differences between Humanism and many forms of Christianity, such as:
- Humanists believe we are a product of this planet, not that the planet (or the universe for that matter) was created for us.
- Generally, Humanists are passionate about their epistemology (the study of knowledge and belief); we can’t accept an idea on faith alone – we really need to know that our beliefs are true.
- Christianity demands obedience to God; to love and serve God is considered a good thing. With Humanism, doubting and questioning everything is considered a good thing.
Finally, I explained to him that as Humanists, we believe that science and the scientific method are the best ways to tell fact from fiction, which is why most, if not all, Humanists today are atheists. To which he exclaimed that “science doesn’t disprove God, so how do atheists say there is no god?” After running through the argument (again) that generally atheists don’t claim there is no God, I did try to explain to them the concept of a strong atheism (the assertion that God does not exist).
Certain concepts of gods can’t exist because they are logically incoherent. I offered the student the simple example of an all-loving god who allows the creation that he loves to go to a place of eternal torment/torture that he created. This god can’t logically exist (unless we bastardize the definition of love into meaninglessness). I then asked him for his definition of love and he started to go into the free will argument that love is allowing choice. I completely agree that allowing choice is part of love; however for me, a better definition of love is what we find in 1 Corinthians 13 “(Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude…”) I said that if we are going to define torturing someone forever as being kind, we will have to redefine that word, too. (It seems that God is violating his own holy word.)
By now I could tell the student was getting a little flustered, so I listened to his description of the free will argument, which was pretty good for being off-the-cuff. When he got to the part where God cannot make himself known to us by appearing in person because it will take away our free will, I asked him, “Does Satan have free will?”, to which he gave me a nod in agreement. I continued “But Satan has intimate knowledge of God. If I have the story straight, Satan used to work for God and saw him in person, but yet Satan still has free will. If seeing God in the flesh (so to speak) does not affect Satan’s free will, why would it affect ours?”
His flustered look was starting to become real stress, so we switched to book recommendations. He recommended C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and asked me if I had read it. I told him I had not, but that I have read many other books and articles about Lewis’s arguments. I recommended The Trouble With Religion by Sophie Dulesh; she takes a mighty whack at deconstructing Lewis’s ideas in chapter one, so he doesn’t have to read the whole book.
We continued for a while about the good bits and the bad bits of Christianity, and how we can find many of the good bits of Christianity in many other religions, which both pre-date and post-date Christianity. I could tell that this young man really cared about what he believed in, and I think he really began to understand some of the immorality and absurdity of the Christian religion. Of course, what he does with this information is entirely up to him, and I wish him luck on whatever path he chooses. But from his body language, facial expressions, and the way he asked questions, I feel this was a conversation very much worth having. For me, it was one conversation that made the entire weekend worthwhile. – Pat Morrow
The Conversation Worth Having (Christopher Hitchens)
Demand an End to “Faith-Based” Health Care
Religiously-affiliated health care institutions are denying patients access to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in Canada because of the beliefs of the religious boards controlling their policies. This is infringing on the ability of patients in those facilities to access a legal procedure, resulting in seriously ill and dying patients being subjected to prolonged suffering. Partisan policy should have no place in publicly-funded institutions that are required to serve all Manitobans.
Our website has all the information you need to get up to speed on this issue, including links to recent news articles for more background information. You will also find a sample letter that you can send to the hospital and government representatives, along with contact information for them.
Please add your voice to support the growing number of Manitobans who believe that government should remain neutral on matters of religion and that no religion should receive preferential treatment over another religion, or the lack of religion.
This is OUR publicly funded health care system, and we need to hold our elected representatives responsible for ensuring that it serves everyone. Demand better!
Book Film of the Month
Heart of the Beholder is a 2005 drama film written and directed by Ken Tipton, based on Tipton’s own experience as the owner of a chain of videocassette rental stores in the 1980’s. Tipton and his family had opened the first videocassette rental stores in St. Louis in 1980; their business was largely destroyed by a campaign of Christian fundamentalists who objected to the chain’s carrying Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ for rental.
Heart of the Beholder features Michael Dorn (Worf from Star Trek) and a very early performance by Chloe Grace Moretz as a child actress. It won “Best Feature Film” awards at several film festivals. Critical comments included “It is in many ways a politically charged film as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, religious beliefs and all-out fanaticism”. Here is the original trailer.
Thanks to Karen and David Donald for the donation.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this DVD.
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.