August 2015 Newsletter

First Friday FreeUp, August 7, Open discussion: Extra-terrestrials?

Summer Secular Family Fun Pot-Luck Picnic Beach Bash! on August 9

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useful and interesting to our readers. Are we hitting the mark?

Please send your comments/suggestions to secretary@hwfl.org.

In This Issue...

• From the President

• Upcoming Events: Friday FreeUp August 7 and Secular Beach Bash August 9

• Have something to say?

• Membership matters.

• Opportunities for Action and Education

• Contact info for HWF Board and Committees

• Secular scuttlebutt: stories you might have missed in the media


From the President...


Hello members and friends:

We began the third operating year of our organization on July 1st with the placing of  the Board of  Directors into office, and the Board’s selection of Officers. The Board does this each year to make sure that any volunteers who want and have the time to serve in office, have the opportunity to do so. As I mentioned last month, your officers for this term are the same as the last term. I will remain as President, Suren Shah as Vice President, and Kay Rudolph as Secretary. I will also continue to act as Treasurer. We are all hoping some of you will consider serving as Officers or Board members in the future; if you might be interested please contact me and I’ll explain what this involves.

The month of July was a busy month and saw us offer a FreeUp on July 3rd exploring the cost of religious freedom. Discussion was spirited as usual. Our next FreeUp is on Extra-terrestrials. Can't wait!   The month saw us conclude our annual Membership Renewal drive and I am very happy to announce that we had more than 90% renew. Thanks to all who renewed your membership!  July also saw the Board meet to establish our working draft budget. The process is not yet complete – but I will talk more about this later. The Board also selected its Chairpersons and Team Leaders for our three Committees and our twelve Teams. Please take a look at the Committee-Team structure described later in the newsletter. Finally, the American Humanist Association (of which HWF is a chapter) sent a letter to the City of Pensacola advising them of a First Amendment violation which had been identified by one of our members on our chapter’s Civics and Government Team. Read more about this story in the article below. Your Board of  Directors is fully informed on this issue and supports the legal action 100%.

On to budgeting matters now. The past two years have given us a good idea of the overhead costs for the organization. Our greatest expense by far is for Communications, Connections, and Promotions, which includes annual costs to maintain our website, domain names, and MeetUp subscriptions. The minimum operational budget is around $900 a year and that is the amount we have budgeted for this year. Membership renewals and some small donations at FreeUps and picnics cover most of this amount, but we still need about ten more members to cover the basic operations. Beyond that, though, we cannot do any of our community outreach unless we fundraise in a much larger way. To that end, I am announcing the start of our annual “Fund Our Outreach” Drive. We will be sending out Fund Drive announcements to all of our members, friends, and the organizations of the Gulf Coast Coalition of Reason asking for donations to the Community Outreach Fund. We are looking to raise $1,900 – this will cover two Mobile Pantry Food Distributions (our two distributions last year provided more than 15,000 pounds of food to needy families at a cost to us of $1,500) and continued assistance to the homeless (last year we provided $300 of critical-need items, and hope to bump that to $400 this coming year). Please keep an eye out for the Fund Drive request, which will be sent out in August and September.

Finally, don't forget to watch for our monthly FreeUps at Sluggo's Vegetarian Bistro. We always have spirited conversations and good food and drink. Join us for the fun.

Thank you for your support, and best regards,

Buz Ryland, President

Humanists of West Florida


First Friday FreeUp:

Open Discussion: 

Fermi's Paradox — 

Where are the Extra-terrestrials?

Friday, August 7

6:00-8:00 pm

Sluggos Vegetarian Restaurant and Bar
101 S Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

Here’s the paradox, first formulated by Enrico Fermi in 1950: The fact that nearly every pinprick of light you see in the night sky hosts a family of worlds, and at the outside it shouldn't take more than 10 million years for a technologically advanced civilization to cover the galaxy, “Where is everybody?” 

Are we alone in the galaxy? Or has some Galactic Emperor quarantined Earth like it's a quaint primitive culture (or a dangerous contagious virus)? Or is the explanation even more sinister? A recent NYT article suggested “Maybe we’re not the only ones to hit a sustainability bottleneck. Maybe not everyone — maybe no one — makes it to the other side.” 

Let’s solve the paradox over a pint or a platter. Meet and Greet at 6:00 in the backroom at Sluggos, Pensacola, short TED Talk at 6:30 to introduce the topic, then open discussion. 

Note: Sluggo's is a VEGAN restaurant--that means no animal products. You can handle that for a night, right? (Try some Angry Orchard cider on tap!) Please place your orders as soon as you arrive, and let the servers know you'll be in the back room at the HWF FreeUp. We're informal--we each will eat as our meal arrives.

Sluggos menu (some items no longer available, but this gives you the gist) –http://sluggosmenu.blogspot.com/


Summer Secular

Pot-luck Picnic

Family Fun Beach Bash!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sanders Beach Park

913 South I St, Pensacola, FL

Bring the kids and bring your friends to the secular event of the Summer! 

Lots of shady trees at Sanders Beach Park, plus a quite-water beach on the Bay, children's playground, pier, boardwalk, and boat-ramp (bring your canoe!) 

Pavilions are first-come, first-serve, so get there early if you want one. Bring blankets to lie under the trees, umbrellas for a snooze on the beach. 

Pot-luck picnic -- we'll arrange to have grills for those that need them.


Have something to say?

The Human Element wants to give voice to the secular humanist community on the Gulf Coast. We're looking for articles that would inform, amuse, or otherwise strike a chord with our readers.

• What's going on in your area that other seculars should know about? Are you a parent concerned about religion in your local school? Tell us what you're experiencing.

• Do you know someone who epitomizes "good without god"? Give them some recognition!

• Have you recently come out of the (secular) closet to your family and friends? How did that come about and how did it work out?

• Have photos or artwork related to humanism you'd like to share?

Please submit original works to Kay Rudolph at kay@hwfl.or. 
Articles and artwork will be published at the discretion of the newsletter editors and HWF Board.

Membership: Join or Renew

Membership matters.

Over the past two years Humanists of West Florida has
• distributed over 12 tons of food to the hungry in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties,
• built permanent raised vegetable garden beds for the homeless, 
• provided critically needed supplies to the homeless, including 60 personal care packs and $300 worth of supplies distributed through our partner Sean’s Outpost. 

How did we do this? Your dues and donations made it possible. Your membership and your membership dues make HWF eligible to solicit donations and apply for grants from corporations and larger organizations like the American Humanist Association. Without your support, HWF won’t exist.

Why does that matter? How is HWF different from the many other charitable organizations helping the needy on the Gulf Coast? Because of our stand that we’re doing good for our communities because it’s the rational, human thing to do. HWF’s purpose isn’t just to show compassion for the needy, but to demonstrate that compassion isn’t the sole property of religion. And because a person doesn’t need to believe in god to do good and to be good, there is no need for a state religion to dictate how we live and how we treat each other.

In addition to the work supporting the hungry and the homeless, HWF sponsors monthly FreeUps, Freethinker meetups, and periodic picnics and other social events to create a community where non-theists can meet others who share their life view. Through the Gulf Coast Coalition of Reason, HWF supported the “godless” billboards that were placed in Pensacola, Mobile, and Gulfport earlier this year, to let non-theists on the Coast know they aren’t alone. 

This work isn’t free. The website, meetup subscriptions, space rentals, post office box, and informational materials cost alone about $900 a year. They provide the foundation for volunteers to plan and organize and to solicit the donations and apply for the grants that support our charitable projects.

This next year will be a critical one for HWF. We need your help in building our membership base so we can continue to provide a community and a voice for Humanists on the Gulf Coast.

You can join by clicking the big red Membership button on the right, and then select whether you are a new or renewing member. You can pay online using PayPal, or you can send a check to Humanists of West Florida, P.O.Box 15328, Pensacola FL 32514. 

We're a 501c3 organization so your donations are tax deductible


Opportunities ...


... for Action

As opportunities for national or local action come to our attention, we will share them with you.

Americans United just launched a new project – Protect Thy Neighbor – in response to an increase in the use of religion to discriminate and otherwise deny people their rights. Click the hotlink to learn more and get involved.

Volunteer at WSRE-TV during their August 10 - August 20, 2015 Pledge Drive -- it's a fun way to support public television with your gift of time. Call Lorrie at 850-484-1240 to learn more.

... for Education

Personal enrichment and advanced training is available online, whenever you are ready! Coming online classes are announced at SecularActivism.org and MindfulPathsFor.Us

• August webinar with Richard Carrier – The Science and Philosophy of Free Will – $59

• October – Forum with author Eagle Man and his book Nature’s Way: Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth – $59

• Six-month Workshop – Become a Humanist Celebrant, with Han Hills, Professional Celebrant – $59 for six months of access

Classes are accessible online 24/7, so you can participate at any hour of the day when you have some time. 


HWF Board of Directors:

President/Treasurer: Buz Ryland, president@hwfl.org

Vice President: Suren Shah, vpres@hwfl.org

Secretary: Kay Rudolph, secretary@hwfl.org


Charles Stauffer, charles@hwfl.org

Sedona Strong, sedona@hwfl.org

Amanda Kondrat'yev, amanda@hwfl.org

Michael Kimball, michael@hwfl.org


Get Involved!


Want to get involved in some of our activities to help build the humanist community on the Gulf Coast?

Contact the committee and team chairs and find out how you can help:

Finance, Fundraising, & Membership Committee (FFM)

Suren Shah (Chair), Buz Ryland, Amanda Kondrat'yev, Sedona Strong

FFM Teams:

Membership — Buz Ryland (Team Leader), Suren Shah, Kay Rudolph

Fundraising — Suren Shah (Team Leader), Buz Ryland, Kau Rudolph, Sedona Strong

Grants — Buz Ryland (Team Leader), Amanda Kondrat'yev, James Scaminaci

By-Laws — Buz Ryland (Team Leader), Suren Shah, Kay Rudolph, Chas Stauffer

Programs, Projects, & Events Committee (PPE)

Buz Ryland (Chair), Suren Shah, Kay Rudolph, Sedona Strong

PPE Teams:

Events & Freeups — Buz Ryland (Team Leader), Kay Rudolph, Michael Kimball

Homeless & Hungry —  Buz Ryland (Team Leader), Kay Rudolph, Sedona Strong, Michael Kimberl

Civics & Government — Buz Ryland (Team Leader), David Suhor, Amanda & Andreiy Kondrat'yev, James Scaminaci

Young & Youth — Suren Shah (Team Leader), Amanda Kondrat'yev, Deborah Velleco

Communications, Connections, & Promotions Committee (CCP)

Kay Rudolph (Chair), Amanda Kondrat'yev, Michael Kimball, Charles Stauffer

CCP Teams:

Newsletter — Kay Rudolph (Team Leader), Buz Ryland, Amanda Kondrat'yev, Sedona Strong

Publicity — Kay Rudolph (Team Leader), Buz Ryland, Suren Shah, Sedona Strong

Website Management — Michael Kimball (Team Leader), Kay Rudolph, Buz Ryland, Sedona Strong 

Social Media — Amanda Kondrat'yev (Team Leader), Kay Rudolph, Michael Kimball, Chas Stauffer


Secular Scuttlebutt

A growing number of facebook pages provide outlets for secular discussion on the Gulf Coast.

Be sure to check out:

• Crestview FL Freethinkers

• Eglin/Hurlburt M.A.S.H (Military Atheists and Secular Humanists)

• Gulf Coast Freethinkers

• Gulf Coast Coalition of Reason

• Humanists of West Florida

• Pensacola Secular Society

• Secular Student Alliance at UWF

• Southeast Alabama Freethought Association

• SW Alabama Free Thinkers

News items you might have missed that have been percolating on the secular media networks: 

On the Gulf Coast

Humanist group calls for removal of Bayview Cross, Pensacola News Journal, July 29: Lots of buzz about the letter the American Humanist Association wrote to the Pensacola mayor advising that the large white cross at Bayview Park is contrary to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. A rather lopsided discussion is taking place now on several internet forums. On one, WEAR TV posted the question “Do you think they have a valid reason for the cross to be removed?” on their facebook page; the following gives you a taste of the dialogue:

Comment from Charlotte, North Carolina (passions run high even in North Carolina, so overlook the typos): “But its a public park It would be different if it were a private park, home, or church some people don't believe in Jesus there are countless other religions and people who have no religions, if its okay for the cross to be in the park why can't every single one of the other religions have a monument there? But, that's not what anyone is asking the group is simply saying keep it out of public places, this is protecting everyone because legally if you can keep the cross there another group can put their relic up, and that can very well be the Satanic temple.” 

Reasoned response: “You're not even from here! Shut up and stay out of our LOCAL business!”

School Board makes no decisions on prayer before meetings, NWFDAILYNEWS.COM, July 28: Members of Crestview FL Freethinkers are carrying the flag for separation of church and state in Okaloosa County. At the prompting of freethinker residents, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the School Board requesting that the Board discontinue the practice of leading invocations before each Board meeting (sound familiar?). At the July meeting following the Board’s receipt of the letter, Chairman Cathy Thigpen began the meeting by asking all to stand for a Moment of Silence … and then she promptly led the assembled in prayer.

Mixed progress for seculars on the national front

A few steps forward ...

Georgia school district settles with the AHA: no more using sports to promote Christianity, Patheos.com, July 20: District to reimburse AHA $22,500 for costs of litigation as well.

Appeals Court Rules Pharmacies Cannot Cite Religion To Deny Medication, Patheos.com, July 23: Pharmacists cannot deny patients medicine, including Plan B or other emergency contraceptives.

Mississippi School District Fined $7,500 For ‘Proselytizing Christianity’, Patheos.com, July 28. District has been fined $7,500 after “proselytizing Christianity” by sponsoring Christian prayers at an assembly honoring high-achieving students.

Indiana Clerk Fired For Refusing To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses, Patheos.com, July 27

American Humanist Association Secures Equal Rights for Humanist Inmates in Federal Prison, AmericanHumanist.org, July 27: You may also want to check the video of AHA attorney Monica Miller debating with the Christian right on FoxNews. AHA notes that Pastor Robert Jeffress holds that alternate beliefs should not be afforded equal rights because it becomes too confusing, insisting Christianity is the national religion. 

... and some not so much. 

Boy Scouts of America Finally Ends Ban on Gay Leaders, but Atheists Are Still Not Welcome, Patheos.com, July 27. (Yeah, yeah, progress for some... )

Sheriff 's New Slogan Added to Every Patrol Car Is Almost Certain To Ignite Major Debate,WOODRADIO.COM, July 24. Here’s a hint: It’s not “Watch Out for Motorcycles.”

Iowa church touting Creationism a big draw for some White House hopefuls, Des Moines Register, July 15: Republicans Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee have already visited the First Assembly of God Church in Indianola. Bobby Jindal is booked to be at the church Saturday.

In the Military

Atheists demand Navy chaplain. Should they get one? FoxNews, July 9: FoxNews weighs in on the continuing struggle for seculars to earn the same rights to confidential advisors that theists enjoy. Can  you guess Fox's answer?

Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers Preparing Response to DoD IG Conscience Protection Report, MilitaryAtheists.org, July 24: The Department of Defense Inspector General study acknowledged the plight of Humanists, Wiccans, Sikhs, and other struggling minorities while debunking the claims of widespread command-directed persecution of evangelicals.

Other national news

Christian Extremist: Lafayette Shooter Supported Westboro Baptist Church, Patheos.com, July 24: The gunman who killed two and wounded nine others in a Louisiana theater was a Christian extremist who supported the Westboro Baptist Church, argued against women in the workplace, and advocated for violence against abortion providers. [Editor's note: atheist lunatic with a gun, racist lunatic with a gun, christian lunatic with a gun ... Is there any common theme here???]

Planned Pan of Planned Parenthood, TheHumanist.com, July 27: Planned Parenthood has never been a stranger to haters and politicians on the conservative Christian right. Recently, one group made a bold yet unsurprising move in an effort to destroy Planned Parenthood’s image amongst its pro-choice supporters. 

Secular news from abroad

Some stories sound eerily familiar ... though occasionally with a very odd twist.

Lyme Regis council's meeting prayers 'alienating', BBC News, July 28: Lyme Regis Town Council has been criticized after members voted unanimously to reintroduce prayers to its meetings.

Militant abortion protesters are dragging Britain down to America's level, TELEGRAPH.CO.UK, July 28: An open letter has called on the British Government to tackle abortion protesters, after a London clinic was reportedly forced to close. Kate Smurthwaite of Abortion Rights UK, explains why Britain mustn't go the same way as the US. 

Nepalese Christians defend secularism, amid fears of persecution, Secularism.org.uk, July 30: Christian campaigners fear that they may face religious persecution after a government survey found widespread support for the description of Nepal as a 'Hindu' state in the nation's constitution, rather than describing the country as a 'secular' republic.

But then there are some big suprises...

Scrap compulsory worship in schools, says former education secretary, TheGuardian.com, June 14: The obligation on state schools in England and Wales to provide a daily act of collective worship should be scrapped, according to former education secretary Charles Clarke.

If we want to tackle segregation, ending ‘faith’ schools is closest thing we have to a silver bullet, Humanist.Life.org, July 23: More than a third of state-funded schools in England and Wales – over 7,000 schools – are religious schools. 

Muslim boarding school rated 'good' by Ofsted [UK Dept. of Education] threatens to expel pupils for mixing with 'outsiders', Independent.co.uk, July 25: A Muslim boarding school that threatens to expel students for mixing with "outsiders" has been rated "good" by Britain’s Department of Education.

And some stories remind us to "count our blessings" (so to speak).

Guatemalan Humanists resist bill that would force religion into all schools, IHEU.org, July 23: Proposed law in Guatemala that would require religious teaching in all schools, public or private, with a “literal” Biblical interpretation.

A few good reads

The most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups, PewResearch.org, July 27: The nation’s population is growing more racially and ethnically diverse – and so are many of its religious groups, both at the congregational level and among broader Christian traditions.

Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems, Rawstory.com, July 6: Authoritarian religion is already pathological, and leaving a high-control group can be traumatic. People are already suffering. They need to be recognized and helped.

How The 'Nones' Can Find A Sense Of Community Outside Of Religion, HuffingtonPost.com, July 22: The "nones," or the religiously unaffiliated, are a rapidly growing "faith" group in the United States. They make up roughly 23 percent of the U.S. adult population and 35 percent of millenials.

Your “Deeply Held Religious Belief” Isn’t Biblical, Patheos.com, July 22: First of all, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that says selling someone a product in the course of legal business shows approval of the buyer’s lifestyle or behavior. Nothing.

This Is How We Are Spending Billions On The Sexual Mis-Education Of America’s Youth, ThinkProgress.org, July 1: Abstinence education doesn't work, but Congress is quietly increasing funding for it anyway. Why?

And finally, let's end with something a little more light-hearted...

S.C. pastor rages over sex-ed: Contraception is like letting your kids play with rattlesnakes, Rawstory.com, July 26: Pastor Danny Banks warned members of The Christian Church in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “I’ve read their book, teaching young people today in schools and their families that it’s okay now to be heterosexual or homosexual or whatever-sexual it is…. It’s like viper eggs, they are everywhere around us.”

Pat Robertson: ‘Love affairs between men and animals absolutely will be permitted’, Rawstory.com, July 21: Didn’t he just finish doing something crazy last month? Is this going to be a monthly thing with Pat? 

ABC’s What Would You Do? Features Angry Atheist Yelling at Praying Family in a Restaurant, Patheos.com, July 19: Demonstrating America’s healthy response to that “everyday scenario” of the obnoxious atheist. Check out the discussion on ABC’s facebook page for the episode. Over 4,000 comments, and as far as I can tell, not an irrational emotional rant among them. Where are these rational people hiding??? 

Immoral Convictions – Opponents of marriage equality are pushing a breathtakingly bad bill, Slate.com, July 23: Republicans in Congress introduced a bizarre bill that would legalize discrimination against not just gay couples—but also single mothers.

The Daily Show Skewers Anti-LGBT Bigots Whining About So-Called 'Anti-Christian Discrimination', Towleroad.com, July 30: Jordan Klepper of the Daily Show heads to Eureka Springs to investigate claims of rising "anti-Christian discrimination" in the wake of new LGBT non-discrimination ordinances there.

Skipping church? Facial recognition software could be tracking you, Washington Post, July 24: One software company is now providing churches with software to better track who shows up at their worship services.

Hundreds Gather for Unveiling of Satanic Statue in Detroit, Time.com, July 27: The "largest public satanic ceremony in history" was a cross between an underground rave and a meticulously planned Halloween party. 

Are Nonbelievers More Imaginative? A New Study Suggests They Might Be, TheHumanist.com, July 27. Well, we certainly have a better sense of humor!

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The Mission of the Humanists of West Florida

... is to facilitate the advancement of humanist thought and action in Pensacola and surrounding areas by interconnecting groups of humanists, atheists, agnostics and non-religious. We will strive for equal participation in government and societal life through building strategic partnerships with other humanist and freethought organizations and with our religious neighbors to advance the greater good of humanity.