The Newsletter of the Washington Area Secular Humanists
Vol. XXVIII, No. 1
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
|WASH and the AHA||Phil Kalmanson provides insight on the pros and cons of WASH upgrading its relationship with the American Humanist Association|
|President’s Message||WASH President Samantha McGuire fills you in on the latest developments|
|Freedom and Tolerance||John Pell describes the tension in Fredericksburg surrounding proposed construction of a mosque|
|Logo Contest Winner||WASH President announces Jacob Wallace as the logo contest winner|
|WASH HumanLight Celebration||Get the scoop on WASH’s great HumanLight parties this year|
|Spotlight||Bill Creasy reviews this 2015 film about sex abuse in the Catholic church|
|All You Want to Know Reason Rally 2016||WHEN: Sunday, January 9, 2015 at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Orient Restaurant, 319 York Rd., Towson, MD
Renew Your WASH Membership or Donate Online at
Click on Join/Renew WASH Membership
WASH and the American Humanist Association
by Phillip Kalmanson
Hello WASH members. WASH currently maintains formal relationships with several national organizations. Most of these relationships do not really involve much if any commitment either on the part of WASH or the national organization save for statements saying we recognize each other and support the same or similar causes. There is no exchange of funds either from WASH or to WASH. Sometimes WASH and/or the national organization will cross post events that may be of interest to members of both groups; however, this is done as a courtesy and not because it is required. Sometimes a national organization will request volunteers from WASH for events going on within WASH’s geographical area, as was done during the Reason Rally of 2012 wherein WASH was given recognition and its volunteers provided access to the rally.
At present the WASH board of directors is considering upgrading the organization’s relationship with the American Humanist Association from its current affiliate status to chapter status. Such a change would affect all WASH chapters, and there are quite a few benefits of moving forward with this, but first these points must be stated. This only affects the organization, not its members. Paying your membership dues to WASH is not the same as paying dues to the AHA and vice versa. Money contributed to WASH stays within WASH. This is how it was in the past and would continue like this in the future should WASH as a whole become an AHA chapter. If an official member of WASH wants to become an official member of the AHA then they would need to do so of their own accord – just like it was in the past and currently is now with any organization. Lastly the governing structure of WASH would remain unchanged with the same WASH member-elected board of directors and chapter coordinators.
The primary differences between AHA affiliates and full chapters are as follows:
-For affiliates, AHA agrees to mutual promotion with the local affiliate in a very limited way.
For full chapters, on the other hand, the AHA provides the following benefits, and more:
-WASH can apply for chapter grants of up to $2000.00 per year to help with WASH events.
-WASH has access to the AHA media and public relations infrastructure and experience that would help bring more new members in by letting secular people within the DC,MD, & VA area know we exist. Had WASH been a chapter, as opposed to an affiliate, of AHA, we would have had access to AHA’s chapter relations staff to help us promote our recent regional conference–such service is reserved for full chapters of the AHA.
So there are lots of tangible benefits. What about the cons of such an action? Here they are:
-Some people don’t like the American Humanist Association.
That is it.
What does it take to change from an AHA affiliate to an AHA chapter? WASH writes a letter to the AHA stating its intentions to become a chapter with the letter being endorsed by the WASH board of directors. The AHA would then conduct a vote at its next board of directors meeting to upgrade the status of the requesting organization.
Where do WASH members come in? This is not a done deal. If you as an official dues paying member of WASH have any questions or concerns regarding this possibility of WASH changing from its current affiliate status to chapter status then please let your coordinator or board member know. The most direct line to the top is to send an email to AHAChapter@wash.org, an account the board has set up specifically to handle inquiries about the upgrade in relationship with the AHA.
Phillip Kalmanson serves on the Board of Directors of WASH.
Happy New Year!
by Samantha McGuire
It looks like 2015 is shaping up to be a big year for WASH! First, you will notice the change in the look and feel of the WASHline and WASH website as we try to move to a more user interactive platform – please bear with us as we work out the kinks – it is a work in progress. With this issue we are launching our new logo from the contest that was held a few months ago. In the coming months, we will be moving to a paperless version of the monthly newsletter in an effort to reduce waste and costs. If you still want the paper version sent to you, you will still be able to opt in, don’t worry! In June Reason Rally returns to DC and WASH will once again be recruiting and organizing volunteers for this historical event. There will be informational meetings held starting this month, and if you are interested and have not yet done so, please go to the Reason Rally website and fill out the volunteer form there. As we get more information the website will be updated at wash.org/reason-rally. And lastly, the feature article in this issue by WASH Board Member Philip Kalmanson makes the case for WASH to upgrade its status to become the local Chapter of the AHA. In the coming months there will be discussions at each Chapter meeting so that WASH members can ask questions and voice concerns before the Board makes a decision on this important issue.
Freedom and Tolerance
by John Pell
Recently in Fredericksburg the Muslim community announced plans to build a new mosque. An open house was hosted by the local Muslim community to attempt to build goodwill among the locals. FSH encouraged our members to attend, as a gesture of goodwill on our own part.
The reaction to the announcement astounded and alarmed me. The reactions included epithets like “you are all terrorists” and “I will do everything within my power to stop this”, finally ending with “nobody wants you here”.
It was the “nobody wants you here” that got to me – the Muslims planning to build their mosque had already been here for 30 years. Those words encapsulated the unmitigated, irrational fear of change and of the “other.” My anger faded when I realized that I was hearing the voices of frightened people who had limited ways to cope with the changes that an eruptive new world was bringing.
Given the state of the world with warfare, terrorism, and the movement of millions of migrants and refugees all linked with the single term of “Muslim” the discomfort and fear are understandable.
Simply to say that fear is understandable in no way advocates the idea that such intolerance is acceptable. As American citizens we must abide in the freedom that the first amendment provides to all. To worship as we believe or to not worship at all. This is the worst time imaginable for free people to bundle themselves up in their fear or their prejudice and attempt to limit those freedoms for anyone.
Freedom of religion is a pillar of democracy. If this nation speaks truly when it defends the tenets of “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” then it must defend everyone. We must be the voice reminding our fellow citizens of our democratic principles. The responsibility is ours.
John Pell is the incoming Chapter Coordinator for FSH.
WASH Has a New Logo!
by Samantha McGuire
The winner of the logo contest is Jacob Wallace. The winning design was unveiled at WASHCon15 and although Jacob could not be at the conference, his wife Laura Wallace was in attendance and accepted the $100 prize on his behalf. His design was chosen because the Board felt that it best represented the growing geographical area that all of the WASH Chapters call home. The new logo will appear on the WASH website and literature and in the near future on t-shirts and mugs. In his submission to the contest Jacob stated, “It was quite the challenge to incorporate 4 different elements and blend them together, without it feeling clustered. The 4 elements in this logo are Humanism (The Happy Human, the recognized symbol for nearly all “humanist” organizations.), Washington DC (The silhouette of The Capitol Building, The Washington Monument, and some Cherry Blossoms), Maryland (The flag), and Virginia (The Bird on the Branch which anyone who has ever driven into VA has seen on their Welcome Sign)”. Jacob and Laura are founding members of SOMDSH and volunteer as counselors for Camp Quest Chesapeake.
Samantha McGuire is President of WASH and Coordinator of the SoMdSH Chapter.
WASH Celebrates Humanlight
by Paul Hoyt
Several HumanLight celebrations were held around the WASH membership area this year. Members in both Maryland and Virginia held gatherings to celebrate this Humanist holiday.
On December 6th, members of several Virginia groups celebrated Winter Solstice and Humanlight. The event included member groups of the Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason from the Washington Area Secular Humanist (WASH) chapters; Lynchburg Area Secular Humanists (LASH) and Secular Humanists of Roanoke (SHOR). Also in attendance were members from Charlottesville Skeptics and Southern Virginia Atheists. The Humanlight potluck luncheon was followed by decorating a Tree of Knowledge with local samples and several samples from Margaret Downney’s collection. In a timely concurrence with the Freethought Society’s 10th, year review of the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, our Virginia groups viewed the NOVA film, “Judgement Day – Intelligent Design on Trial.”
The MDC chapter held its HumanLight party this year on December 19th in a new location–at the UU Church at Cedar Lane. The happy gathering included many familiar faces, as well as several new ones, and featured decoration of a Tree of Knowledge.
Spotlight (2015), directed by Tom McCarthy
by Bill Creasy
If the Catholic priest abuse scandal and cover-up hasn’t received the widespread revulsion and disgust that it deserves, it is perhaps because there haven’t been enough movies like Spotlight.
The movie is based on the actual 2002 story about a 4-person investigative reporter team called Spotlight at the Boston Globe newspaper. The team, led by Walter Robinson (played by Michael Keaton), began an investigation of a Boston priest, Father Geoghan, who had been accused of molesting a young boy.
The team continued to dig for information, and the movie is a valuable study on how investigations are done and how information can be found in unexpected sources. There are a number of good actors in the movie, including Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams. But the emotion that they convey most effectively is astonishment, as the number of abusive priests that they discover keeps increasing, and the number of victims increases even faster. At first, there is only one “bad apple,” but soon it is clear that there is a systematic conspiracy in the Boston church. Only two or three victims are shown being interviewed in the movie, and only one priest admits guilt. But the actors manage to indicate that there are many more.
The movie is also effective in showing the wall of silence that protected the Catholic Church establishment. Some of that wall is from ordinary people who were raised Catholic and refused to believe that there was corruption in the church. Some of it is from high-level officials like Cardinal Bernard Law, who outwardly showed only friendliness and cooperation but seemed to think that his responsibility was to protect the church rather than help children who were victims of his predatory priests. Some is from victims who were embarrassed to admit what happened to them. And some of it is from lawyers who used arbitration, payoffs, and sealed records to make evidence disappear, so they’re “just doing their job” to get the best deal that they can for the Catholic church, their employer. The reporters deserve tremendous credit for their effort in penetrating this wall.
The movie may still be in theaters. It is worth supporting, to keep this kind of movie being made, and to publicize this scandal of the Catholic church.
For more discussion about this movie, read the following commentary by Catherine Dunphy (Jesuit seminary grad), Mary Johnson (former nun with Mother Teresa), and Linda LaScola (lapsed Catholic), all associated with the Clergy Project. Watch the movie before reading the commentary, because there are spoilers.
Nice-Catholic-Girls–Turned-Atheist: Our Perspectives on “Spotlight”, December 14, 2015 by Linda LaScola:
Bill Creasy is secretary of WASH and coordinator of the Baltimore chapter.
WASH sponsors ten local chapters for the promotion of secular humanist activities within specific communities. A member who has paid dues to WASH is automatically a member of all chapters and is welcome at all WASH events. Contact the discussion leader or chapter coordinator for last minute changes. Also, visit the WASH web site at www.wash.org.
Baltimore Secular Humanists (BSH)
The Baltimore Chapter (BSH) posts late updates on the BSH Meetup.com. All interested WASH members are encouraged to sign up. Meetup sends automatic email reminders of the meetings.
Lunch Meeting: What about the Reason Rally 2016?
Harford County SIG: Science Cafe sponsored by NMTC
Time: Jan. 27, 2016 at 7:00 pm
DC Region Atheists (DCA)
Rockville Maryland Discussion Group
The Frederick Secular Humanists is seeking a new chapter coordinator. If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please contact WASH President Samantha McGuire at Samantha@wash.org to find out what’s required and how to apply for the position.
The Fredericksburg Secular Humanists meet regularly on the second Sunday of each month.
Religious Freedom Celebration
Speaker: Emile Lester
In January, we will have a joint meeting with the other groups in the Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason to celebrate Fredericksburg’s Religious Freedom Day. It will follow FredCoR’s participation in the Fredericksburg Religious Freedom Day Celebration to honor Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. We will take part in the parade, carrying the FredCoR banner and FSH signs, and will attend the ceremony conducted by the organizers, the Knights of Columbus. We will then proceed to our event at the nearby downtown library auditorium.
Participants in the parade gather in the parking lot just South of the Fredericksburg train station at about half past noon. Please look on the FSH meet-up site for the exact time to meet. For anyone unable or unwilling to walk about a mile, you are welcome to join us at the library at 2:30 p.m. Drinks and sweet refreshments will be provided.
Speaker Topic: Holy Moses! The Founders and Religion in Texas Textbooks
Summary: The Texas State Board of Education touched off a firestorm in 2010 when it adopted social studies standards that misled students about American history. Among other things, the standards said that separation of church and state in the United States was a myth, and that the Founders borrowed their laws and views of government from Moses and Solomon. In 2014, textbook companies released books that aimed to conform to these standards. Since Texas has an outsized influence on the content of textbooks, these passages may determine what students around the country learn about American history and government, University of Mary Washington Professor Emile Lester and other academic experts reviewed these textbooks. His speech will address what they found in their review, and what can be done about it.
Emile Lester is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington. His book Teaching about Religions was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2011. He has published numerous articles in scholarly journals, and his work on religion and politics has been featured among other places in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, The Huffington Post, USA Today, and C-Span. Questions will be accepted from the audience following the presentation
The Lynchburg Area Secular Humanists meet regularly on the first Tuesdays (Discussion) and third Fridays (Drinking Skeptically) of each month at 6:30 P.M at the Forest Library, 15583 Forest Rd., Forest, VA and/or the Unitarian Universalist Church at 818 Court St., Lynchburg, VA 24504 unless otherwise noted. Please check the WASH website for detailed LASH Meeting information.
WASH MDC January Event
The Maryland DC (MDC) chapter will meet in January on the 13th from 7 to 9 pm to discuss community interests and in particular plans for the upcoming (June 2-4, 2016) Reason Rally in DC. Former WASH president who was part of the 2012 Rally organizing committee will attend to discuss current plans. The meeting will be an opportunity to discuss volunteer options among WASH MDC chapter members. The meeting will be held at chapter coordinator, Gary Berg-Cross’s house which is at:
13 Atwell Court
For general information and if there are any questions you may contact the chapter coordinator, Gary Berg-Cross via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northern Virginia (NVC)
NVC meets on the fourth Monday of most months from 7:30 to 9:00 pm in the Program Building of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, 2709 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton, VA. Notices for all meetings can be found on Meetup. Our next meeting is on Monday, January 25, 2016 when Chris Centner will address “War and Humanist Ethics.”
Secular Humanists of Roanoke (SHOR)
SHOR serves the Roanoke area. We’ve organized ourselves into a total of 4 committees: Executive, Social, Education, and Activism / Outreach. Please check the WASH Chapter website and the Meetup site for late-breaking details! Stay tuned to shor.wash.org and the Meetup site for updates.
Southern Maryland Secular Humanists (SoMdSH)
Southern Maryland Secular Humanists’ (SoMdSH) main focus is to build a sense of community for the non-religious, atheists, agnostics, doubters, free-thinkers, rationalists, skeptics and other like-minded individuals in Southern Maryland through discussion groups, lectures, social activities and family-friendly events, as well as promoting a spirit of volunteerism and giving back to the community. SoMdSH announces meetings on Meetup and Facebook, both of which are accessible through our website. Please check for the most current information as locations and times may change and direct questions to email@example.com.
Baltimore Secular Humanists (BSH)
DC Region Atheists (DCA)
Frederick Secular Humanists (FRESH)
Fredericksburg Secular Humanists (FSH)
Lynchburg Area Secular Humanists (LASH)
Northern Virginia Chapter (NVC)
Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists (SASH)
Secular Humanists of Roanoke (SHOR)
Southern Maryland Secular Humanists (SoMdSH)
Board of Directors
Samantha McGuire, President
Paul Hoyt, Vice President
Bill Creasy, Secretary
Cynthia Wallace, Treasurer
The Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH) was incorporated in 1989 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization in Maryland. Its purposes are to promote scientific literacy and critical thinking, to provide a forum for humanists and others to explore humanist principles and how they relate to all aspects of the human experience and to study the significance of Humanism throughout history. Secular humanists are distinguished by an emphasis on scientific methods of knowing, the separation of church and state and a commitment to the pursuit of goals outside religious frameworks.
WASH sponsors ten active local chapters for the promotion of secular humanist activities within specific communities. A member who has paid dues to WASH is automatically a member of all chapters and is welcome at all WASH events.
WASHline is published monthly to inform readers of WASH activities and other events of interest and to provide WASH members an opportunity to share ideas and discuss issues.
Letters, articles and photographs about WASH members, activities and subjects of interest to secular humanists, such as ethics, sciences, philosophy, religion, education and social issues as well as reviews of books, films and plays are welcome. Due to space limitations in the print copy, submissions less than 800 words will receive priority in publication. Because of our nonprofit status, partisan political discussions are avoided. For authors of Letters to the Editor concerning humanism that have been printed in a local, regional or national publication, a copy of the letter as it originally appeared can be submitted to WASHline. The deadline for copy is the 15th of the month for the following month’s newsletter. Copy must be sent electronically by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and must include the author’s name, address and telephone number. Submissions sent to the editor’s personal email may not be seen. Rich Text Format (RTF) or MS Word format are preferred. WASH assumes the right to reproduce the submission on the WASH web site, www.wash.org.
(c) 2016 by the
Washington Area Secular Humanists, Inc.
P. O. Box 15319
Washington, DC 20003