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Opening Words from Sun. May 19 by Gayle Wilson Rose

May 19, 2019
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They say it’s not good to make generalizations about people but this morning I’m going to make an exception…

Most of us…

Most of us get plenty to eat every day.

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to have to decide between paying a utility bill and having food on the table.

Most of us don’t know what it feels like to try to fall asleep with an empty growling stomach and nothing to fill it.

Most of us…

are pretty privileged.

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Opening Words from Sun. May 12 by Billie Teneau: “A Tribute to My Step-Mother”

May 18, 2019
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“The little girl needs a Mother,” my father wrote in his life story. My Mother died when I was six years old. My father, my two teen-age sisters, and the neighbors, more-or-less, took care of me. Realizing that I was growing up, my Dad began to look around for a suitable step-mother (and a suitable wife for him).

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Ethical Society Blood Drive

May 17, 2019
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Want to take an ethical action? Give blood through the American Red Cross at the Ethical Society.

To schedule an appointment please call 1-800-Red-Cross (1-800-733-2767) or visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter “EthicalSociety” to schedule an appointment.

Revere the World

April 20, 2019
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This is a series of guest essays by Ethical Society member Bobbi Linkemer. You can find all her essays at this link.

How we interpret anything we see depends on our perspective. Take the earth, for example. From a human perspective, wherever we stand, the world seems immense. Even in a plane, at 30,000 feet, we can’t see all of it. From space, according to Carl Sagan, the earth looks like a pale blue dot. So, what we see depends on where we are in relation to what we’re looking at.

The second way to think about earth is from a scientific perspective. Our earth is considered an insignificant planet that orbits an insignificant star in our solar system. Our sun is only one star among the billions of other stars in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of 200 billion galaxies in our universe. There is also the possibility of multiple universes besides our own.

However you view the earth—as too big to fathom its size or too inconsequential to attract much attention—one thing is clear: it is home to 7.7 billion people. Since we are unaware of life anywhere else in our solar system or beyond it, and we haven’t yet mastered the art of intergalactic travel, this the only home we have.

The earth is 4.5 billion years old, and for most of that time, any major changes to it were the result of nature’s fluctuations. But new research indicates that humans have actually been reshaping the planet for thousands of years. For those of us who don’t believe that climate change is a hoax, we can see the evidence all around us. According to Wired magazine, these are some of the most dramatic signs:

  • Temperatures are already breaking records around the world, and the earth could warm by six degrees this century.
  • According to climate scientists around the world, climate change is real and poses a serious threat to the planet.
  • Arctic sea ice and glaciers are melting; sea levels are rising at their fastest rate in two thousand years; and global flooding could triple by 2030.
  • More greenhouse gases are in our atmosphere than any time in human history, and  two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged because of climate change.

Those are frightening predictions. Perhaps it’s easier to believe that none of this is true than to face the enormity of what lies ahead if we don’t wake up and do something. According to a recent exhaustively-researched report, time is running out for humans to stop the damage and reverse our destructive course of action. When the choice is between saving the only home we have and continuing to contribute to its demise, that sounds like a no-brainer.

But apparently, this choice is more complicated than that. To put the brakes on our lifestyles and reverse course requires, first, that we admit we have a problem and, second, that we are committed to working together to solve it. How do we convince people who believe this is not happening that it really IS happening? And how do we convince governments and businesses and multimillionaires that these predictions may not materialize in their lifetimes but will most certainly affect the next generation and the one after that and who knows how many more?

Native American tribes understood that everything they did would have unforeseen consequences in the future. We would do well to adopt their Seventh-Generation philosophy, which mandated that tribal decision-makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions on their descendants seven generations into the future. If we are to have seven more generations, we must begin to revere the world we are leaving to them.

Art Show – Don Beere

April 19, 2019
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Don Beere grew up in an artistic household. His mother always had a painting in process and talked to her children about what she was doing. She worked in several mediums:  oils, acrylics, watercolors and sculpting. She and six other artists ran a gallery. When he was a teenager in the early 1960s, she started the San Dieguito Art Guild in San Diego County. During those teenage years, Don accompanied her to art shows and art museums where she critiqued what they were viewing. At that time, Don had no interest in art but obviously absorbed her lessons. His sister, Susan Beere (www.susanbeere.com) also learned from their mother and has been a professional artist her whole life.

When he was in his 20s, Don unsuccessfully tried his hand at drawing and concluded he could never be an artist. However, in his 40s, Don discovered his love of photography, and, in particular, his eye for composition. Photography became a medium through which he could express his artistic bent. Other than what he learned from his mother, Don developed his skills naturalistically.

In the 1990s, while living in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, Don’s photographs were juried into shows and were included in numerous local art shows. Don’s subject matter, then, was exclusively nature, and his love of nature comes through in those pieces. He later expanded his work to include other subject matter.

The thirty-two photographs displayed here fall into four groups: nature, abstract, “Reflections,” and other. Of note are the photographs titled “Reflections.” Don and his wife Carole were moving from Minneapolis in 2001. On an early, sunny morning in late July, she suggested he photograph the downtown area where they had lived for two years. Most of the photographs Don took that morning are reflections in the windows of the downtown skyscrapers, titled here as “Reflections.” [Commentary about these photos is linked to specific pieces.] This series, which actually includes more than forty photographs, marked a significant transition in Don’s approach to photography. He had already been moving toward abstract photography and this series solidified that change.  “These photographs taught me the principles of abstract photography,” he says.

Don has a diverse academic background with bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy, a master’s degree in experimental psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology. He was a psychology professor for 29 years at Central Michigan University where he trained doctoral students.  As well, he had a clinical practice for 42 years, the last 13 years having a full-time solo practice.  He was internationally known for his work on trauma, dissociation, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). He retired in 2013, and he and his wife moved to St. Louis since their daughter lives here. Ironically, his mother, Mary-Sue (Susan) Shallcross Beere, was born in Kirkwood. In 2019, he will publish his first novel, Blue Sky, Deadly Secrets, a psychological thriller. He has been learning, practicing and teaching Tai Chi for 45 years and currently teaches at the Ethical Society. His website is www.donaldbeere.com

His artist reception will be Sunday, May 5, 12:30 to 2:30.

Opening Words from Sun. April 14 by Eleanor Sullivan

April 14, 2019
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We all know we’re going to die…eventually. Most of us, most of the time, push the thought away. After all. we can do little about its inevitability. We try to eat healthy, exercise moderately (shrug), and sluff off stress. Besides, it seems a long way in the future…no matter how old we are.

But I was faced with an opportunity to come close.
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Opening Words from Sun. March 24 by Stephanie Sigala

March 25, 2019
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If this were the Channel 9 News Hour, we’d call this segment “Brief and Unspectacular.” I have a few words to say about the dignity of being an old woman.

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Board Nominees – 2019

March 20, 2019
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The Nominating Committee members – Bob Pickard, Carol Bartell, Carole Beere, Alan Easton, and Ann Eggebrecht – are pleased to submit to the Board and to the membership the following nominees for the Ethical Society Board of Trustees:

Stephanie Sigala – President-Elect

Stephanie Sigala joined the Ethical Society in 1996, meeting and marrying her member husband, Jim Rhodes here. She has been active at Ethical ‘out of the box’ : participating in, chairing and coordinating over 10 committees. Her last Board participation was 2010-13. She is now Usher Co-Chair and will chair the Lay Leadership Development Committee.

Stephanie worked as an art historian, professor, and administrator at several Midwest colleges before moving to St. Louis in the 1980s. She retired as Senior Educator at the St. Louis Art Museum in 2007. She now volunteers as a Master Gardener and MBG docent, for Kirkwood Library, and for Senior Connections. In all these things, the Ethical Society is central to her core interest in the creative and ethical potential of every person.

Tom Draney – Secretary

Currently on the Board and serving as Secretary.

Ray Preston – Trustee

Ray Preston was born and raised in St. Louis.  To answer the ultimate St. Louis question–he graduated from Normandy High School in north St. Louis County.  Before he graduated from college he dropped out for a semester and backpacked around Europe with a college buddy.  They crashed on couches, hitchhiked, caught rides with friends of friends and sometimes slept in train stations.  It was a great coming-of-age experience.  After returning to Mizzou he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri.  For the past 32 years he has worked as a journalist.  He has been a reporter, photographer, editor, producer and/or news anchor at television stations in Amarillo, TX, Salinas, CA, Springfield, MO and Oklahoma City.  For the past 22 years he has worked at KMOV (CBS) in St. Louis. He is married to Lisa Manzo-Preston, a Content Manager at Ameren.  In 2013 they were looking for a welcoming, open-minded community and were attracted to the Ethical Society of St. Louis.  They joined a short time later.  Ray and Lisa have two children.  Their son lives in Denver and their daughter is a very grown-up middle schooler.

Kayla Vaughan – Trustee

Kayla Vaughan and her husband Dennis Roach joined the Ethical Society in 1991, when their sons were 2 and 5 years old.  Kayla retired from practicing law in 2007. Her career included serving as a housing staff attorney and family managing attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and a term as municipal judge for the City of St. Louis in its environmental court division.  She now works part-time as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor at the Y.  She has been active in a variety of roles at the Society over the years and presently serves as a planning coordinator for the Tuesday Women’s Association, co-leads Laughter Yoga, coordinates 2nd Sunday Greeters, and participates in many other Ethical Society groups and regular activities.  Kayla loves the Ethical Society.

Note:  Ethical Society By-Laws allow for additional nominations to the Board, via petition.  Members in good standing may be nominated to open Board positions by written petition, signed by at least ten active members and filed at the Society office at least 30 days prior to the Annual Membership Meeting (May 15, 2019).  If the nominee-by-petition is running to be an officer of the Board, the position must be specified.

AEU on New Zealand Terrorist Attack

March 17, 2019
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The American Ethical Union utterly condemns the evil act of violence that took 49 lives and injured 48 people in Christchurch, New Zealand. Murder is always wrong, but atrocities which target a group of people because of their religion or ethnicity compound that wrong by harming not just the victims themselves but their entire community. People should not have to live in fear because of their faith, ethnicity, or race, yet for many Muslims, and many immigrants, fear is a daily reality.

This mass killing is a terrifying reminder of the power of hatred to move people to take the lives of others. It is reported that the shooter espoused racist and white nationalist views and published a document online outlining his motivations in which he expressed extremist, right-wing, anti-immigrant sentiments. Though New Zealand is geographically distant from the USA, we cannot deny and must not forget that similar sentiments are festering in the hearts of too many Americans, sometimes provoked by prominent political figures who scapegoat immigrants and demean Muslims for political gain. The killer’s own actions demonstrate that racist right-wing extremism is a global phenomenon: in his “manifesto” he praised white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof.

Hatred has consequences, and the atrocity in Christchurch should serve as a call to all of us to actively resist hatred in our own communities. We must condemn Islamophobia, the wicked insinuation that Islam is a uniquely dangerous and alien religion. We must condemn racist anti-immigrant rhetoric, which wrongly suggests that only a select class of people deserve respect, dignity, and protection. Muslims are full members of our human community and deserve a world in which their dignity is cherished. We at the American Ethical Union commit ourselves to working in solidarity with the victims wounded in these attacks and with the families of those who were killed to create such a world-a world in which today’s events would be unthinkable.

Read the original statement on the American Ethical Union’s web site.

‘Brexit: A Guide for Confused Americans’ March 14

March 11, 2019
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Brexit. For years that word has dominated international headlines as people throughout the world follow the seemingly endless saga of Britain’s quest to leave the European Union.

“Brexit is one of the most significant international affairs in many decades: it impacts the world economy and the politics and culture of every country in one of the most powerful regions of the earth,” said Ethical Society Outreach Director James Croft. “The dream of the European Union was that closer economic and cultural integration of nations would prevent further atrocities like the Second World War: with Brexit, that dream is starting to unravel.”

But what is Brexit, exactly? Why did it happen, and what does it mean for the United Kingdom and for the world? How could Brexit affect the USA, and what similar political and cultural currents are flowing in this country?

“When Britain leaves the European Union, the USA could be affected in numerous ways,” Croft said. “Right now, some US vacationers might be delighted that the fall in the value of the pound is making their trips to the UK cheaper. But the long-term picture is much more troubling: the exit of the UK from the EU could cause the economic growth of the EU to slow, which would hurt US exports and therefore the economy. Britain’s exit may embolden nationalist elements in other nations to push for their countries to leave too, which would compound this problem.”

Join Croft, a bona fide British person and long-time political activist, during “Brexit: A Guide for Confused Americans” at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the Ethical Society of St. Louis 9001 Clayton Road St. Louis, Missouri. He will guide guests on a funny and informative tour through the strange world of British politics.

Afterward, attendees will be able to buy a selection of relevant titles curated by Left Bank Books, which is co-sponsoring this event.

“Brexit can be seen as part of a troubling trend toward nationalism and isolationism which is spreading across the globe,” Ethical Society Outreach Director James Croft said. “Numerous nations – including the US – are grappling with their self-image and trying to determine what sort of country they want to be. The competition between open and welcoming internationalist perspectives and closed and paranoid nationalist ones will, I think, be a defining feature of political and cultural discourse for decades.”

Opening Words from Sun. February 24 by Krystal White

February 24, 2019
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Good morning. Two months ago, Leader Kate Lovelady announced she would step down from the Ministry Team Leader position, effective June 2020. I would like to update you on actions the Board has taken since that announcement. (more…)

Pizza with a purpose.

February 18, 2019
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Please join us in raising money for the Ethical Society Youth Group Thursday, February 28.

Bring this California Pizza Kitchen flyer, present it to your sever at the California Pizza Kitchen in the Saint Louis Galleria in Richmond Heights and 20% of your check will be donated to the Ethical Society Youth Group.

You can print the flyer, show it on your phone or just mention you are dining to support our organization. Dine-in and takeout, as well as catering delivery, are included.

Please go into the restaurant or call ahead in order to participate in the donation opportunity.

California Pizza Kitchen
Saint Louis Galleria
1493 Saint Louis Galleria
Richmond Heights, MO 63117

If you would like to donate directly to the program, please contact Ethical Education Director Rachel Valenti at rvalenti@ethicalstl.org.YG Fundraiser at CPK

Art Show – Donna Burch

February 9, 2019
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This show is designed to create conversations about what it means to be an American and how others view you as an American (or not). Our forefathers said we were “One Nation …”. This show is not about religion. It is not about politics. It is not about the political party to which you belong. It is about how we view ourselves and others in relationship with our country. No matter how you view yourself or our country, we must deal with the brokenness, be it of our own making or others’. To that end, I asked each of my subjects to submit a poem about their relationship with this country.

​The only requirement for this study was that the subject had to be an American citizen. As I talked to all kinds of people, I came to believe that we all have a sense of the United States of America being broken, but not knowing how to fix ourselves.

​Depending on how each conversation went, I over-layed the American Flag on each image. If the conversation was hopeful, the flag was placed in the upright position. If the conversation was not hopeful the flag was placed upside-down. The flag is flown upside-down as a distress signal.

​There are times the flags are up and the poems are down. There are times the flags are down and the poems are up. What we all agree upon,there is a brokenness in our land.

What I have found is that we all know something is broken in this country.  We all know that we are experiencing brokness.  The whole world knows that we are broken.  The question is how do we fix ourselves? Before we declare ourselves fixed, we need to declare ourselves broken.  I hope and pray that this is one of those steps toward reaching to the wellness of the USA, to reach toward our inner strength and inner greatness.

My personal belief is that we have to learn how to care for one another again.  We have lost our sense of humor, we have lost our ability to empathize with another person, we have forgotten how to help someone (that does not involve money).  We have forgotten how to create and love community.  We have forgotten that community does not have to look like us.  We have forgotten how to love!

There will be a reception for the artist Donna Burchon Sunday, March 17 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. in the Foyer.  The Ethical Society will exhibit some of Donna’s work from March 15 through April 21.

Youth Group Dinner Dance – Alice in Wonderland!

February 4, 2019
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The Youth Group is planning a delightful evening of dinner and dancing for all on February 9! Come have fun while helping our Youth Group raise money to attend the annual Youth of Ethical Societies conference. Dinner dance tickets will be available before and after Platform on Sundays, or reserve a ticket via email awjohnson02@gmail.com.

Silent Auction Items (pdf)

We hope to see everyone February 9, 6-10 pm, but if you’re unable to join us for the fun, we’d be most grateful for any support for the Youth Group you can offer in advance. The event includes a silent auction. If you are connected to a local business that would be willing to donate a gift card, for example, you could really help us get to our fundraising goal!

Not Simply ‘None’

February 1, 2019
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Outreach director James Croft appeared in St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air” discussing Ethical Culture, humanism, and current trends in spiritual identity.

Read NPR’s article about the show (contains audio link) or listen to the show.

Archived copy if original links are broken.

We Should Teach The Bible in Schools – In a Secular Way

January 31, 2019
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Last week President Trump, in a tweet, hailed the fact that a number of states are introducing bills to legalize the study of the Bible in public schools. To an extent, I agree with him: there is nothing wrong with the desire to teach the Bible in public schools. This statement may come as a surprise, coming from a Humanist and an atheist, but it really isn’t that unusual. The Bible is one of the most influential and important cultural documents in history, and guides the daily lives of billions around the globe. It is cited and references endlessly in literature, films, music, philosophical writing, and other cultural products. Christian institutions play an enormously significant role in American public life. All of this is much harder to understand if you have no knowledge of the Bible, and if one of the roles of public education is to empower young people to be thoughtful, knowledgeable, and critical participants in world culture, then some knowledge of the Bible is essential.

I came to appreciate this more deeply when I worked for some time as a high school teacher of English. My passion was introducing young people to literature, particularly the greats like Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton. I discovered again and again that it was impossible for my students to mine the rich veins of literary allusion present in texts like these if they had no knowledge of the Bible. Nor was it possible for them to grasp the cultural context in which these authors wrote without some understanding of the religious beliefs many people held at the time. Learning about the Bible can be a profoundly empowering experience, and I wouldn’t want to prevent any young person from enjoying that.

However, the bills Trump hails in his tweet have little to do with empowering young people, and much more to do with promoting Christian dominance in the USA. It is in fact already legal to teach the Bible in the way I have described – as a cultural and historic document which adds to students’ general knowledge of world culture and which enriches their appreciation of the religious beliefs of many. Contrary to much conservative scaremongering, the Bible is not banned in public schools (nor is prayer – another favorite lie of would-be theocrats). As long as they ensure their teaching is objective and secular – not based on promoting one religion over others, or religion in general – schools can teach students about the Bible (and about other religious texts) perfectly happily, and no legislation is required to enable them to do so.

What public schools cannot do – and what they should never do – is try to indoctrinate young people into a particular religious faith, using the resources of the government to push sectarian religious views. This would be a monstrous example of government overreach, an imposition on the religious freedom of every school-going child in America. Such would be the behavior of a religious dictatorship like Iran, not that of a free nation.

The bills currently being considered by legislators across the USA (handily summarized by the American Humanist Association’s Emily Newman here), which seek to “make it legal” to teach the Bible in public schools, are therefore largely unnecessary: the sort of academic, elective, nonreligious courses on bible study most of them promote are allowed already. So why are they being promoted so vigorously? Because they aren’t really about promoting secular study of the Bible for general educational benefit: they are about making public schools into Christian spaces which guide children into Christianity.

We know this because the lobbies which are pushing these bills have tipped their hand in some of them: some seek to explicitly legalize the teaching of creationism, while others do not spell out that the courses must be objective, fact-based, and essentially secular. Furthermore, many of the bills use language crafted by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, an organization seeks to “Keep Faith in America.” Their chosen tactics are transparent: put “One Nation Under God” everywhere, including in public school classrooms, on courtrooms, and in other public institutions, and promote these “teach the Bible” bills in legislatures across the country – even though their own website recognizes that the right of public schools to teach the Bible in a secular was is already protected by law:

Schools may teach about religion, including the Bible or other scripture, the history of religion, the Bible-as-literature, and the role of religion in the United States and other countries. Schools are to be neutral with respect to religion. However, they may play an active role with respect to teaching civic values and virtue, and the moral code that holds us together as a community. – Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation

If the CPCF itself admits that these bills are unnecessary, why is it promoting them? Because they are one step in the organization’s plan to increasingly impose a conservative interpretation of Christianity on the nation (this is made utterly explicit in the document from which language for some of these bills was drawn, which can be read here).

Don’t fall for it. The United States should be proud of creating a nation which welcomes people of many different religious beliefs, and of achieving decent levels of tolerance for many religious groups. Our task now is to improve on our commitment to religious freedom, by ensuring that all people have the right to choose their own religious path – not to diminish our commitment to freedom by embracing Christian hegemony.

Opening Words from Sun. January 27 by Amanda Verbeck

January 28, 2019
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Good morning and welcome to pledge season at the Society! As the President-Elect and this year’s pledge campaign chair, my first reaction to heading up the pledge effort was “Oh no…I have to talk about money.” Talking about money doesn’t come easy for me. Probably because I haven’t been in a position where I’ve had much of it. So, I decided to approach this from a different perspective and think about the bigger picture. What does the Society mean to me? What do I value most about this place? And why do I make it a priority to give money here?

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Pledge luncheon

January 27, 2019
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Please join us Sunday, February 3 for food, friends, and fun at this year’s pledge luncheon! Plan on bringing your pledge form, along with a salad, side dish, or dessert to share. Members with last names A-O are asked to bring a salad or side, and members with last names P-Z are asked to bring a dessert. The main dish will be provided, with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available. Free childcare will also be available. See you there!

Art Show – Dexter Silvers

January 20, 2019
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Dexter Silvers, a well-established professional self-taught artist with an open studio in The Grove Neighborhood at 5205 Chouteau Avenue.  He was born in St Louis and inherited his talents from his mother and father. He has always had a passion for the arts.  Dexter is known for his unique depictions of photo realism. He paints St Louis scenes like the Arena, Goody Goody Diner, the St Louis Balloon Race, Art Hill, Bevo Mill, St Louis Churches, and a lot more. There is so much detail and precision in his work that you can enjoy spending time looking at the details which draw you into his work.

He has shown his work across the US and has been featured on several television news stations including Fox Channel 2, KSDK Channel 5, and PBS Channel 9. He has won awards for his work.

Dexter’s Art Studio is a family owned and operated business which offers original artwork, prints, custom designs, private lessons, and paint parties for all ages in a fun, eclectic, and comfortable environment.  For more information about the Artist and his work, please visit his studio or contact him at 314.824.4827 or dexter4209@hotmail.com. His website is www.dextersartstudio.com

The exhibit will open on January 27, 2019 and run through March 11, in the front lobby of the Ethical Society of St Louis. A reception will be held on Sunday, January 27, 2019 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Listing of all Art Shows.

We Must Defend Religious Freedom

January 16, 2019
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Today is Religious Freedom Day in the United States, a celebration of one of our most important values. The date marks the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which was enacted into law by the Virginia General Assembly 233 years ago today. The Statute makes a compelling case that freedom of religion must be a centerpiece of any democracy, arguing that attempts to impose religious views on a populace lead to ” habits of hypocrisy and meanness”, and restrict the natural rights of the person.

Humanists in particular find much to cheer in Jefferson’s Statute. Although he framed his argument in theistic terms, speaking of a creator God and mobilizing that concept to defend religious freedom, he nonetheless stressed that human beings are fallible, and that therefore no authority (civil or ecclesiastical) should impose their beliefs on others. Jefferson rails against forced contributions to religious groups and leaders, arguing that everyone should decide for themselves whether to support a religion or a pastor with their money. And he makes the forceful declaration that “our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry” – a position which, if followed to its logical conclusion, would defend the civil rights of those of all religions and none, Humanists included.

In the political sphere, Jefferson stressed that no citizen should be prevented from holding public office due to their religious beliefs: to do so would “[deprive them] injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with [their] fellow citizens, [they have] a natural right”. This is a vital principle at a time when there are exceedingly few openly Humanist public officials at any level of government: belief in God still seems to be a litmus test of political respectability in the minds of many.

Most important, though, is that Jefferson understood that just as religious freedom must mean the freedom of individuals to choose a religious path for themselves without fearing reprisal or discrimination, it must also mean that no one is offered special benefits because of their religious views. In the Statute he stresses that a person’s “opinions in matters of Religion…shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.” That “enlarge” is critical, because today our democracy faces many attempts to enlarge the civil capacities of some citizens because they hold particular religious beliefs.

Across the country so-called “Religious Freedom Bills” now make the argument that some citizens, because of their religious views, should have the right to discriminate against other citizens, or to make decisions regarding how their employees should use their healthcare benefits. This has nothing to do with those citizens’ right to their own religious beliefs: my religious freedom is not threatened when someone else chooses to live by a different set of beliefs. Rather, it is the attempt by some unscrupulous lawmakers to twist the definition of “religious freedom” so that it enlarges the civil capacities of their supporters to such an extent that they can burden others with the consequences of their own religious faith.

This trend must be resisted. If religious freedom is to remain a meaningful idea, we must return to a proper understanding of the term. We should all be free to choose our own religious path, without fear of sanction or pressure from the government. But we should all be bound be the same laws, without seeking to use our own religious views to win special privileges. We have the right to choose our own religion, but not the right to force others to live according to its dictates. The first is religious freedom – the second religious tyranny.

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