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 email@example.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!
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.
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?(more…)
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
A message from Kate Lovelady, Leader:
Greetings to all members of the Ethical Society of St. Louis,
This notice may seem early, but the Ethical Society has become so wonderfully planful that we are already looking ahead to setting goals for the 2019-20 season. And so it makes sense to share now that at the end of that season, in June 2020, I will be stepping down as Leader.
I imagine this surprises a lot of you, and that it will bring up a variety of emotions in the community, which we will work through together in the coming months. And I know many of you will want to know what I’m going to be doing next. I don’t actually know. I intend to stay active with the American Ethical Union and the Ethical Humanist movement, of course, but I have no plans to take another Leadership position in the near future. It’s just time for me to make a change and downshift a bit and see what comes next. I feel that I’ve accomplished the things I planned to when I came here. The Society has become a very active but still warm and welcoming home for humanists of all ages, it is on solid financial footing, and it is poised to become a major voice in our region. I read somewhere that in a relay race it’s important for the runner to pass on the baton while they’re still running well, and that makes a lot of sense to me. It’s time for this Society to benefit from new energy and new perspectives.
In the coming months, the Board and James will be working with the membership to decide how to approach this leadership transition. The thoughts that members have been sharing with the Two-Leader-Model Evaluation Task Force as well as the Strategic Planning Task Force will be central in the decision-making process. I thank all of you who participated so far in giving feedback and encourage everyone to be active in discussions going forward.
A year and a half is a long time to say goodbye, so all I will add right now is that I am very proud of this community and the progress we’ve made together so far, and I look forward to seeing how the Society and its membership and leadership will continue to develop and become an even more effective and powerful voice for Ethical Humanism and ethical living.
A message from Krystal White, President of the Board of Trustees:
Dear fellow Ethical Society members,
When Kate announced that she will leave her role as Leader in June 2020, the Board of Trustees experienced a wide range of emotions. Shock, concern, confusion, and dismay were my immediate personal feelings. After a few days of grief, though, I shifted to incredible gratitude, excitement, and optimism. Fifteen years is a long tenure, especially for those in pastoral positions, and Kate has led the Ethical Society with passion, thoughtfulness, and empathy during that time. I am profoundly grateful for Kate’s leadership and service; I deeply appreciate the many ways in which she has made the Ethical Society a better and stronger community and a vibrant and joyous place. I personally feel so lucky to have worked closely with her over these past few years. As her friend, I am excited for her to step in a new direction and to grow in a new way of her choosing.
Transitions are challenging but they always provide an opportunity for reflection, redirection, and renewed purpose. Please trust that the Board will work in partnership with you, the membership, and with James through this Leader transition. We remain steadfast in striving to fulfill the Society’s mission and to achieve the vision the members have shared.
I ask that you join me in enthusiastically supporting Kate in these remaining 18 months, and I thank you for your continued support of the Ethical Society as we begin this new chapter together.
Good morning. It’s lovely to be up here, seeing your smiling faces, and enjoying the rocking tunes of the Ethical band! I’d like to extend a special welcome to the Interfaith Partnership. Thank you for being here with us today! (more…)
About 3 miles from here on the Bristol Elementary School playground, I learned a lot about social groups and values—mostly about how to think about Catholics and African Americans. In shop class in Junior High I learned about how men and women should relate. Almost all that I learned there was wrong.(more…)
The Tuesday Women’s Association of Ethical Society and the American Association of University Women present the 2019 International Relations Lecture Series.
Each meeting will begin promptly at 10:45 a.m. the second Tuesday of the month, January to April, in the upper auditorium. The public is cordially invited. There is no fee, but all contributions are greatly appreciated.
The 45-50 minute lecture will be followed by a question and answer period. Attendees are invited to bring lunch and to stay and discuss the day’s topic. In case of inclement weather, you may call 314-991-0955, ext. 224.
January 8, 2019 – A Specter Haunting Europe: Relative Deprivation and the Resurgence of Far-Right Extremism in Western Democracies, Speaker: Dr. Joyce Marie Mushaben
Joyce Marie Mushaben is a Curators’ Professor of Comparative Politics at UMSL. She is the author of many books and the recipient of many awards. Professor Mushaben will explore the causes of the resurgent ethno-nationalism across EU states, including the after-effects of the 2008/2009 global financial crisis and reactions to the 2015 refugee crisis. Dr. Mushaben will discuss forces driving “white nationalist” groups in the US, underscoring several curious gender twists. Focusing on Germany as a special case, she conclude with the ways right wing extremist currents have been shaped by eastern resentments dating back to misguided unification policies of the 1990s. Coordinator: Sharon Poe, Assistant Coordinator: Julie Triplett
February 12, 2019 – Fake News, Social Media and the Impact on Freedom of the Press, Speaker: Kevin Horrigan
Kevin Horrigan, a long time St. Louis journalist, recently retired as deputy editorial page editor and Sunday op ed columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he spent most of his 43-year professional career. In 1983 Mr. Horrigan joined the St. Louis Sun which failed after seven months. launching his 10-year career as a radio talk show host at KMOX and KTRS. He returned to the Post-Dispatch in 2000 as an editorial writer and columnist. Coordinator: Marcia Cline, Assistant Coordinator: Susan Teicher
March 12, 2019 – Dark Money and Plutocracy, Who’s Pulling the Strings? Speaker: Jeffrey A. Winters
Professor Winters is the Political Science department chair at Northwestern; and professor and Director, Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS) Program. He specializes on oligarchs and elites spanning a range of historical and contemporary cases. His book Oligarchy (Cambridge 2011), won APSA’s 2012 Gregory M. Luebbert Award for Best Book in Comparative Politics. His research, publications, and teaching focus on the areas of comparative and political economy. In addition to oligarchy, important themes in his work include state-capital relations, capital mobility and the structural power of investors, the World Bank, human rights, authoritarianism, and democratic transitions in post-colonial states. He has conducted extensive research in the region of Southeast Asia. Coordinator: Deana Stevenson, Assistant Coordinator: Patricia Scott
April 9, 2019 – The Intersection of Religion and Politics, Speaker: Dr. Harvey R. Fields Jr.
Dr. Fields is the Assistant Dean of Student Success at Washington University. Coordinator: Vett Goods, Assistant Coordinator: Nancy Hutchins
The three year trial period for having two leaders at the Ethical Society of St. Louis is coming to an end in 2019, and we would like to know what you think. The two leader model evaluation task force held a forum on November 25 to discuss how the membership feels about having two leaders. At this meeting, we shared information regarding membership, visitor, financial, and outreach details to lead the discussion (see below handout). If you have thoughts you would like to share, please send them to Amanda Verbeck at email@example.com.
The Ethical Society of St. Louis, Missouri TASH and the Special School District of St. Louis County will host a screening of the new documentary INTELLIGENT LIVES at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 9001 Clayton Rd.
The film will be followed by a discussion with Micah Fialka-Feldman, who is featured in the documentary. The screening is free and open to the public. All are welcome.
“This conversation is important to me,” said Ethical Education Director Rachel Valenti. “My family and I so often find ourselves among people who have not thought much about the quality of the lives people around us who live with cognitive disabilities can access. Our exclusion is more common than our inclusion in schools, workplaces, clubs and service groups, and communities of faith.”
INTELLIGENT LIVES stars three pioneering young American adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer and Naomie – who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college and the workforce.
“People so commonly misunderstand what we can contribute to the community,” Valenti said. “We all deserve loving and supportive communities. I know we can do so much better. I hope folks will show up to watch this film together and talk about how we’ll keep creating the communities all of us deserve.”
Academy Award-winning actor and narrator Chris Cooper contextualizes the lives of the film’s central characters through the emotional story of his son Jesse, as the film unpacks the shameful and ongoing track record of intelligence testing in the U.S.
“People with intellectual disabilities are the most segregated of all Americans,” said New Hampshire-based filmmaker Dan Habib, the producer, director and cinematographer of INTELLIGENT LIVES. “Only 17 percent of students with intellectual disabilities are included in regular education. Just 40 percent will graduate from high school. And of the 6.5 million Americans with intellectual disability, barely 15 percent are employed.”
INTELLIGENT LIVES is a catalyst to transform the label of intellectual disability from a life sentence of isolation into a life of possibility for the most systematically segregated people in America.
Those with questions about the screening can contact Valenti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ethical Society of St. Louis is a Humanist congregation where people come together to explore the biggest questions of life without reference to scripture, religion or God. To learn more, visit www.ethicalstl.org.
Missouri TASH advocates for human rights and inclusion for people with significant disabilities and support needs – those most vulnerable to segregation, abuse, neglect and institutionalization. To learn more, visit www.tash.org.
The Special School District of St. Louis County provides special education services and technical education. To learn more visit, www.ssdmo.org.
Good morning. My name is Arlene Nickels. Some years ago I was working as a secretary at Monsanto in the Department of Medicine and Environmental Health. One day at lunch, one of the Toxicologists, an Englishman named Peter, and I were having a philosophical discussion. Peter told me, with the way you think, you ought to be at the Ethical Society. I had never heard of the Ethical Society, but the next Sunday I visited. I was hooked. But I didn’t join right away. I wasn’t sure if this place was a “fit” for me. I was a divorced middle-aged woman with a flock of kids; not college educated. Didn’t have much money. Who would want this person?????
James Croft published an article “All hate crimes are political. Our response must be, too” on the St. Louis Post Dispatch Faith Perspectives page.
“..,Hate crimes affect more than just the individuals targeted: Because the crimes victimize people because of their membership in a group, and not for their individual actions, the actions attempt to demean and diminish the entire group….”
The Ethical Society will have an exhibit of the work of some of our talented members from December 16, 2018 through January 20, 2019. Members whose work is included in the show include Dreama Wolff, Judy Lazarus, Claireborne Handlemann, Toni and Ron Wirts, Brad Shutes, Steve Harris, Don Beere, Jim Rhodes, and Diana Bose, a member of our Arts Committee. The work includes photography, painting, and pottery.
There will be a reception for the artists on Sunday, December 16 at 3:00 pm in the Foyer. This is the same day as Good Cheer. So please come to talk to our artists and stay for Good Cheer!
James Croft, Outreach Director of the Ethical Society was extensively quoted in Aisha Sultan’s Post Dispatch article on Sunday 18-Nov-2018.
“The holidays are a time when many feel obligated to get together with family members with whom they disagree, while trying to avoid confrontation at all costs.,,,It’s sharpened the tension between who we love and what they believe. So, how best to navigate this?”
Listen to the Podcast of of the presentation.
The Ethical Society of St. Louis will be hosting our annual Thanksgiving potluck on Thursday Nov. 22, from 1-3 p.m., at 9001 Clayton Road. All are welcome. Following a tradition began in the 1980s, each individual or family is asked to bring the one dish without which it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for them.
The potluck has generated a lot of press this week, with articles in the Riverfront Times, Patch St. Louis, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In the latter two articles you can read our Outreach Director James Croft’s thoughts on civility around the Thanksgiving table and the meaning of Thanksgiving!