Monday, May 30, 2011

Next Meet Up at Panera Bread 5 New london Ave, Cranston RI

I have all the forms needed to officially affiliate with the American Humanist Association. When we next get together I'd like us to go over the materials and make it all official.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Secular humanism: the fastest-growing demographic - Northumberland Today - Ontario, CA

This is Cananda, but still exciting news.

Secular humanism: the fastest-growing demographic - Northumberland Today - Ontario, CA

The Failure of Gay Marriage in Rhode Island

A while back I made a film in which i interviewed Christopher Plante, of NOM RI, the group that, along with the Archdiocese of Providence under the leadership of Bishop Tobin, shares the bulk of responsibility for defeating the same-sex marriage bill in the Rhode Island House this legislative session. I've placed the film at the end of this post, along with a much longer version, which is the complete interview.

The film opens with the following words:
In 2010, with the election of Lincoln Chafee to the position of Governor of Rhode Island, the way seemed clear for the passage of a same-sex marriage bill, which the previous governor had promised to veto.

In response, NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage, redoubled their efforts...
and ends with the following analysis:
Due to the efforts of NOM RI, under the leadership of Chris Plante and the grassroots coalition he has formed with religious groups such as the Catholic Church, the passing of a same-sex marriage bill in Rhode Island is in serious doubt.
I have to admit, I faced some criticism for interviewing Plante, because he is a out and out homophobic bigot. There is a sense out there that I needed to be harder on him, and more confrontational, but I was more interested in letting him talk, so as to get at the root of his views and beliefs. Watching either film below would be a shock to the average person. Chris Plante is as slick an operator as they come, with ready made arguments for any question I tossed at him, but his central ideas, enshrouded as they are in a blather of incoherent religiosity given the patina of faux rationality, are bankrupt.

MERI, (Marriage Equality Rhode Island) the group at the forefront of the battle for same-sex marriage rights, was outclassed and outmaneuvered by a guy with all the scruples and morality as the smarmiest imaginable door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman.The Providence Phoenix did a great job of making sense of the reasons MERI lost and NOM RI won.  In "The stunning demise of gay marriage" David Scharfenberg writes:
Much of the critique has focused on Kathy Kushnir, the former executive director [of MERI], who resigned last week.

Some insiders maintain she was in an impossible position — destined to be blamed, no matter what she did, for MERI's frustrated progress. But there was broad concern that Kushnir, who did not respond to a call for comment, lacked the campaign experience required for the final legislative push.
Among [Bill Fischer, MERI's former spokesman]'s biggest critiques of MERI: a hesitance to engage, directly, with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, which joined with the National Organization for Marriage-Rhode Island (NOM-RI), the local chapter of the leading anti-gay nuptials group in the country, to mount an aggressive lobbying effort from the start of the legislative session.

Tobin penned editorials and made direct contact with several legislators. The Reverend Bernard Healey, the church's chief lobbyist, was relentless. And NOM-RI launched a $100,000 television campaign and delivered an early barrage of phone calls and postcards that proved difficult to overcome.

"We let NOM get the jump on us in a way that's tragic, because we know public opinion is on our side," says Segal, the former state representative, who has advised MERI on its lobbying effort.

When I originally conceived the idea for NOM-inated, I thought it would be interesting to interview both Plante and Kushnir, and set up their views in opposition to one another. Repeated calls to Kushnir went unanswered. The best she would do for me was set me up with some Rhode Island College students, both excellent interviewees, but it was impossible to cut their interviews into the Plante piece because they were student activists, and Plante was a full-time lobbyist for the cause. The only person who commanded equal and opposite gravitas was the head of MERI, Kathy Kushnir, and she refused to be interviewed.

Too bad to, because NOM-inated has gone national, posted on and reposted on many blogs, and has over 1700 viewings. Her voice would have been a welcome counterweight, but the film serves the purpose it set out to fill: Christopher Plante hangs himself with his own words.

In the weeks to come I will be anxious to see what becomes of MERI. The new leader, Ray Sullivan, has been given kudos for turning the organization around, but it is too late for the present legislative session. Gordon Fox, the head of the House, has put Civil Unions on the table, a compromise that satisfies no one. The GBLT community knows it establishes their relationships as "separate but equal" and Bishop Tobin has already said he opposes them as well. Chris Plante and NOM also oppose Civil Unions.

There is no secular reason to oppose same-sex marriage. The only reason to do so is because of antiquated and cruel religious views. It is bigotry, pure and simple, that motivates the opponents, despite their cries to the contrary.

MERI, GLAD, and every other group and individual committed to same-sex marriage needs to refocus their efforts, and not give up the fight. Two local groups I belong to, the Rhode Island Atheist Society and Humanists of Rhode Island are both committed to this cause as well. In the months and perhaps even years ahead, we will continue to oppose NOM, the Catholic Church, and every other person who cannot see that a country that denies rights to a few of us denies them to all of us.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Introducing: Humanists of Rhode Island

To mark today's very important National Day of Reason, I am happy to report the relaunch of Humanists of Rhode Island, a group dedicated to a godless philosophy based on reason and compassion. It is my hope that this group will grow over the next several months and years into a charter group of the American Humanist Association, and will gain enough influence to have a positive impact on Rhode Island politics.

Did you know that the Providence Archdiocese of the Catholic Church maintains a lobbyist to promote the concerns of the Catholic Church in regards to issues such as marriage equality and reproductive rights? Where are the lobbyists who are fighting for us? Is it any coincidence that gay marriage is suddenly off the table this legislative session?

Humanists need to take the lead on human issues, but to do this we also need to demonstrate our own humanity. This means getting out into the community, identifying ourselves as humanists and atheists, and doing good works.

Humanists of Rhode Island maintains a Humanists of Rhode Island Meet Up page, where all members can organize meetings and events. We also have a blog, RI Humanists, where our members can write on those issues that concern them. Finally, there is our Humanists of Rhode Island FaceBook page, which will be linked with our other sites over the next few days.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Humanists of Rhode Island

Roger Williams
Starting tomorrow there will be a new group in Rhode Island that will be working to promote Humanist causes and the doing of good work for everyone.

Humanism is a godless philosophy based on reason and compassion. Humanists believe that our morality is based on the well being of conscious creatures, and that no higher power needs to be appeased.

Here in Rhode Island, where the Catholic Church holds such sway and power that we can't pass a marriage equality bill or even remove a prayer from our schools without going to court, it's important to remember our founder Roger Williams, the man who first established a part of this world where church and state were firmly separated.

Rhode Island in many ways is the place of birth for secular humanism in the western hemisphere, yet where is that tradition today? We need to bring the greatness of the past back, even as we retool ourselves for the future. We need to let the citizens of this state know that they do not have to fear and kowtow to the decrepit institutions of the past, but that they can raise their heads and live truly free.

Free of dogma, free of prejudice, and free of the shackles of religion.

You can be good without God.

Let's prove it.