Monday, July 18, 2011

Habitat for Humanity

On Saturday Sarah and I showed up at 20 Newcomb St to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. There were students volunteering from Brown University and the Wheeler School, as well as people from the community. I worked side by side with another Steve, a hand surgeon, as we cut boards with a rotary saw. Safety first means that we never risked our fingers, right? We worked on building the fourth exterior wall of the second floor, and lifted it into place. There was a real feeling of accomplishment by the end of the day, as well as exhaustion.

The day started with the site manager, Andre, saying something to the effect of "It's been said that every Habitat build starts with a prayer. That said, I'd like to have a moment of silence, to reflect on why we're doing this."

I don't know if that was for the benefit of us Humanists or not, but it was very appreciated.

We're setting up a second Humanists of Rhode Island Habitat volunteer effort for August 20, which will once more be at 20 Newcomb St, from 8:30 AM and 2 PM-ish. Interested parties should get in touch either here, or through the Meet Up and Facebook pages.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rhode Island’s Future - DARE- Solidarity with Prisoners on Hunger Strike!

Rhode Island’s Future - DARE- Solidarity with Prisoners on Hunger Strike!

The July 13th Meeting

It was an excellent meeting, with many new people showing up. We welcomed Tangie, David, Dave, Mark, Jess and Julia, as well as our regulars Steve (me), Sarah, Dan, Derek and Beth. Also, a big shout out who all who couldn't make it this time, Walter, Cindy and Jim, plus all those who haven't made it to a meeting yet, especially Mary Jane and the other Sarah.

We've changed our meeting nights to Monday, at the request of almost all members of the group, and I've chosen August 22 for our next meeting. We'll meet at the same Panera Bread (5 New London Ave in Cranston) but we might be reaching capacity there, so this might be our last time in that space. I'm pretty sure I can secure us a free room at the First Unitarian Church, but we can discuss this at the next meeting.

Here's the meeting agenda we followed:

Introductions, nametags, collect canned goods, collect emails, handout contact information, distribute AHA goodies.

1. News: We are affiliated with the AHA
2. Upcoming events
            a.  Habitat for Humanity - This will be a repeatable event
                  20 Newcomb St, Providence
            b. CPR Certification
                  105 Gano St. Providence
            c. The 2012 Reason Rally National Mall, DC Saturday, Mar 24.
3. Other events of interest? Ideas for further events?
            a. FFRF Hartford CT Oct 7-9, 2011
            b. Participation in future PRIDE events and parades?
            c. Cook-out/picnic
            d. State House protest in favor of Marriage Equality and against Civil Unions
4. Working with "established service organizations"
            a. Habitat for Humanity
            b. Red Cross RI
            c. Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America
            d. Ocean State Action
            e. Move
            f. MERI
            g. ACLU
            h. Planned Parenthood
            i. Jobs with Justice
5. Foundation Beyond Belief, Volunteering Beyond Belief
6. My trip to the CFI Leadership Conference
7. Discuss formalizing the group with By-Laws, possible 501 (3)c status, and a treasurer. I think we should get people interested in this idea working on it.

Notes on the meeting:

Unfortunately, the CPR training looks like a no go, because the $90 fee is pretty steep. I haven't abandoned this idea though. I'm looking into getting myself trained as a CPR instructor, and at that point I will be able to give my own, virtually free classes to all members of the group.
Tangie suggested we help a local woman's shelter around the holidays by giving gift baskets not to the children, but to the women. The group really latched onto this idea, and this is something we want to make our own in a big way. So Tangie will pull together the details, and we'll focus our holiday efforts on this.

Beth and Derek are looking into scheduling a meet and greet picnic (probably at Lincoln Woods) on a weekend in September. This will be open to everyone in our group, as well a anyone else interested in learning about our group. This will be both a social event and a public outreach. We hope to do something like this four times a year, seasonally.

The Reason Rally is going to be held on March 24th of next year, and there was some interest in arranging a Humanists of RI delegation to attend. Dan and I are going, and we'd like as many from our group as possible to join us. (Derek? Julia? Beth? Mark? Dave?)

Also, the FFRF (Freedom from Religion Foundation) is having an event in Hartford CT on Oct 7-9, which I'm hoping to attend. Maybe we could get a Humanist of RI contingent there as well? Also, there's no reason we can't affiliate with the FFRF as well, if we decide to.

If anyone has anything to add to this, anything I forgot to mention, feel free to FaceBook, MeetUp, eMail or blog it. This is an open forum. If you can't get in, email me at [email protected] and I'll get you in.

Also, by request, here's the link to Free Thought RI, the atheist radio show done right here in RI.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Big Meeting Wednesday Night! Be There!

Lots of stuff to talk about Wednesday night at our third and biggest meeting. Our group is really taking off, and I want as many people as possible to show up. Remember to bring a non-perishable canned good for donation to Project Outreach.

We'll be talking about upcoming projects, and figure out what directions we want to take our group in. Honestly, we could plan enough stuff to take care of ten Humanist groups.

Rhode Island’s Future - Voter Fraud: Where's the Science?

Rhode Island’s Future - Voter Fraud: Where's the Science?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Project Outreach at Washington Park

I first became aware of Pastor Duane Clinker of the Open Table of Christ church on 1520 Broad St in Providence RI due to a YouTube video in which the Pastor patiently testified before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of marriage equality. In the video, Pastor Clinker presents his view that being a follower of Christ, and a believer in the Bible does not mean that one has to see homosexuality as sinful. He patiently lectures those in attendance about his interpretation of those passages in the Bible that seem to condemn homosexuality. This, I thought, is an interesting dude.

I don't believe that dueling interpretations of the meaning of ancient texts really leads us anywhere. The very fact that two people can read the same sentences in the Bible and come away with two opposing views shows me quite clearly that we cannot use the Bible to help us make moral judgements. But though I can't agree with Pastor Clinker theologically, we definitely have common cause when it comes to issues of Social Justice.

Intrigued by the Pastor's video, I contacted him to conduct my own, more in depth interview for a series I occasionally work on entitled Philosophy on the Ground. My meeting with the Pastor before, during and after the interview was very enlightening. This was a man committed to Social Justice and Service.

The Open Table of Christ Church that Pastor Clinker leads is intimately connected with Project Outreach at Washington Park. From Project Outreach's website:
Project Outreach continues to be the major provider of food, clothing, services, and other programs to the Washington Park community (02905 area code) of Providence and Cranston. We serve some 400 families and individuals each week, providing not only physical support but also much needed emotional support and guidance.
In a previous post entitled Saving the World I talked about a talk given by philosopher James croft in which he made several suggestions for improving the Service component of Humanist groups. Second on James list is "Connect with established service organizations." The trick here is to find organizations that already do good work but are in need of volunteers or donations, and help them.

Project Outreach is that kind of organization.

It's important that we present ourselves as committed Humanists when we work with these organizations. We don't want our philosophy to become confused with liberal Christianity. But as long as the groups we work with share common goals and are respectful and accommodating to our philosophy, we should not hesitate to work with them.

Project Outreach needs food and clothing donations. At the next meeting of Humanists of Rhode Island, which is July 13, 2011 at the Panera Bread in Cranston, I hope that everyone can bring along some non-perishable canned good for this worthy cause.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Civil Union Bill, The Corvese Amendment, and Why Humanists of Rhode Island Opposes this Bill

Here is the full text of the poisonous Corvese Amendment, which made it into the final version of the Civil Unions Bill H 6103, signed into law by Governor Chafee. The Corvese Amendment is named for North Providence Representative Arthur J Corvese (234 Lexington Avenue North Providence, RI 02904  (401) 353-8695).

This amendment not only undermines the bill completely, it goes against the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and against the ideals of the founder of our state, Roger Williams.
15-3.1-5. Conscience and religious organizations protected.

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no religious or denominational organization, no organization operated for charitable or educational purpose which is supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, and no individual employed by any of the foregoing organizations, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required:

(1) To provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for a
purpose related to the solemnization, certification, or celebration of any civil union; or

(2) To solemnize or certify any civil union; or

(3) To treat as valid any civil union;

if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

(b) No organization or individual as described in subsection (a) above who fails or
refuses to provide, solemnize, certify, or treat as valid, as described in subdivision (a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) above, persons in a civil union, shall be subject to a fine, penalty, or other cause of action for such failure or refusal.
As you can see, if the idea of a civil union violates your sincerely held religious beliefs, you don't have to treat civil unions as valid. This is clearly favoring religion, a violation of the establishment Clause.
Humanists of Rhode Island oppose this bill, and are calling for the State of Rhode Island General Assembly to quickly rectify this grievous error in its next legislative session. Meanwhile, we will support any and all legal challenges to this terrible, anti-American, and anti-human legislation.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chafee signs civil-unions legislation into law - Projo 7 to 7 News Blog | Rhode Island news | The Providence Journal

Chafee signs civil-unions legislation into law

Here's the email I wrote to Chafee, at [email protected]:
I have never been more disappointed in a public official, and lived in Providence when Cianci went to jail. But I knew he was a crook and never voted for him. You, on the other hand, I voted for.

You signed a bill that actually makes life worse for our LGBT community, and you did it quickly, on a weekend when you hoped people would be too busy to notice and unable to raise the proper amount of ire to oppose you.

You signed a bill that you admit in your signing statement goes against the First Amendment, and the valuable principle of separation of church and state that our state's founder, Roger Williams, pioneered. You signed thousands of people into second class citizenship. You made married couples from outside of our state have to apply to our government to have their marriage downgraded to a civil union when they move here.

The bill is a disgrace, you knew that and you signed it. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Make this right, governor.
I urge everyone to write the Governor and let him know how you feel about this.

Rhode Island’s Future - Chafee signs Civil Unions into law...on the Saturday of July 4 weekend.

I am outraged. I commented after the story.

Rhode Island’s Future - Chafee signs Civil Unions into law...on the Saturday of July 4 weekend.