December 2015

Volume 14, Issue 12

Table of Contents

December 2015 Meeting

  • What:  FCFS 12th ANNUAL HUMAN LIGHT CELEBRATION (No lecture this month.)
  • Who:  Board, Members, and Guests.  We'll install the 2016 officers and celebrate the season.
  • When:  Monday, December 21, 2015, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:00 p.m.)
  • Where:  BELLA VITA ITALIAN RESTAURANT, 3825 Baymeadows Road, Jacksonville, FL 32217, private dining room.  See http://www.bellavitajax.com/ for location and directions.
  • RSVP:  To Carrie Renwick at carrieren@att.net or call 904-268-8826, NO LATER THAN Friday, December 18, if you plan to attend!
  • Guests:  Your guests are welcome.  Just be sure Carrie has the head count of your party by Friday, December 18.
Meetings Free and Open to the Public ● Plenty of Free Parking
 

Meeting Description

Join us for our twelfth Annual Human Light Celebration in which we install the new officers, celebrate past successes, and look to future goals. We'll enjoy a brief social hour starting at 6:30 p.m. and dine at 7 p.m., ordering from a party menu planned especially for us.

Important

In order for the restaurant to schedule enough staff and supplies to accommodate us in a timely fashion, you must RSVP to Carrie if you plan to attend! The DEADLINE to RSVP is Friday, December 18. Please RSVP to Carrie, at carrieren@att.net or call 904-268-8826!  Otherwise, the restaurant cannot provide appropriate service.
 

History

The “Human Light Celebration” was conceived as an alternative seasonal celebration which nonreligious persons could enjoy. It allows humanists and nonreligious persons of all varieties to celebrate the holiday season and express their good wishes to others in a spirit of hope, love, and understanding, unencumbered by religious dogma.

Human Light is designed to celebrate and express the positive secular human values of reason, compassion, humanity, and hope. Human Light illuminates a positive, secular vision of a happy, just, and peaceful future for our world, a future which humanity can build by working together, drawing on the best of our capacities. For more information, see the Human Light website at www.humanlight.org.

Call to Action:  Abolish Corporate Personhood and Money as Free Speech

Mark Renwick

"Corporations are people, my friend... !" Thus proclaimed Mitt Romney in 2011 during his campaign for the White House. Where did he get such a goofy idea, and why should freethinkers care?


History

In the United States, the notion of corporate personhood has a long history extending back to revolutionary times.  Corporate personhood got a big boost in 1886, when the Supreme Court’s distorted interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution paved the way for corporations to be granted more and more constitutional protections.

The 14th Amendment was passed in connection with the abolition of slavery. The Equal Protection Clause, therein, declared that no state shall "... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." In the context of abolition, the amendment’s intention was clear: Human beings were intended to be the beneficiaries of equal protection.  

However, in jurisprudence a "person" may be a natural person (a real human being) or an artificial person (a business entity, organization, or government).  Accordingly, in the 1886 case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, applying a broad definition of “person” to the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are entitled to the same constitutional protections as flesh-and-blood humans.  In his book, Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became "People" – and How You Can Fight Back, progressive talk show host, Thom Hartmann, summarized the situation this way: "While corporations can live forever, exist in several different places at the same time, change their identities at will, and even chop off parts of themselves or sprout new parts, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to its reports, had said that they are "persons" under the Constitution, with constitutional rights and protections as accorded human beings. Once given this key, corporations began to assert the powers that came with their newfound rights.”

Later, in 2009, the Court strengthened the notion of corporate personhood with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. As a result of Citizens United, the spending of money became a form of free speech protected by the 1st Amendment. Corporations and other artificial persons became empowered to pour unlimited funds into election campaigns.
The Move to Amend coalition (http://movetoamend.org)  was formed in 2010 as a response to the Supreme Court’s outrageous collusion with big business. The coalition advocates a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and money as speech. Toward this end, the "We the People Amendment" was introduced by Congressman Rick Nolan of Duluth, Minnesota, in February 2013, as House Joint Resolution 29, and reintroduced, in April 2015, as HJR 48. See http://movetoamend.org/amendment.
 

Progress Report

  • Currently, there are more than 12 co-signers to the “We the People Amendment” in Congress.
  • Move to Amend's petition as received nearly 400,000 signatures. See http://movetoamend.nationbuilder.com/petition.
  • Over 100 local affiliates around the country are working to educate and mobilize their communities.
  • Over 600 local resolutions supporting Move to Amend have been passed by cities and counties.
  • Sixteen states have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment.
Why should freethinkers, as advocates of science and reason, care about Move to Amend? The answer is that huge corporations tied to fossil fuel industries can buy politicians and elections with unlimited spending and without public accountability.  They deny the science of climate change to suit their own financial interests.

We must put an end to this and restore democracy for living, breathing, human beings.
Jacksonville can be the next community to form a Move to Amend affiliate. 
 

Learn More

Learn more about Move to Amend by attending this "call to action" meeting:
  • WHAT:  Move to Amend Outreach Director David Cobb will discuss the growing coalition aimed at eliminating corporate personhood and money as speech.
  • WHEN:  Monday, January 11, 2016, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • WHERE:  Herbert University Center at the University of North Florida, 12000 Alumni Drive, Jax, FL  32224.  The University Center is the building closest to the Kernan Blvd. entrance to UNF.  For directions:  http://www.unf.edu/universitycenter/Map_and_Directions.aspx

I look forward to seeing you there!

Olive Garden - December 15

  • WhereOLIVE GARDEN on Philips Highway, across from the Avenues Mall. Ask for us at the desk. The hostesses will show you to our room.
  • When: Tuesday, DECEMBER 15, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. Social hour at 6:00. Dinner at 7:00. We order from the menu.
  • RSVP: E-mail CarrieRen@att.net (or call 904-268-8826) by Tuesday morning, if you plan to attend. You do not need to be a member to attend!

    NOTE: Olive Garden is one week EARLY this month, the THIRD TUESDAY, so it will not immediately follow our December 21 Human Light Celebration.

Nativity Scenes, Festivus Poles, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, and Other Strange Things at Our State Capitol Rotunda

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro

It’s that time of year again and the signs that the Christmas season is upon us are accumulating like an early evening snow on a Vermont meadow!  The signs seem to be coming earlier and earlier each year and it seems as though the first Christmas television commercial aired sometime around…..was it Labor Day?
 
One of those signs of approaching Christmas is the accumulation of applications for holiday displays inside our State Capitol building in Tallahassee.  Last year, the Florida Prayer Network and the International House of Prayer Tallahassee erected a Nativity scene and artwork depicting a Nativity.  American Atheists and the Freedom from Religion Foundation placed banners as well.  The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster included, for a second year, a display depicting its deity—a googly-eyed blob of noodles grasping two meatballs, a paper mache dinosaur, a small book, and a sign reading "Thus said the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. Jeremiah 10:2." However, the Satanic Temple's diorama depicting an angel falling into a pit of fire and placards featuring two Bible verses was denied last year, when it was deemed "grossly offensive."
 
“Grossly offensive” to whom? To believers? Are not scriptural references to non-believers’ consignment to an eternal afterlife of “hell, fire and brimstone” also offensive? If I don’t believe as you do, is your belief, or non-belief, offensive to me?  “Offense,” like “beauty,” is certainly in the eyes of the beholder. 
 
Last year a woman entered our Florida State Capitol Building and tore down a 6-foot pole of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans representing the fictitious holiday of Festivus. The Festivus pole is inspired by a 1997 episode of the TV show, "Seinfeld," in which character Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) celebrated "Festivus" in response to the commercialism and stress associated with the holiday season.
 
It finally took the intervention of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) to gain a place for the Festivus pole, according to Tallahassee.com. The Satanic Temple sought the help of legal counsel at the educational, non-partisan AUSCS (www.au.org Jacksonville/Northeast Florida has a very active AU Chapter) in getting their display into the Capitol. The Washington D.C.-based group threatened a lawsuit against the State on the Temple's behalf. "Free speech is for everyone and all groups," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of AUSCS, in a statement. "State officials simply can't get into the business of deciding that some unpopular messages are 'offensive' and must be banned."

Festivus pole at the Capitol rotunda in Tallahassee. 
And, yes, Virginia, the pole was made with empty cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

AUSCS Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory Lipper said that although the State has allowed the Satanic Temple access to the rotunda this year, the policy against "offensive" displays still poses additional problems. "Although we are pleased that the State has finally agreed to allow the Satanic Temple's display, our clients should not have been forced to find legal counsel and plan a lawsuit just to get access to an open forum," Lipper said, "The state can't give itself the authority to decide whether certain religious messages are 'offensive'—it needs to allow everyone's speech or no one's speech."
 
Optimists feel that this is just one step along a familiar path. At some point, after making an issue of the State of Florida’s policy on holiday displays in our Capitol Building, it is hoped that government decision makers will decide that “it just isn’t worth the hassle” of working this all out!  It is hoped that the next step after that decision is to ban all such displays, and truly separate church and state, government and religion. We can all help this process by registering our feelings with our state representatives in Tallahassee. (It’s always a good idea to know who they are and have them on speed dial!  After all, they work for us, not vice-versa!)
 
Then there will have been achieved a state of “Peace on Earth, Goodwill

Membership Dues are Due in January!

Judy Hankins, Membership Chair

All First Coast Freethought Society membership dues for 2016 are due in January, as our membership year extends from January to December. Membership dues are the lifeblood of the FCFS, as they cover day-to-day operating expenses and enable us to exist. Also, higher membership numbers give the FCFS more gravitas and credibility when we speak out, especially in the media, and certainly at sponsored events such as Science Under Siege, in 2006, and Freedom of Speech, in 2015.

If you have never been a member and believe in what we do, or have been a member in the distant past, we encourage you to join. If you have been a member within the last few years, we encourage you to renew. You will receive a snail mail reminder for your convenience. Remember also, multiple levels of membership are available, should you choose. The First Coast Freethought Society is only as strong as its membership. Our presence is needed in the community and to continue that, we need you!

To Join or Renew

All membership dues and donations are tax-deductible, and you will receive a letter from the treasurer to that effect for IRS purposes.

FCFS 2016 Planning Meeting

Carrie Renwick

Attention members:  Mark your calendar and plan to attend the FCFS Annual Planning Meeting!

  • What:  FCFS Annual Planning Meeting
  • When:  Sunday, January 10, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
  • Where:  At the home of Mark and Carrie Renwick, in Mandarin.
  • RSVP:  Please RSVP to Carrie Renwick, carrieren@att.net, or call 904-268-8826, if you plan to attend, or if you need directions..

Every January, members are invited to a meeting in which they can give feedback directly to the Board.  Here is your opportunity to give the Board your ideas on monthly meeting programs you’d like to see, fundraising ideas and strategies, and ideas for special projects. Any other thoughts you may have would be welcome. Do you like the direction in which the First Coast Freethought Society is going? Would you like to see us do anything we are not?  Come and share your thoughts! If you have ideas to offer and cannot attend the meeting, please send them to carrieren@att.net. If you ARE able to addend the planning meeting, please RSVP to Carrie for address and directions, at carrieren@att.net or call 904-268-8826, and to let her know you are coming.  Thanks!

You need to be a member of the FCFS Humanist Book Discussion - Jacksonville MEETUP GROUP in order to RSVP to attend book discussions, to be kept apprised of meeting locations and details, and to suggest books for discussion. We look forward to your participation! To join the Meetup:

http://www.meetup.com/FCFS_book_group/ 

Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville

  • When:  The first Sunday of each month. For time, visit Meetup group.
  • Where:  Different locations in Jacksonville. To learn where, visit Meetup group.
  • What:  Books planned for discussion:
    • January 3, 2016 - Hollowed Out: Why the Economy Doesn't Work without a Strong Middle Class, by David Madland
    • February 7, 2016 - Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue, by Sam Harris
To join the FCFS Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville MEETUP group, click here:  http://www.meetup.com/FCFS_book_group/

For the past several decades, politicians and economists thought that high levels of inequality were good for the economy. But because America's middle class is now so weak, the US economy suffers from the kinds of problems that plague less-developed countries. As Hollowed Out explains, to have strong, sustainable growth, the economy needs to work for everyone and expand from the middle out. This new thinking has the potential to supplant trickle-down economics—the theory that was so wrong about inequality and our economy—and shape economic policymaking for generations.
(From the product description at California University of California Press.)

Link to Book Review: https://www.nytimes.com/books/01/06/10/reviews/010610.10stroust.html

For More Info:  Go to http://www.meetup.com/FCFS_book_group/members/ or contact Fred W. Hill at frednotfaith2@aol.com, or call 904-880-3887.

Humanist Book Discussion Group - St. Augustine

  • When:  7:00 - 8:30 p.m., the second Thursday of each month.
  • Where:  Clubhouse at a private condominium in St. Augustine (Anastasia Island).
  • What:  Books planned for discussion:
    • January 14, 2016 - Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan
    • February 11, 2016 - The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, by Jeff Sharlet
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark is a 1995 book by astrophysicist Carl Sagan. In the book, Sagan aims to explain the scientific method to laypeople and to encourage people to learn critical and skeptical thinking. He explains methods to help distinguish between ideas that are considered valid science, and ideas that can be considered pseudoscience. Sagan states that when new ideas are offered for consideration, they should be tested by means of skeptical thinking, and should stand up to rigorous questioning.

From the product summary on Wikipedia

Link to Book Review:  http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jul/20/demon-haunted-world-carl-sagan-review

More Info:  Contact Bill Stroop at bill@strooplaw.com for address, directions, and gate code.

NOTE TO ALL!  Books may be found in the library, purchased from local book stores or online. The First Coast Freethought Society will receive a small remuneration from your purchase (at no additional cost to you) if you first go to http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org and then click the link to Amazon.com for your purchase.

December President’s Message

It's About Time!

Earl Coggins

There is a lot of buzz and discussion of late going on in and around the City of Jacksonville to get the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) amended to include the LGBT folks. Inclusiveness is on the lips of a lot of Jacksonville citizens at the moment. It's way overdue. Jacksonville’s struggle over the HRO was even featured in a recent New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/us/after-a-defeat-in-houston-the-fight-for-gay-rights-shifts-to-jacksonville.html
 
There has been opposition from some religious conservatives who are trying to stop any inclusion of the LGBT folks in the HRO. They say their religion is the reason for their belief that the LGBT folks do not deserve the same rights as the rest of society. Does this sound eerily similar to the reasoning used by members of ISIS to condone some of their questionable behavior?
 
There is another area where the City of Jacksonville has been less than inclusive: invocations at City Council meetings. Under the leadership of new City Council President Greg Anderson, the Jacksonville City Council has been allowing people from various worldviews to give an invocation at City Council meetings. Freethinkers need to be included! To see a press release by Americans United about atheists giving invocations at city council meetings, visit: https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/brevard-county-board-must-not-discriminate-against-nontheists-civil-liberties.
 
The First Coast Freethought Society is gearing up to get a freethinker into the rotation to give an invocation at a Jacksonville City Council meeting. We think that if the City Council receives enough such requests, success will be more likely. We are therefore urging everyone who would like to see the prayer rotation include nonreligious persons to send the letter below, or your own version, to Jim Love of the Jacksonville City Council. You can cut and paste the below letter into Word, edit if you choose, and add your name and address at the bottom.
 
The buzz and discussion about inclusiveness is a giant wave going through the City of Jacksonville. We need to ride that wave right into the City Council chambers! Jump on the wave. Send a letter to the City Council, today.
 

Letter to City Council for Your Use

[date]

Councilman Jim Love
Office of the City Council
117 W. Duval St., Suite 425
Jacksonville, FL 32202
 
Subject: Invocation Request
 
Dear Councilman Love:
 
There are several nonreligious organizations in the City of Jacksonville, including the First Coast Freethought Society (FCFS). Founded in 1998, the FCFS is a local secular, educational, nonprofit organization with a membership of over a hundred. One of its objectives is to educate the public about the need for inclusiveness.
 
In the recent Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Court emphasized that a government’s prayer practice must be “nondiscriminatory” and it must make reasonable efforts to include invocations from all members of the community, regardless of their faith. In fact, the completely open selection process was crucial to the prayers being upheld: “The town at no point excluded or denied an opportunity to a would-be prayer giver. Its leaders maintained that a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation.” (Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway, 12-696, 2014 WL 1757828 (U.S. May 5, 2014)). Therefore, excluding a particular faith group from consideration is unconstitutional (Pelphrey v. Cobb County, 547 F.3d 1263, 1276 (11th Cir. 2008)). In light of these facts, it is clear that local government meetings should include nonreligious (i.e., humanist, atheist, and agnostic) invocations, as well as those from any religious minorities.
 
The number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing. According to a new study by the Pew Research Center (see http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/), the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated–describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular”–is 22.8%.
 
With close to one-quarter of the U.S. population identifying themselves as religiously unaffiliated, the Jacksonville City Council has an opportunity to celebrate diversity with its actions and to include this nonreligious segment of the population. You will be providing your nonreligious constituents a voice and an equal opportunity to be included in the ceremonial portion of your meetings on a regular basis.

I respectfully request that you give nonreligious persons the opportunity to offer invocations at Jacksonville City Council meetings.

Sincerely yours,
 

[your name]  
[street address]  
[city, state, zip]  
 

About our newsletter, the First Coast FreeThinker

Information for Readers

The First Coast FreeThinker is published for all freethinkers and potential freethinkers.  Nonmembers and members may receive the e-mail version indefinitely.  Nonmembers may receive three hard-copy issues free, after which they must join the FCFS to continue to receive hard copy.  Members are entitled to receive hard-copy should they prefer.  The e-mail version is encouraged, as the newsletter is optimized for on-screen reading.

Readers are invited and encouraged to share our original materials provided they give credit to this publication.  The officials of the FCFS are not responsible for opinions or other statements expressed in this newsletter.  The FreeThinker is intended to convey ideas that stimulate thought and promote discussion on a variety of subjects.
 

Information for Contributors

We welcome submissions.  Articles, poetry, etc. should be e-mailed to Editor@firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org.   Material must be submitted ELECTRONICALLY.   Submissions may be formatted in MS Word, in a text file, or cut and pasted into an e-mail.

The deadline for time-sensitive material is the THIRD SATURDAY of each month for the following month’s issue, but submissions are welcome anytime.

We prefer articles no longer than 1,000 words.  Longer articles will be evaluated in terms of whether their importance and degree of interest to our readers warrant publication. 

Subject matter must tie in with freethought or with the Affirmations of Humanism:  A Statement of Principles (found on our website).  All accepted submissions are subject to editorial modification.  Our style guide is The Chicago Manual of Style.  Authors (not the First Coast Freethought Society) are responsible for the accuracy of all quotations and for supplying complete references where applicable.

Now, our Correspondent in Thailand...

Educating About the Truth

Steven Lance Stoll

(Sociologist Lance Stoll, long-time member and friend of the First Coast Freethought Society, is currently living and teaching in Thailand.  He shares his views from afar. —Editor's Note)

As have many educators, I've long wondered about the way we educate young people and the information that we provide to them. Dr. Loehman, in his book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, brilliantly points out and discusses the many things in American education that children are taught that are simply untrue and at worst misinformation. As a college professor I always felt that my job in sociological education was to present the unvarnished truth supported by hard data and certainly my own interpretation, but always inviting the student to investigate the information for him or herself and come to their own conclusion and interpretation. With a great deal of challenges from the religious right in the Southern United States, I was never provided with contradicting data to my interpretation, although many tried. I was always confronted with right wing propaganda and religious baloney, no hard statistical evidence contrary to the sociological evidence. Sometimes I found myself defending positions that I found somewhat reprehensible if only to show that one has the right to believe anything they desire, even if contrary to fact and reality, as long as they don't use that point of view to injure others.
 
This point of view on education for me now is different as I deal with small children and not college students. It is truly wonderful to deal with little ones who are unblemished by the somewhat miserable reality of human society! It also provides one with a great sense of responsibility as to which aspects of reality should be brought into their lives and what they should be subjected to. Most of my experience and knowledge is with reference to the American education system. As Lies teaches, the American system is filled with lies and misinformation designed to propagandize American children in the myth of American exceptionalism and to nearly deify the founding fathers and a variety of other figures in American history. The system soft sells or ignores "mistakes" made by the nation such as the annihilation of Native Americans, the role of Columbus, slavery, various bogus and unfounded wars and the treatment of women, gays, and  minorities of all kinds. So the question in America as elsewhere is, how much of the truth do we teach children and in what degree at each level? Is it ok to tell kindergarteners about George Washington's cherry tree even though the story is untrue?  Should we tell first graders that the forefathers of America ripped innocent people from their homes in Africa and put them in chains and enslaved them and worked them until they died? Do we tell 3rd graders that Lincoln was clinically depressed or that John Kennedy used to sneak beautiful girls into the White House when Jackie was gone?

Parson Weems tells a whopper about young George Washington, telling a lie to encourage honesty, in a 1939 painting by Grant Wood.

I think that truth is always the best, but that it should be taught in ways that children can understand and process the information. Certainly we should teach all children that no one is perfect. Human beings are flawed and most of us do the best that we can. A belief in human perfection can only disappoint and cause a lack of faith in the species. So from the earliest we should educate kids in the reality of what it is to be human, to be flawed, imperfect, and to make mistakes. They should be told that even grown ups are not perfect and make mistakes, too. They should be taught the moral codes that being imperfect and making mistakes isn't the problem; but ignoring reality, denying responsibility, and being unwilling to correct one's actions is a problem! With this basis, the information that they are being taught can be processed through a filter of reality. American kids should learn about slavery, but the brutality of that practice needn't be dropped like a bomb on a kindergartener. They can learn that people behaved very badly, that they hurt one another and were not nice. They could learn as they learn other moral lessons that you wouldn't want to be treated in a similar way. As kids grow and mature, then the more unvarnished facts of history and reality can be disclosed. It can be quite a shock to confront reality when one becomes an adult. It can be disconcerting and can shake your faith in everything. It is much better to begin with truth and have that truth fully disclosed and nuanced as your capability to understand becomes more formed.  In this way, as an adult you have a good grasp of reality and the processes used to understand and explain that reality.

Condolences

Condolences to Beth Perry, co-founding member and staunch supporter of the First Coast Freethought Society, and her family, for the recent loss of her husband

Kenneth Alvin Perry

December 23, 1925 - November 16, 2015

Freethinking about Break-Ins, Terrorists, Guns, and God

Fred W. Hill

Last month I was victimized twice – burglars broke into my home, ransacked it, and stole several items, including a brand new personal computer, a laptop, a microwave oven, a stereo, a power drill, and a lawnmower, among other things.  Oh, yes, and they also did a number on my peace of mind, however thankful I should be that they didn’t take my most precious commodity – my life!  Since then I’ve taken steps to make my house more secure, albeit recognizing that nothing is entirely foolproof.  I’ve also received much advice, mostly practical, although I haven’t quite gone all out with electrified fencing, death traps, and a ravenous, impervious, three-headed dog ready to make a meal of anyone who so much as dares to enter my yard without my express permission.   Financial, legal, and reality limitations put the botch on those ideas.

Reality also does a number on resorting to prayer.  “God Isn’t Fixing This” read the headline of the December 3, 2015, edition of the New York Daily News in response to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in which 14 people were slain, presumably in the name of Allah and to stick it to enemies of the vicious Islamic State (aka ISIS), currently misruling large sections of Iraq and Syria.  The headline naturally sparked outrage among particular theists who would rather we all pray and heavily arm ourselves rather than do anything genuinely useful, like, say, try to make it more difficult for anyone to legally obtain weapons that enable them to inflict massive casualties very quickly.  Such a goal may be as Quixotic as entirely safeguarding my house, but I doubt arming every man, woman, and child in the nation is a viable alternative.  On the other hand, as reported in the Washington Post on December 5, Jerry Falwell, Jr., current president of Liberty University, where the only liberty is to believe that Falwell’s favorite bible is the inerrant word of God, urged his students to arm themselves, to be ready to take on any Islamic terrorists they might encounter.  However much Jerry Junior believes in prayer, he obviously doesn’t really believe God can be trusted to take care of the problem of religious maniacs running loose with lethal weapons and has determined that the only solution is to add more armed holy warriors to the mix.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., not falling far from his father's tree as President of Liberty University, urging his Christian soldiers to get their guns

Now, a few of my relatives and freethinking friends and acquaintances have guns, for self-protection and/or recreation, and did suggest I obtain one of my own on the possibility that someone attempts to invade my house while I’m actually in it.  Personally, I abhor violence and aside from invertebrate pests, I’ve never had a desire to kill any creature, although if Jack the Ripper or some other culprit jumped out of the shadows to endanger me or anyone else I would feel no compunction about inflicting lethal damage if that seemed the only option available on a split-second notice.  But I don’t believe carrying a gun with me wherever I go or keeping one in my house would really restore my peace of mind.  After all, I might perceive a threat where none existed and kill someone who meant no harm at all.  Or, if I’d kept a gun in my house, the burglars would very likely have found it and one of them would now possess it.  Another scenario is having the firearm in a crowded public place when someone intent on committing mass murder arrives.  It would be a nice fantasy to be so alert as to spot the killers as they pull out their weapons, be able to take steady aim and blow them away before they do any harm.  Once again, however, reality limitations kick in and any possible heroes don’t have a chance to respond until after considerable carnage has already been committed, aside from the rare instances in which the criminal is too drugged up to function well or, as in the case of one Darwin Awardee, is moronic enough to attempt to rob a gun shop full of heavily armed patrons, including several police officers.  That perp died of a nasty form of lead poisoning and blood loss before he hurt anyone, but would anyone have taken notice if he had entered the shop with a coat full of hidden explosives, enough notice to stop him before he set them off, committing suicide and killing or injuring everyone else within range of the blast?

Trying to keep things in perspective, I recognize that the odds that I’ll ever be in a situation in which a gun would be very useful are remote, although certainly still within the realm of possibility.  Even given the horrific events of the past several weeks, in which Islamic terrorists murdered or seriously injured hundreds of people in attacks in France, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, and many other countries, most recently as I write this, on December 6, 2015, in Chad where three women in explosive-laden clothing went to a crowded mall and blew themselves up, murdering 27 others and injuring 90, the odds that I’ll fall victim to such an attack myself remain slim.  Yet religious-based terrorism, and not solely by Muslims, as the murder of three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last month exemplifies, continues to be very much a part of reality that has to be contended with.

Aftermath of just one of many terrorist attacks by Islamic militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria, just one of dozens of nations to have endured such attacks

Many powerful and reputedly wise people have spent decades contemplating the problem of terrorism, thus far without lasting success, and perhaps there can be no solution as long as there are people who put ideology first and the well-being of people last and are eager to put their beliefs into violent action. Last November I also attended FREEFLO, the Annual Conference of the Florida Humanist Association, along with several other members of the Freethought Society. There were many excellent speakers there, some longtime prominent members within the national freethought/humanist movement, including Dan Barker, Co-President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation; but also several relative newcomers, including Sarah Haider, a director of Ex-Muslims of North America; David Tamayo, founder and president of Hispanic American Freethinkers; and Dr. Anthony Pinn, Director of the Institute for Humanist Studies. All working to promote a more humane society, free from religious insanity. Another pipe-dream, perhaps, but worth striving for nevertheless. 

Chances are, whatever precautions I take, I will eventually be victimized again, in some form or another, perhaps even by violence rather than by theft  Still it’s better for me to take what actions I can to reduce those chances than to be frozen by fear or resigned apathy. And better to continue to promote humanist and freethought ideals rather than to let religious extremists cow us into silence and inaction through their violence or demagoguery. Better to come out from our sanctuaries every so often, face the world as it is, and try our best to make it a saner and safer place.  And if there’s anyone to give thanks to, it’s not a deity who will always fail because He's not really there, but those people who are doing such work, and who help out others in need, not in expectation of a greater reward in heaven but simply for goodness sake.  Happy Holidays!

A gathering of friendly, freethinking humanists at the annual Florida Humanists convention, "FREEFLO 2015" in Orlando, in November

(Check out the FREEFLO Facebook site for more photos)

To Donate to the FCFS

Carrie Renwick, Fundraising Chair

The 2015 NPR Corporate Sponsorship fund drive is over and was successful thanks to you!  We will not actively seek funds until next summer's Annual NPR fund drive. However, donations are critical to the health of the FCFS, as membership dues barely cover operating expenses. If you want to see the FCFS remain strong and continue putting on events such as April's Freedom of Speech Panel Discussion, you might consider contributing before next summer's NPR fund drive. In addition to joining at a higher level of membership, here are two ways in which to contribute. Many thanks for your continued support.
 

 To Donate on a Monthly Basis

  1. Go to the FCFS website home page, http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org, click "Join, Renew, Donate" where you will find a PayPal button to make an automatic monthly donation to our NPR fund. Automatic monthly donations via PayPal require you to have a PayPal account.
  2. Set it up through your online banking system..

To Donate on a One-Time Basis

  1. Visit the website, http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org, where you will find the opportunity to contribute on our homepage.  You can pay via PayPal or with any major credit card (via PayPal).
  2. Mail a check payable to the FCFS to PO Box 550591, Jacksonville, FL 32255.
  3. Bring your contribution to a meeting or another FCFS event and give it to a board member.
Whichever method you select, you will receive a letter from the treasurer, suitable for your IRS records, acknowledging your tax-deductible contribution. Thank you!

State - Church Separation Update

A regular feature of the First Coast FreeThinker

In this feature, you will be kept apprised of the actions of the First Coast Freethought Society, the local AU chapters which include AU of Northeast Florida and the Clay County Chapter, as well as AU on the national level. If separation of state and church issues are important to you, we encourage you to first join the First Coast Freethought Society, then join AU!

Jacksonville City Council Invocation Update

You can see who has given a City Council invocation at this link: http://uniteusdonotdivideus.com/category/who-has-given-the-invocation-this-year/

Although the rotation scheme currently in place is working better than what Yarborough was doing (i.e., having someone say into the microphone at EVERY city council meeting, "in Jesus' name we pray") you can see from the list at the above link that there are still no Hindus, no humanists, no Buddhists, etc., giving the invocation. One Jew and the rest Christians have offered an invocation at the city council meetings.  Our city is much more diverse.

Efforts must continue

Please consider mailing a letter to Jim Love, the city council member in charge of assigning invocation speakers, asking him to include a nonreligious person in the line-up of invocation speakers. Here is the link to a sample letter that you can use as a template or send in over your own name:
 http://uniteusdonotdivideus.com/2015/12/04/letter-from-the-first-coast-freethought-society/
 

 Contact info

Jim Love, Council Member, 117 W. Duval Street, Suite 425, Jacksonville, FL  32202. Phone  904-630‐1390. E-mail JIMLOVE@coj.net

Please spread the word! You could also ask all your nonreligious friends to send the letter asking the city council to respect diversity.

You can read more about atheists giving invocations at city council meetings in Florida at this link: https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/brevard-county-board-must-not-discriminate-against-nontheists-civil-liberties
 

Other Action You Can Take

If you'd like to help but giving an invocation is not an option, you can:
  • Encourage other groups to request giving an invocation;
  • Continue to monitor City Council meetings to see if there is a new trend;
  • Write to President Anderson in a positive tone, praising the inclusive nature of the last invocation and urging a policy of greater inclusiveness;
  • Contact Councilman Crescimbeni, or other City Council member, to consider alternative possible courses of action, such as changing rule 1.106.

For more details on FCFS efforts with the City Council prayer issue thus far, see the FCFS July 2015 President's Message, found at http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?=60a4ff5743d8fe1ceb691b694&id=78e316bb73&e=C5edbf927f).

Florida House Bill 163: Weapons and Firearms

Susan Ert-Ker

Do you want to see people walking around with firearms in Florida?  Even Sam Harris (gun lover) said, “I have serious concerns about letting ordinary citizens walk around armed.”
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-riddle-of-the-gun
 
To write your Florida Congressman via the web:
http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx
 
To write your Florida Senator via the web:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find
 
Here is the Senate version of the open carry bill:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2016/0300/BillText/c1/PDF

The House version of the open carry bill, dated 11/20/2015:
https://www.flsenate.gov/.../Bill/2016/0163/BillText/c2/PDF
Quote from the bill: "a person licensed to carry a concealed firearm or weapon may also openly carry such firearm or weapon"

If you call 911 to report someone carrying a gun in your neighborhood AFTER this law passes, the dispatcher will explain that Florida has an open carry law that allows public handling of firearms.   That's what happened in Colorado: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/11/open-carry-mass-shooting-colorado-springs

If you are alarmed by this issue, please write your Florida representative to ask them to please stop the open carry bill.

About the First Coast Freethought Society

First Coast Freethought Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 550591
Jacksonville, FL 32255-0591
904-419-8826
http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org
 

Statement of Purpose

The First Coast Freethought Society, Inc. is an educational, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization dedicated to supporting nonreligious persons in the Northeast Florida area and promoting a nontheistic approach to everyday life.
 

Membership

If you share our world view and would like to be a part of the FCFS, we encourage you to join.  If you are new, or if you are renewing and your contact info has changed, you can pick up an application or a brochure at a meeting, or you can download and print an application on our website: http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/app and mail it in.

Meetings

The FCFS meets the THIRD Monday of each month at the Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church, 8447 Manresa Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32244. 

Directions:  From the I-295 Roosevelt exit, go north to the first traffic light, Collins Rd.  Turn right. Go 400 feet. The church driveway will be on your right.

Meeting time:  6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m.  Meetings are free and open to the public. 
 

Other Activities

  • Two monthly humanist book discussion groups, one in Jacksonville and one in St. Augustine. Current books are listed in each newsletter. For further details, visit http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/bdg.
  • A monthly social and dinner at the Olive Garden. See details in each newsletter.
  • Secular Sunday in the Park - Coffee and conversation in the fresh air on a monthly basis. We meet the fourth Sunday of each month, 10:00 a.m. to noon, at Losco Regional Park, 10851 Hood Road South, Jax, 32257. See Activities section of the FCFS home page:  http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/.
  • Dinners for Doubters (when scheduled).
  • The Dignity U Wear volunteer activity has been discontinued for the time being.  We will keep you posted.
  • Yahoo! Group for freethinkers. To subscribe, send a blank message to jaxfreethought-subscribe@yahoogroups.com).
For information on all these activities, please visit http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org, or see the calendar of events at the end of each newsletter and on the website. You need not be a member to attend these activities!
 

FCFS 2015 Board Members

President - Earl Coggins:  904-521-5039
Vice President - Carrie Renwick:  904-268-8826
Secretary - Liz DuClose:  352-260-2880
Treasurer - Stephen Peek:  904-742-5390
At-Large - Herb Gerson:  904-363-6446
At-Large - Fred Hill:  904-358-3610
At Large - John Ruskuski:  904-419-8826
 

Other Appointments

Parliamentarian - Mark Renwick:  904-616-2896
E-mail Secretary - Carrie Renwick:  904-268-8826
 

Committees and Chairs

Community Outreach - Celia Abbruzzese:  904-982-8431
Editorial - Fred Hill:  904-358-3610
Finance - Stephen Peek:  904-742-5390
Fundraising - Carrie Renwick:  904-268-8826
Membership - Judy Hankins:  904-724-8188
Publicity - Carrie Renwick:  904-268-8826
Website - Mark Renwick:  904-616-2896

All FCFS personnel may be reached via e-mail at info@firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org

January 2016 Meeting

Carrie Renwick, Program Chair

On Monday, January 18, we will welcome Adrianne McEvoy, Ph.D., to the podium. Dr. McEvoy is Associate Professor of Philosophy at  Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. Her areas of interest include Philosophy of Medicine, Philosophy of Law, and Philosophy of Mind. She will be talking about aspects of medical decision making, which I think we will find very pertinent and useful.

Bequests

You can make a lasting impact on the future of
freethought and secular humanism in this community
…if you provide for the First Coast Freethought Society in your Will.


Your bequest will ensure that the FCFS continues to be a beacon for freethinkers
on the First Coast and remains a vital Voice of Reason in Northeast Florida.

Several options are available for establishing a bequest (specific, percentage, residual,
or contingent). We can provide the appropriate wording to you and your attorney,
depending upon your wishes. Or, just talk to your attorney.  Our EIN is 20-1462737.

For further information, contact
Carrie Renwick, PO Box 550591, Jacksonville, FL 32255-0591 or
904-419-8826 ● CarrieRen@att.net ● http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org
All inquiries are held in the strictest confidence.

Northeast Florida Coalition of Reason

The FCFS is a proud member of the Florida Humanist Association.

Freethought Events on the First Coast

  • Tuesday, December 15 -- FCFS Monthly Social at Olive Garden, Jacksonville, 6:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 20 -- JAM session, 1:00 p.m., please see http://www.meetup.com/jaxatheists/ for location and more details
  • Monday, December 21 - FCFS Annual Human Light Celebration at Bella Vita Italian Restaurant; 3825 Baymeadows Road (see http://www.bellavitajax.com/ for directions), 6:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 26 - FCFS October Newsletter Deadline for Submissions
  • Sunday, December 27 - FCFS Secular Sunday in the Park, Jacksonville, 10:00 a.m.
  • Sunday, January 10 - FCFS Annual Planning Meeting, Jacksonville, 10:00 a.m.
  • Monday, January 11 - MOVE TO AMEND Call to Action at UNF, 6:30 p.m. (See article in this issue)
  • Monday, January 11 - JAM Session, 6:30 p.m. at the San Marco European Street Café (Date, time & place subject to change; please see http://www.meetup.com/jaxatheists/ for details.)
  • Monday, January 18 -- FCFS Monthly Meeting at Buckman Bridge Unitarian Church, 6:30 p.m.

Directions to Monthly Meeting at BBUUC

For the December Party, see address and link for directions above!

Our regular monthly meetings are held at the Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church (BBUUC), 8447 Manresa Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32244. The address is Manresa, but the main entrance to the church is located on Collins Rd.

  • From I-295, take the Roosevelt exit. Go north on Roosevelt Blvd. to the first traffic light which is Collins Rd. Turn right onto Collins. Go 400 feet. The main entrance to the church is located on Collins Rd., on the right.  
     
  • Going south on Roosevelt, look for Atlantic Self-Storage on the left. This is the Collins Rd. intersection. Turn left onto Collins. Go 400 feet. The main entrance to the church is on Collins Rd., on the right. (If you come to I-295, you’ve gone too far, turn around, and you will turn right onto Collins Rd.)

MAP ON FCFS WEBSITE
See accurate map at this link: http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/lib/fcfs_bbuuc_map.gif  (Please note, Google Maps, as well as other maps, may not be consistent with the actual street signs.)

Membership Application

Use this PDF form   to print the application and mail it in with your check, or join on our website.
Copyright © 2015 First Coast Freethought Society, Inc., All rights reserved.


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