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Blog: Humanist Voices

inauguration day imageOne of the reasons I joined Humanists of Minnesota was that the organization's core values (e.g. the promotion of science and reason, separation of church and state, racial and gender inclusion, etc.) converged with my own personal values. I suspect that other members feel the same way or they wouldn't have joined. However, since joining the organization I have been unsure and ambivalent as to whether or not to express my political views, which may be different from those of other members. But after the recent presidential election, I am compelled to speak out.

Surely in an organization of our size there will be members from across the political spectrum: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, and Greens. People have their own political views and I respect that. The organization, ideally, should not be in the business of promoting political parties or any specific candidate.    However, I have grave concerns regarding the incoming administration coming to power on January 20th. In my opinion, these concerns are more than just the typical ones that have divided Democrats and Republicans over the years, e.g. the size and scope of government, tax reform, etc.  Anyone following the current political situation would have to conclude that science, reason, separation of church and state, and democracy itself may be at risk during the next four years. These issues go to the heart of why we are humanists, not whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. 

Consider separation of church and state. Trump's choice for Education Secretary is Betsy DeVos, the billionaire heiress who was raised in the strict Christian Reformed Church. DeVos and her family have given huge sums of money to the Religious Right, including the Family Research Council which opposes and lobbies against abortion, LGBT rights, and stem-cell research. Paradoxically, she and her children never attended public schools. A strong proponent of school vouchers, her goal is to steer students to private schools, especially private religious schools, with taxpayer money. She is also a proponent of adding the teaching of Intelligent Design to school curricula.   

Consider science and environmental issues. The person chosen to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is not only a climate change skeptic but a fierce foe of the agency he has been chosen to lead. Having this "public servant" protecting our air and water is like the fox guarding the chicken coop. President-elect Trump's new chief of staff (Reince Priebus) recently stated that Trump believes that climate change is "a bunch of bunk." Moreover, there has been a significant amount of speculation that the new administration will take the United States out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. As the U.S. is a leading source of carbon emissions this would be a troubling development for the Earth's climate. Other major countries could also follow suit as a result and abandon the agreement so they would not be at an industrial and commercial disadvantage to the U.S. This would be disastrous for the climate and the millions of people who live in fragile environments, such as the Earth's coastlines.   

Consider immigration and civil rights. Trump's choice for chief strategist in the White House is Steve Bannon, the former editor of the "alt-right" publication Breitbart News. This online site is infamous for its white nationalist and anti-Semitic views. During the campaign, Trump liberally used racially divisive language to fire-up his audiences, e.g. referring to Mexicans as "rapists." His choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, was once rejected for a federal judgeship for his inflammatory views and statements. Sessions, of course, will be entrusted with enforcing the nation's immigration and voting rights laws. Laws which he has opposed in the past.   

This is really the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I don't have space for details of other concerns I have regarding, for example, the inevitable rollback of worker safety regulations, weaker gun laws, attacks on First Amendment rights, etc. The question for us, as humanists, is how do we respond to these events?   

In my view it is critical that humanists mobilize to preserve our values when they come under attack by those who wish to lead us backwards. The values that make us humanists- separation of church and state, democracy, science, racial and gender inclusion, and the protection of the environment- require vigilance and effort on our part. This could include sponsoring educational programs, fundraising, political organizing, and civil disobedience when necessary. If our goal is to create a better world where humanist values are advanced and respected, it can only happen through organized action. It is not enough for concerned citizens to wring their hands and hope for divine intervention.

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