Thanks to the generosity of our 32,000 members and supporters, 2015 was another successful year for the American Humanist Association and our work to protect our secular government, defend nontheist rights, and promote the positive lifestance of humanism. Let’s look back at many of the AHA’s accomplishments throughout the year.
Litigation for Church-State Separation and Nontheist Rights
In 2015 the American Humanist Association’s legal arm, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, produced an incredible winning record, with numerous litigation victories and out-of-court settlements in church-state cases from coast to coast. The AHLC sent seventy-six complaint letters to school districts and local governments all over the country on constitutional matters, obtaining favorable outcomes in sixty-three of them (and filing lawsuits against several of the others). Currently, the legal center has twelve lawsuits pending in various courts across the country, litigating issues relating to religion in schools, the rights of humanists, legislative prayer, and various other constitutional issues.
Earlier this year, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center hired a third staff attorney, Katherine Paige, who joins legal director David Niose and senior counsel Monica Miller. The AHLC team works with over 150 cooperating attorneys across the country when violations occur.
We’re particularly proud of the continued success of the Boycott the Pledge campaign—the legal center receives emails almost daily from students of all ages across the country who are participating in the campaign, raising positive awareness of people who disagree with the words “under God.” Recently, a student named Sara wrote, “I appreciate all you have done for [my friend and me] with your letter. We have been atheists for the longest time and have always questioned the morality and legality of forcing students to stand for the Pledge, but until now have not taken any type of stand about it for fear of repercussion. Thanks to you, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief for the first time in days.”
Legislative Advocacy and Lobbying Congress
With a full-time lobbyist on staff, the AHA lobbies throughout the year on a variety of issues, including voting rights, reproductive access, comprehensive sex education, abortion rights, humanist chaplains in the military, climate change, and other bills that impact the humanist community.
In February, the American Humanist Association was pleased to work with Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) to reintroduce a resolution in the House of Representatives to recognize February 12 as Darwin Day and promote the importance of evolution in public school science classrooms. In May, the AHA worked with Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) to introduce for the first time a resolution in the House recognizing the first Thursday of May as National Day of Reason, a nonreligious alternative to the National Day of Prayer.
After the brutal murders of four atheist bloggers and advocates in Bangladesh earlier this year, the AHA held a congressional briefing in both the House and Senate to raise awareness of the discrimination nonbelievers face abroad in countries with strict blasphemy laws.
And last week, the AHA also held its first congressional reception honoring members of Congress who have worked with the AHA to achieve our shared goals of promoting science and religious freedom. Honored at the event were Rep. Himes for introducing the Darwin Day resolution and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) who introduced a bill calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws. Rep. Pitts stated, “People of every faith and people of no faith at all can and should come together to protect human rights. I am grateful for the support of the American Humanist Association for my resolution calling for the repeal of anti-blasphemy laws.”
Chapters, Affiliates, and Humanist Celebrants
The American Humanist Association boasts a large network of local humanist groups, with 108 chapters and 79 affiliates across the country dedicated to promoting humanism and encouraging community engagement. From serving as mentors for after-school programs to celebrating humanist events like Darwin Day, chapter leaders and volunteers make a difference in showing how humanists are good without a god. As a service to chapters and affiliates. the AHA released two new resources for local groups: A Manual for Effective Tabling and A Guide for Parades. In addition, the AHA has tabled at many regional conferences such as Imagine No Religion 5, TAM (The Amazing Meeting), DragonCon, Apostacon, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and more to increase humanism’s awareness in the secular and religious communities.
The Humanist Society, which certifies Humanist Celebrants, released a new website at www.thehumanistsociety.org and logo this year. Today the Humanist Society has 336 endorsed humanist celebrants, chaplains, and lay leaders ready to perform humanist weddings, funerals, baby namings, and other life ceremonies. The Humanist Institute, the educational affiliate of the AHA, offered three in-person celebrant trainings for both experienced and newly endorsed Humanist Celebrants.
TheHumanist.com and the Humanist Magazine
Now with over 54,000 email subscribers, TheHumanist.com launched in February 2014 to bring breaking news and humanist commentary to our members. This year TheHumanist.com received nearly 2 million page views from over 1 million visitors, 69 percent of which came from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The Humanist remains the flagship magazine of the American Humanist Association, and in 2015 covered many of the most relevant topics of the year, including the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement to the humanist community and perspectives on religion, violence, and free speech after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris. The magazine also featured many of this year’s humanist awardees and speakers, including Kelly Carlin, Lawrence Krauss, The Onion, and others.
Media Coverage and Social Media
As a result of our growing activity, the American Humanist Association and its work was mentioned in major media outlets such as ABC News, Fox News, CBS News, CNN, MSN, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, TIME, Forbes, USA Today, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Huffington Post, Yahoo! News, and hundreds of other national and local media. Earned media is an effective way to reach millions of Americans to raise awareness of humanism and the AHA’s work to protect the separation of church and state.
The American Humanist Association is also active on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+. This year the AHA surpassed 500,000 followers on Facebook, with a weekly reach of two to four million.
Plans for 2016
We have ambitious plans for the growth of humanism in 2016. The American Humanist Association will continue to increase its legal activity, lobbying advocacy, and grassroots activism effectively and with greater impact, but the organization will also take a bigger leadership role in boosting the support of humanists in the LGBTQ, feminist, and racial equality movements.
We’re also excited about the AHA’s 75th Anniversary Conference, to be held May 26-29, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. The event is expected to sell out, and early-bird registration is only available until December 31, so visit conference.americanhumanist.org to sign up to attend what will be a major and memorable event.
Whether it’s reporting church-state violations in local communities to the legal center, sharing one of our positive humanist memes on Facebook with friends, or donating generously, AHA members are helping to open the hearts and minds of millions of Americans toward awareness and respect for humanist values. Thank you to our members and readers of TheHumanist.com for helping to make 2015 a success!