Your Published Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor (LTE) are a great way to make your humanist voice heard on local and national issues. Did you get your letter-to-the-editor published in a local or major newspaper? Tell us and we’ll re-publish it!

Below are the most recent published LTEs and opinion editorials by readers or citizens responding to American Humanist Association activities:

Relocate Bladensburg cross and put it ‘in more caring hands’ (Maryland)
April 3, 2014

As one of the individual plaintiffs in the Bladensburg cross lawsuit, I’d like to make it plain that nothing in our action dishonors veteran sacrifices, despite a common statement otherwise. After all, we wholly support the purely secular war memorials on public land across the street.

But the cross is a Christian cross, not a mere “geometric shape” like a plus sign. At its dedication in 1925, it was declared “symbolic of Calvary,” the site of Christ’s sacrifice. Moreover, when illuminated at night, its character as a war memorial isn’t readily clear as it broadcasts to the casual motorist Maryland state preference for the Christian faith above all others. Ask a non-Christian.

Should it be torn down then? No. I would rather see it moved to church property. It has historic and artistic value. And I trust the faithful to do a better job preserving it than the state of Maryland. Signs of deterioration are clearly visible that haven’t been addressed.

So I anticipate that, if our lawsuit succeeds, the Bladensburg cross will not only be saved, but placed in more caring hands and in a location allowing people to read the memorial plaque without having to illegally and unsafely cross a busy traffic interchange.

Fred Edwords

Private prayer and government speech

The Baltimore Sun
March 31, 2014

The Sun correctly criticized the Carroll County Board of Commissioners for defying a federal court order by opening a recent meeting with a sectarian prayer (“A difficult balance,” March 27).

But one point was faulty: The editorial expressed concern that the commissioners’ freedom of speech was threatened by restrictions on government prayer.

Such concern is misplaced because the court made it clear that the start of a government meeting is not an open forum for free speech. Rather, the speech taking place is considered government speech – and when the government speaks it must do so in a nonsectarian way.

The commissioners must realize that the opening of a public meeting is not a place for them to freely express their particular sectarian religious views but instead a forum that must be welcoming and respectful of all citizens.

Roy Speckhardt, Washington
The writer is executive director of the American Humanist Association.

Standing up for the First Amendment

The Baltimore Sun
April 1, 2014

Carroll County commissioners miss the point, not just the intent, of the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty (“Judge bars Carroll commissioners from invoking Jesus,” March 26).

There is a direct instruction from the central figure of the Christian faith, Jesus, that applies to such situation:

“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.”

In former, more genteel times, we kept our religion private. Folks considered overtly religious expression to be unnecessary. We understood prayer to be personal, and singling out religious beliefs at any public event un-American.

Congratulations to Judge William D. Quarles Jr., plaintiff Bruce A. Hake and the American Humanist Association for their collective courage and wisdom in standing up to the trend toward relaxing First Amendment standards in American public life.

Mickey Mullany Goldberg

It’s time to come out of the atheism closet

Redlands Daily Facts
March 26, 2014

By Jane Roberts
Guest columnist

Currently, in the United States we are witnessing a time when agnostics and atheists are speaking out.

On Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012, there was a paid obituary in the Facts for Mary Russo McCormick. She had written it herself, confessed to being an atheist, and said she had enjoyed her interesting life “which is all anybody can hope for.”

I wrote to the Facts stating that I had found this obituary full of humor, and that it had made me giggle with delight.

Perhaps I came out as an atheist in that letter.

Believers believe that God created mankind. Atheists think that mankind created gods/God to explain the unexplainable.

To me atheism is the only philosophical position that makes sense. Reason and observation tell me so.

Human suffering that is a part of life, often caused by our own species (genocide, gendercide, rape, murder, torture), is much too pervasive to be part of any loving creator’s plan. There is no way to rationalize suffering although theologians have made heroic but ultimately failed efforts to do so.

We know much more now than people knew at the time of the founding of the world’s monotheistic religions. If any church, synagogue or mosque tells you something is true because it’s in the Bible or the Koran, it might be true or it might not.

The story of Adam and Eve is a myth. There is overwhelming evidence that human life did not come into being in a single event 6- to 10,000 years ago.

We know how evolution works and that over 4 billion years here on Earth, we humans have evolved from older life forms.

When our daughter had a science class at what was then Cope Junior High in 1989, the teacher skipped the chapter on human evolution no doubt to avoid controversy.

This still happens frequently today to the detriment of our young people and to scientific literacy, which is in an abominable state in our country. We should not sacrifice the teaching of science on the altar of some people’s religious sensibilities.

But today, atheists are coming out.

This is an historical “second coming.”

Robert Green Ingersoll was a great orator of agnosticism in the late 19th century. He often drew large enthusiastic crowds while defining faith as a mixture of insanity and ignorance. Ingersoll made people laugh too. “With soap, baptism (by immersion) is a good thing.”

Mark Twain also had some anti-faith zingers and several of the prominent women’s rights and women’s suffrage advocates were skeptics.

What some religions call sin is just biology and/or brain chemistry.

Homosexuality would be in that category. Human sexuality has as many variations as there are people on the planet.

Marriage and monogamy are both good ideas.

Promiscuous sexual activity is not a sin; it’s just stupid. Let us worship common sense.

People who know me know that I have fought for equality for women and girls for my entire adult life. In point of fact gender inequality is woven into the fabric of the three main patriarchal religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Violence against women and girls is so pervasive in our religiously infused world that one in three women worldwide has suffered from at least one of its myriad forms.

Examples abound. If “sin” were not a religious term, I would use it to describe the role of religion in the almost universal second-hand status accorded to the women and girls of the world.

I support the constitutional separation of church and state. The bedrock values of us non-believers are as precious to us as believers’ bedrock values are to them.

Do I realize that many religious people are absolutely wonderful people who feel at home with their belief and who, inspired by their belief, do good works all over the world? Of course. They also find in their belief comfort in times of loss and a sense of community within their church, temple or mosque.

But I, as a freethinker and atheist, also feel at home with my efforts to do good just because it’s the right thing to do.

Atheism might be described as the last closet. It is important for atheists to speak out in order to free others to do so.

We atheists are everywhere, millions of us all over the world. It’s time we said so in whatever way feels right to us.

Jane Roberts has taught French and tennis throughout Inland Empire starting in 1964 at the University of Redlands. In 2002 she started a grass roots movement for women’s health called 34 Million Friends which has garnered more than $4.3 million for safe motherhood and family planning through the United Nations Population Fund. She lives in Redlands.