We at the American Humanist Association love welcoming new chapters and affiliates, and hearing about the opportunities these groups provide humanists to meet each other, share ideas, and work together. Our groups gather throughout the year and across the country for discussions, presentations, projects, rallies, and parties. They were especially active during the recent Secular Week of Action (April 26-May 2, 2019), which encouraged individuals and groups to put secular values into action. The campaign was described as one in which:
Local secular organizations across the diverse nontheistic spectrum—atheists, agnostics, Ex-Muslims, freethinkers, humanists, skeptics, and many more who make up the one-in-four Americans unaffiliated with religion—come together to demonstrate our shared commitment to making this world, here and now, a better place.
The Secular Week of Action demonstrates our values by organizing and participating in acts of service, education, and solidarity. It intentionally coincided with the National Day of Prayer, declared annually on the first Thursday of May, to emphasize that action is more powerful and productive than praying or pointedly abstaining from prayer. Each year the National Day of Prayer is set aside by executive proclamation as a day “to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families.” On the same day, the secular movement recognizes the National Day of Reason “to affirm our commitment to the constitutional separation of religion and government, and to celebrate reason as the guiding principle of our secular democracy.”
The Secular Week of Action is radically inclusive of anyone who wishes to participate, and over a dozen AHA groups did. Some engaged in environmental projects (perhaps inspired by our HERE for Climate initiative). Several members from Humanists of Long Island helped clean up the bicycle path along the west side of Eisenhower Park. Secular Humanists of Tippecanoe, Central Colorado Humanists, and Minnesota Atheists cleaned up their adopted highways. The Humanists of Idaho combined Week of Action with Earth Week by welcoming the Citizens Climate Lobby to speak about climate actions.
One of the most unique events was happened in Oak Park, Illinois, with the End of the Line Humanists’ multi-family garage sale, which raised money for the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry. Each dollar spent at the sale went to buy the pantry $10 in food from the regional food bank. Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie and Minnesota Atheists went directly to their local food banks to volunteer. The Ethical Society of Austin hosted a blood drive for those who are able to support neighbors in need in central Texas.
Some actions require proper education first, so several groups worked to inform themselves and their legislators on important local and national issues. In Indiana, Freethought Fort Wayne Inc and their local Unitarian Universalist congregation brought in a medical professional to discuss single-payer healthcare. The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago welcomed Ethan Michaeli, author and former editor and reporter at the Chicago Defender, to discuss his new book how the newspaper became a national communications vehicle for Black America. Louise Jett, social media manager of Ethical Society of St Louis and the Secular Student Alliance, facilitated a letter to the editor workshop. As a former newspaper editor, Jett had lots of templates, best practices, and contact information to share. The Ethical Society of Austin (Texas) arranged a Better Angels program to bring together liberal and conservative Americans in a working alliance to bridge the political divisions in the US. Facilitators demonstrated how to listen and find common ground with people with whom we disagree politically. And Humanists of Long Island visited Senator Kevin Thomas’s office to urge his support of the “Fair Elections” campaign.
In Minnesota, the Secular Week of Action ended strong with a National Day of Reason breakfast at the state capitol where about eighty people gathered to support secular government and policy based on reason, science, and evidence. They invited secular voices to speak up and welcomed religious people who actively support our nation’s secular constitution. The event was sponsored by Humanists of Minnesota, Minnesota Atheists, First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, and the Or Emet Minnesota Congregation of Humanistic Judaism, and endorsed by twelve freethought and advocacy groups. According to one Facebook event post: “Ten legislators, including State Representative Mike Freiberg, spoke or dropped by. Professor David Schultz spoke about the dangers of lawmaking that ignores the evidence…We hope this is the first step toward building a statewide coalition of secular voters!”
We appreciate all who made the Secular Week of Action events successful and invite you to visit weekofaction.org for future activities. Thank you to all who keep our humanist communities active year-round!