February 2004

Update: The ACLU in Utah

Dani Eyre, director of the Utah Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, addressed the January meeting of Humanists of Utah.

Eyre made several points but they all supported her central thesis that the Bill of Rights is the ACLU’s only real client. She noted that the Utah Chapter has several rather unique characteristics that distinguish it from other ACLU chapters. Primarily it is the fact that many of the local chapter’s issue are directed towards separation of church and state. This is a result of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being headquartered in Salt Lake City and having such a wide-spread financial and political base. Generally, the ACLU spends more time fighting for religious freedom than in opposing religious bullying. She gave a couple of examples where the ACLU has defended the LDS church in other states in the matters of proselytizing and in stopping forced prayers (Southern Baptist) in Texas high schools.

Another thing about this ACLU chapter is that it gets considerably more press coverage than other chapters nationwide. Ms. Eyre specifically said that coverage in the two major Salt Lake based newspapers is generally fair and accurate. She surprised the group a little by saying that she considered the writing in the Deseret Morning News to be generally higher quality that the Salt Lake Tribune. However, she evened the playing field by noting that News headlines were often provocative in nature without really having any substantive connection to the content of the article.

Eyre also pointed out that most of the ACLU cases never come to trial. They prefer to handle cases through negotiation rather than litigation. Often they need to only explain their issues to groups or people and the desired changes are effected without a costly court battle.

Eyre noted that she is personally generally satisfied with Mayor Rocky Anderson although she believes he erred in the Main Street Plaza case. She also expressed concern over dangers to basic Bill of Rights issues that she perceives the Patriot Act is causing.

–Wayne Wilson

Me and Humanism

This is another presentation from last month’s meeting.

When I signed the application to the American Humanist Association to organize a Humanists of Utah chapter several years ago I did not realize how dramatically it was going to change my life. Within a few months I found myself consumed with an interest in history, philosophy, religion and ethics! I enrolled in the Humanist Institute in New York, became a Humanist Celebrant performing weddings, celebrating welcoming ceremonies for children, and conducting memorial services for those who died.

I have shared my new found knowledge of and interest in humanist history with several college and high school classes, defended the individuals’ right to doubt religious beliefs, and urged hundreds of people to question authority.

I have discovered that one of the weaknesses of humanism is its reluctance to recognize the importance of human emotional needs. We spend so much time intellectualizing that we tend to neglect the human need to be inspired. We really need to find ways to appeal to human feelings: to be awed by the beauty of life, the wonder of a starry sky, the arch and colors of a rainbow, the power of the wind, the constant changing shapes of clouds, the inspiration of music, poetry and prose. We need to recognize the satisfaction of good food, good drink and good sex.

Humanism needs to learn that man does not live by the intellect alone.

–Flo Wineriter

Praying for Peace

Humanist Humor

A CNN reporter assigned to cover Israel was searching for a positive and emotional human interest story.

In Jerusalem, she heard about an elderly Jew who had been praying at the Western Wall twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. So she decided to check it out.

She went to the Western Wall and there found him! She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, she approached him for an interview.

“Excuse me, sir, Rebecca Smith, CNN News. Could you tell me how long you have been coming here to pray?”

“For about 50 years,” the old man said.

“50 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?”

“I pray for peace between the Jews and the Arabs; I pray for all the hatred to stop; and I pray for our children to be allowed to grow up and live in peace.”

“And how do you feel after coming here for the past 50 years?” the reporter asked.

“Like I’m talking to a wall.”

Institute for Humanist Studies Web Site
Submitted by Frank Jordans
New Humanist Magazine

Julia Annemarie Rivers

December 24, 1951 ~ October 5, 2003

In Memoriam

My wife, best friend, partner and the love of my life, Julia Annemarie Rivers, 51, passed away peacefully at home October 5, 2003. She was born December 24, 1951 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Julia married Michael Rivers on January 25, 1986 in San Diego, California. After living most of her life in San Diego, she moved with her husband, first to Simi Valley, CA and then to Salt Lake City.

Julia Rivers

Julia had a passion for the civil rights of the Atheist community and fought to preserve those rights. She was the Director of the Salt Lake Valley Atheists, Assistant Utah State Director of American Atheists, and a member of Humanists of Utah. Julia previously served on the Board of Directors of the Santee, California Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Directors of Mission Trails Regional Park Committee, a member of Kiwanis and established and directed the Simi Valley Freethinkers.

She is survived by her husband Michael, daughter Anita Marie Quitoriano and grandchildren Melissa Olsen, Tyler Rivers, and Lupo Quitoriano. Julia will be deeply missed and forever remembered by all those whose lives she touched. The Salt Lake Valley Atheists will continue as strong as it ever has with all the energy and enthusiasm Julia put into it.

–Michael Rivers