July 2008

Society Must Protect Its Children

A recent study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that at least one in four teenage girls in the US has a sexually transmitted disease. Utah is reported to have the fourth highest Chlamydia rate in the country. Sex may be a moral issue to many but to society it is very much a health issue. Our schools have the responsibility to teach health; nutrition, exercise, and the prevention of communicable diseases are legitimate subject matter. Sexually transmitted diseases are as much a health issue as is any communicable disease and teaching its prevention even more critical since we have reached the pandemic stage.

Society has long accepted the responsibility of protecting its children from abuse and neglect. We have rampant child neglect in the US when one in four or our young girls have contracted a preventable STD. If they have been intentionally deprived of the information they need to protect themselves, it rises to the level of child abuse.

The new slogan emerging from the religious right concerning sex education in school is that morality should be taught at home. The argument is that schools should teach the bare minimum concerning the process by which babies occur but anything further must be reserved to the parents. Realistically, the significant majority of a child’s formative years are under the direction and control of the parents. Morality, or the lack thereof, has always been taught at home and at church and the implication that they somehow need authorization is absurd. Unfortunately, this training, direct or by example or omission, even when in conjunction with a church, is often ineffective, unpersuasive or even corrupt and the rest of us have to protect society from the results.

There is a fatal flaw in the “morality should be taught at home” and the “abstinence only” concepts. These do not work in the absence of a moral system sufficiently persuasive to a significant number of children. No matter how many religious slogans or promises are in place, abstinence programs don’t work if the children don’t have the integrity necessary to abstain. The religious right all but admits this weakness when they fear cervical cancer vaccines or sex education in school will encourage promiscuity (and these are nothing compared to the challenges our children face from peer and biological pressures); they know that even vague outside influences will triumph over the system of morality their children learn at home.

The resolution of this problem will start when society ceases to rely on slogans and parents and churches actually accept responsibility for teaching their children morality rather than blaming the school system when their children fail. Despite all efforts to the contrary, our children will be tested by influences outside our control and catchphrases wouldn’t substitute for a well trained, self disciplined conscience.

–David VanLandingham
St. George, Utah

Rule 22

The following is a page from Steve Allen’s book Dumbth, The Lost Art of Thinking. The book is one of my favorites and I revisit it every now and then to enjoy his wit and wisdom.

Part of this book is a list of a “101 ways to reason better and improve your mind.” One of the ways or rules that I like is as follows.

Rule No. 22

Know that reason need not be
the enemy of emotion.

“When some people hear reason being endorsed they assume that, if the amount of rationality in the world is increased, it must inevitably follow that certain increments of sensation and emotion will decrease. The supposition–or fearful concern–is, of course, groundless. Certain things will indeed be decreased if the domain of reason is enlarged, but they are such things as foolishness, fanaticism, brawling, fear, ignorance, bigotry, and racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice.

“As for the enjoyment of the senses, as for the warm, beautiful, endearing emotions, two things are possible: Either they will be unaffected by an increase in the reasoning faculty or–as seems more likely–they will be enhanced since the increased exercise of reason will to a certain extent decrease those negative emotional factors that now limit the sensible joys of life.

“Almost by way of underlining these observations, as I sit dictating them on the breeze-washed patio of the open-air dining room of the Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, I perceive in the distant background enormous white clouds, blue sky, low mountains; off to the right the tall waterfront hotels of the area curving around the long beach; in the middle distance sailboats, catamarans, curling white waves on turquoise-blue water, surfers, and bathers; and, in the immediate foreground, palm trees, bright green shrubbery, a remarkably beautiful Hawaiian woman seated at a nearby table, and a kingfisher-like bird, with a lipstick-red head and brown body, that flits among tables looking for fallen crumbs. In a moment–it is hoped–I shall enjoy the equally pleasant prospect of my wife, for whom I am waiting. All such wonders of physical nature, and the appreciative emotions to which they give rise, need not at all be dulled by the improvement in the power of reason.”

–Bob Lane

Bylaw Changes

The Board has proposed some modifications to our chapter bylaws. The simplest are mostly housekeeping items that update the document to recognize the electronic aspects of our chapter. Section IV. 7 adds a Webmaster to the list of appointees the Board can make. Sections V. 2 and VI. 1 add the website and email as means of communication to announce meetings.

Of much more import are proposed changes to the election of Chapter Officers and Board members. This has always been done during our February business meeting. Traditionally we have also had a banquet in conjunction with our elections and reports to the chapter.

There are two reasons that the Board would like to move this meeting to December. Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah 2008 was very successful, but it came so close to our annual meeting that it was difficult to arrange for both events. Secondly, over the years, we have had an issue with our elections being at a banquet which meant having to pay for entry. Several years ago we started doing our balloting via US Mail, but there is still an undercurrent that our annual business meeting would be better if it were totally open without having to pay any kind of cover charge.

With these issues in mind the Board proposes moving the annual business meeting and elections to December. We have a banquet in December, but it is provided by the chapter officers. The Board believes that this change will make the meeting more accessible to everyone and will allow the chapter to really concentrate on Darwin Day.

Bylaw changes include: Section IV. 6 to move the annual financial audit to December, Section VI. 1 & 2 to move the actual election.

Current bylaws are available here and the proposed changes here.

A nominating committee will be appointed at our August social.

–Wayne Wilson



The purpose of the Humanists of Utah is to offer an affirmative non-theistic educational program based on developing one’s human talents in order to practice the art of living; to promote meaningful activities and compassionate services that exemplify humanism; and to be an association where humanists can have a sense of belonging to a larger community that supports a positive philosophy of reason, integrity, and dignity.


This Association shall be called “Humanists of Utah”, and shall be a Chapter of the American Humanist Association. The provisions of these by-laws are in conformity with and subservient to the by-laws and Articles of Incorporation of the American Humanist Association. Nothing herein shall be interpreted in any manner to be in conflict with the Constitution of the United States of America or the laws of our land required to maintain a tax exempt non-profit educational organization, nor with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.


Any person shall be eligible to a voting membership who is in general accord with the above-stated purpose and pays the membership dues established by the Association.


  1. The Association shall be governed by its membership and, between meetings thereof, by a Board of Directors consisting of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and up to five other board members. Terms of office begin on the date of the election. At the membership meeting in 2003 officers and two board members shall be elected for a two-year term, three board members shall be elected for a one-year term. At the membership meeting in 2004 three board members shall be elected for a two-year term. Thereafter officers and two board members shall be elected for two-year terms in odd numbered years; three board members shall be elected for two-year terms in even numbered years.
  2. A board member or officer who has three unexcused absences from board meetings in one calendar year will lose their board position.
  3. Board vacancies occurring for any reason shall be filled by appointment by the remaining board members. Appointees shall serve out the term of the vacancy.
  4. Except as otherwise prescribed in regulations of the membership or of the Board of Directors, the duties of the Board, the Officers and Committees of the Association shall be those customarily pertaining thereto.
  5. The Board shall appoint an Auditing Committee in December of each year. That Committee shall audit the Treasurer’s books and report its findings to the next annual membership meeting.
  6. The Board may appoint as needed an Editor for the publication of a Newsletter/Journal, a Historian, a Webmaster, and a Librarian. The Board may appoint as needed Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees.


  1. Regular meetings of the membership and of the Board shall be held at times and places set by the Board or the membership. Special meetings, social events, public programs, etc. may be scheduled by the Board or by a committee it appoints.
  2. Notices of all meetings will be published in the monthly Newsletter, on the Humanists of Utah website, or communicated to members through email or the US Postal Service.
  3. A quorum for the transaction of business at membership meetings shall consist of seven (7) members or 20% of the paid membership, whichever is greater.
  4. Except as otherwise provided in regulations of the membership or of the Board, all meetings of the Association shall be conducted in accordance with “Roberts’ Rules of Order”.


  1. A Nominating Committee shall be appointed at the Board meeting in August. Within one month thereafter it shall prepare a slate of names of one or more persons for each position to be filled as Director or Officer. The nominating committee’s slate of candidates will be printed in the November issue of the Newsletter or distributed to members electronically or by the U. S. Postal Service. Additional nominations may be made either at a meeting of the Board or of the membership or by petition of one member.
  2. The election for Officers and Board Members shall be held at the December membership meeting and shall be conducted by secret ballot.
  3. Election to each office shall be the nominee receiving the majority of the votes cast.
  4. An Election Committee appointed by the Board will check, count, and report the results of the balloting to the membership.


Amendments of these by-laws may be initiated by a vote of a majority of the Board members or by those present and voting thereon at a regular membership meeting, or by petition of 20% of the members. Enactment of proposed amendments requires the approval of a majority of the members voting thereon.

Revised July 2008

President’s Message

It is the middle of our summer recess and things are somewhat quiet with Humanists of Utah. However, on Thursday, July 10, we will be hosting another “Movie Night”, showing Waking Ned Devine in the little theater at the University of Utah Student Union Building. We will again have the usual goodies–popcorn, candy, and beverages–for moviegoers. Please join us for a fun evening to enjoy each other’s company, and to view a movie delightful and funny movie. Special thanks go to Julie Mayhew, for securing the little theater for us for our screenings.

Another item for your calendars is our August Potluck BBQ, which is not that far away on Thursday, August 14. Last year’s BBQ was quite enjoyable. We had a very good showing of members and friends, with lots of delicious food to sample. We plan to follow last year’s model, with the chapter providing items such as hamburgers and fixings, and asking our board members to bring some of their favorite dishes. I hope that you will reserve this evening to join us in formally ending the summer recess with good food and good company. Watch for further details in the next newsletter.

This month I want to use some of my space in the Utah Humanist to plug another organization that I belong to, The Planetary Society. I have been a member for many years and always look forward to receiving my copy of their bi-monthly publication, The Planetary Report. It consistently has excellent articles and photographs about planetary sciences, general astronomy and space exploration. The July/August 2008 addition is dedicated to planet Earth, with four wonderful articles, any one of which would be excellent as a discussion group topic. I’ve suggested to our discussion group that we address some or all of the articles in the months to come. I contacted The Planetary Society and they are sending me 15 free copies of this special issue. For those of you who would like to participate in the discussion of these articles, contact me for a copy-I think you will find it interesting and informative. And if, like me, you enjoy Astronomy, planetary sciences, and space exploration, then you should also take a look at Planetary.org to see what they are involved in and promoting. They are a “scientific minded” organization that deserves support for all they do in their endeavors.

I hope your summer will be a good one, and look forward to seeing you all soon.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

Planetary Society

Member Recommended Websites

The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space–interest group, is dedicated to inspiring the public with the adventure and mystery of space exploration.

Site recommended by Bob Lane

Planetary Society