Brian Barnard, Esq.
The freethought community was shocked this month by the untimely death of attorney Brian Barnard. There have been numerous articles and tributes recalling his many accomplishments including the separation of state issues of the 10 Commandment monuments in the public square, Christian crosses on public land, etc. He also represented homeless people, women’s’ rights issues, Native Americans, prisoners, etc.
What has not been mentioned elsewhere is that Barnard was a member of Humanists of Utah. In fact he was one people who drafted our original articles of incorporation!
Humanists of Utah offers sincere condolences to his family and friends. We appreciate what he did for us, the general freethought community, and for everyone.
Homeless Youth Resource Center
As humanists we extend helping hands to challenged communities both from a general compassion as well as empathy for the other human beings currently sharing this planet with us. We reach outward due to our understanding of the complex makeup of life, the many impacts and influences that swirl and combine and re-composite a person’s life in directions undreamed of. There is rarely an “if only” single-point answer to point to as a cause or a cure for a person’s circumstances. We understand our joint humanity and that others’ suffering is not something to be dismissed as simply “their problem”. The humanists of Utah have adopted the Salt Lake City Homeless Youth Resource Center as a cause we want to support, hopefully providing some kind of positive impact in some important individual lives – individuals who deserve so much more than to be throwaways in our society.
When I dropped by the center to drop off the donations collected at our August picnic, I admit to feeling a bit anxious. I expected to encounter something along the lines of simmering resentment or anger, as well as facing my own guilt of privilege. In fact, it was the opposite (well besides dealing with my own continued and unreconciled sadness over inequity and privilege and chance…). When we pulled in to the parking lot, there were probably 10-15 young men standing around outside. Overall it was more an air of camaraderie – a group combined searching out that basic and universal need as a social creature. (Undoubtedly there is even more at play, creating a group of safety and survival). One young man jumped to open the door for us, with the most charming smile. Another young man asked if we had any bags left that he could help us carry in. Inside was the same casual air and the staff employees were easy-going and very enthusiastic in their acceptance of our donations – regardless of whether we hit or missed in our attempt to meet their current needs. One sad point in the picture was a lonely, very tall young man, eating a plate of stew at the counter, shoulders hunched over and inward as though so very defeated… but the sadness was mitigated by knowing that he was THERE, getting a warm meal, surrounded by people, at least for a few moments out of his day.
The Youth Resource Center provides a place where the youth on the street can get a meal, take a shower, do laundry, meet and talk. The center has also added resources to help the youth in finding jobs and/or more permanent shelter. On a given day between 60 and 85 youth stop by to use the resources. In a 2011 Task Force report, it was estimated that there are close to 800 homeless youth (ages 15-22) in the Salt Lake Valley. The most common cause (over 40%) for homelessness among our youth is as a result of being kicked out of their own homes for identifying as gay/lesbian/transgender. This is followed by teens leaving abusive home situations, teens whose families are homeless, and teens who have “aged out” of the foster care system with nowhere to go. We have very limited shelter resources for the youth: the adult shelter is often a dangerous or an untrusted place for youth. There is a transitional house with around 7 spots for young women. And the parent Volunteers of America group is working on getting a transitional home for young men (see their website www.voaut.org to donate to this effort).
Through your kind donations we delivered a good amount of food, clothing, and hygiene items. Thank you for effort and outreach. It was a very positive event for me to be able to interact with the people at the center. I hope you can take a little of that glow away with you too. We will be collecting again for the Resource Center at our December Town Meeting.
On Saturday, September 15th, from 3:00 to 7:00 in the OSH Auditorium of the University of Utah campus, the secular student group at the University of Utah, SHIFT (Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought), will be putting on a sex-positive event called Sextravaganza, which will center on three influential guest speakers exploring the differing views of religion and humanism on human sexuality. The keynote speaker at the event will be Dr. Darrel Ray, writer and speaker on leadership as well as religion and sex, author of The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture and Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality. Also speaking at the event will be Greta Christina, prominent atheist blogger, speaker, and author, who also writes about sex and has edited books pertaining to sexuality. Finally, the event will include Dr. Lisa Diamond, internationally known professor of sexuality from the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah. Each speaker will give a talk and answer questions from the audience afterward. Following the individual talks, the speakers will form a discussion panel to continue answering questions from the audience, playing off of each other’s expertise and personal experiences. To conclude the event, the speakers will be available to sign copies of their books, pose for photos, and interact with individual members of the audience. Each book will be sold for $15 (cash or check preferred, but cards will also be accepted) and the following titles will be available in paperback at the event:
Greta Christina’s Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless
Lisa Diamond’s Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire
Darrel Ray’s Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality and The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture.
Like all SHIFT meetings/events, this one will be free and open to the public. Parking will be available for free in the visitor parking lots just east of the Union building and just west of the Marriott Library. The BYU vs. UU football game will begin at 8:00, so it is highly recommended that you come early to improve your chances of getting a good parking spot. The doors to the auditorium will open at 2:30 and seating will be first-come-first-served. This event will be made possible partly thanks to generous donations made by the Secular Student Alliance and the Humanists of Utah. To help make future SHIFT events like this one possible, donations will be accepted and appreciated.
We hope you’ll join SHIFT for SEXTRAVAGANZA!!!
Our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain lurking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.
Our annual fall BBQ was again a success as we ate, drank and conversed in the comfort of member John Young’s backyard. We thank him for hosting the BBQ at his home and we thank his daughter Cindy and her husband Art King for their hard work setting up and doing the cooking on the grill. Plus I want to thank all the board members and regular members who brought lots of tasty side dishes. We’ve been meeting there under a couple of big old apple trees for four or five years now, and it has become quite an enjoyable send-off for our new season of events after the summer recess.
When I conversed with a few of you at the BBQ, about what was on the calendar I mentioned that we were working on a slight makeover of the chapter. I talked a little about some of the changes we are considering and some we have already approved. One change I said we were making was that we would no longer have a summer recess during June and July. The board concluded that we should remain active year round, and that there are plenty of things to do in June and July.
One of my thoughts about this makeover is that the Humanists of Utah should plan three types of activities: A lecture and educational events series (speakers, Darwin Day), socials (BBQ, December potluck, movie night, etc.) and advocacy (Homeless Youth Resource Center, Pride Festival).
Now that June and July are back on the calendar for planning events we can add a few new events and even move a few around to mix things up. Getting involved in the Pride Festival is a June event that I have already suggested in past President’s messages. So far, July has nothing planned.
One thing that might help us decide which activities to plan is a list I received from Evelin Damian at the last Utah Coalition of Reason board meeting. The list is called Secular Holidays by Season and it is a good place to start when looking for alternative events. These dates are now in our Calendar that can be found on the Events page on our website.
Next up is our movie night on September 13th for a showing of, Inherit the Wind. There will be free goodies and drinks along with my decadent popcorn. See you there.