October 2013

Allons Enfants De La Partrie…

Here in Utah there is a growing controversy about the grading system being applied to our public schools. There is also controversy in France…

 The French Education Minister, Vincent Peillon, in September unveiled the controversial secularism charter to be displayed in a prominent position in every school in the nation to remind pupils and teachers of the country’s secular, Republican principles.

“The Republic is secular. School is secular,” announces the headline of the Secular School Charter, which M. Peillon says is designed to promote “absolute respect for freedom of conscience.”

“The first article of our constitution states that the Republic is indivisible, democratic, social and secular. The school must teach these values, explain their meanings and their history. Because if we do not teach them, we should not be surprised if they are misunderstood or even ignored.”

Putting his Euros where his mouth is, in April, M. Peillon revealed plans for school pupils to debate “secular morality” for one hour every week. “Teaching and sharing the values of the Republic is a responsibility for each school,” he said at the time.

Today, he rejects accusations that the charter is a veiled attack on Islam. “Absolutely not! Secularism is not against any religion. It provides a protected and neutral space in which to give everyone, regardless of religion, regardless of their social or geographical origin, the means to choose and build a life.”

Following are the fifteen points of the Charte de la Laïcité [Secularism] A L’École. There is no Education Ministry official translation into English yet (the French have a hard time recognizing any other language), so the following condensation is the product of my own, um, spotty education in the glories of la langue français. For those who would like to (and can) read it all in its original, go to www.scribd.com/doc/166458236/charte-laicite.

France’s Secular School Charter

  1. France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic.
  2. The secular French Republic is organized on the principle of the separation of religion and state.
  3. Secularism guarantees liberty of conscience for all. Each person is free to believe or not to believe.
  4. Secularism reconciles the liberty of the individual with the equality and fraternity of all.
  5. The Republic guarantees respect for the principles of everyone in every school.
  6. Secularism protects every student from any and all proselytizing and pressure.
  7. Secularism guarantees every student a shared and common culture.
  8. Secularism guarantees every student freedom of expression consistent with the good order of the school and respect for the values of others.
  9. Secularism rejects all violence and all discrimination, and guarantees equality between boys and girls.
  10. It is the duty of all school staff to transmit to their students the ideas and the values of secularism.
  11. All school personnel have a duty to maintain strict neutrality in political and religious matters.
  12. Studies are secular. No subject is a priori excluded from scientific and pedagogical inquiry.
  13. No one can exercise their religion in order to refuse to comply with the applicable school rules.
  14. The wearing of signs or dress by which pupils overtly manifest a religious affiliation is prohibited.
  15. In their studies and their activities, students themselves will further secularism in their schools.

So, what do you think of the above, readers of PIQUE and the Utah Humanist? Your opinions are solicited for these pages.

My own opinion? Vive la France!

Jean Rafferty
PIQUE, October 2013
Secular Humanist Society of New York

Membership Challenge

Do you have an idea for a speaker, a movie? Do you know of some event that Humanists of Utah should involve itself with? If so then please let us know. While we enjoy bringing you speakers with a diverse range of topics we sometimes become bogged down tapping our limited sources. While the scope of interests within our community is as varied as the literature in the human library my ability to access it is not. So if you have an idea for a speaker or an idea about a subject that you would like to know more about, an artist, a musician, a scientist, a poet, a writer, a politician, a cause, a physician, a newspaper person, an actor, an event. Please pass it on to a board member, come to a board meeting and tell us or let me, Bob Mayhew, know and we’ll see what we can do about it.

Bob Mayhew

Web Site of the Month
TED Talk: Adam Savage

If you have not see a TED Talk you are missing out. This link is to a 7.5 minute presentation by Adam Savage of Myth Busters fame. His enthusiasm for SCIENCE is infective. Highly recommended!


President’s Report

The last thirty days or so have been busy for the free thought community. Our September speaker, Dr. Brian Moench, gave us a most interesting presentation about the effects of Air pollution on our bodies. As someone concerned for the environment, I have always known that air pollution was bad for our health, causing or making worse respiratory diseases and the like. But one example he gave showed how insidious and diverse the effects can be by telling us how some pollution can cause the placenta in pregnant women to shrink and thus restrict Oxygen and other essentials the fetus needs for proper development. While the truths about these effects are rather grim, the Doctor kept it enjoyable with a number of humorous pictures. We want to thank Dr. Moench for the excellent presentation, it’s always good to become better informed about a subject, even if the subject is as I said, “rather grim.”

Elaine Ball made sure Humanists of Utah had a presence at the 9th & 9th street festival. While she held vigil through the rain, our support left much to be desired. The puny beach umbrella I purchased while useful was insufficient for a booth. To help complete our “event kit,” we will purchase a four legged canopy.

I’m convinced that a good event kit is a necessary thing to have. I think it should include a table, some chairs, a canopy and a cooler (we already have the table and two folding chairs). We should also have our literature and merchandise up to date and ready to go. Having an event kit may seem trivial, but I feel that one of the best ways to get our message out and recruit new members is to have a strong and persistent presence in the community, at the Pride Festival for example.

Also last month I attended the Utah Coalition of Reason picnic/BBQ. As I mentioned last month this event was originally one put on by Atheist of Utah. Making it a U-CoR event brought members and friends from Atheists of Utah, Humanists of Utah, Shift, and the post Mormons together. Board member Dr. Craig Wilkinson and I stayed the whole time and had numerous discussions with other attendees and especially some younger people, some of whom know little about Humanists of Utah. We need more of these events to help grow our chapter. Our contribution to the event was to bring beverages. I purchased over a 120 drinks and water and at the end of the night they were all gone. At one point I counted nearly 90 with some having left already and a few still showing up. It was a big success and people in leadership positions of the various groups were happy with the large turnout.

In regard to Utah Coalition of Reason, Utah, I want to commend them for the work they are doing to unite the free thought community. They are working hard to promote and plan events for the member groups. They are presently working on a number things, including Our Darwin Day event in February and the American Atheists Association annual conference to be held in April next year. They are also working on a fund raiser with California Pizza.

As we move into the future I feel that more cooperative public events is the way to go. Because volunteers are scarce, I think we should cut back on the number of speaker events we have yearly. These traditional lecture events are poorly attended.

—Robert Lane
President, HoU