Greetings from Melanie, HoU President
Welcome to November! Along with it comes the season of gratitude. While Gratitude is not exclusive to this month or season, it becomes more visible and a bigger focus to some and for this, I am grateful. First and foremost, I am grateful for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even though life can be hard and chaotic, I am truly grateful to be alive. I am grateful for liberty and for living in a society that allows me to live free and to not have the oppressive restrictions imposed that we are witnessing in other parts of the world. This said, I am grateful also for the right to speak, to protest, to vote and to work toward a better future and world for everyone. I am grateful to have the ability to pursue happiness, and what that means for myself, my family, my community and for this organization. Often times, people misunderstand the pursuit of happiness from the right to happiness. Happiness is what you choose to make it. There are so many versions of what it can mean to you. This is important for us to each understand, as it is a personal choice and can be anything you can dream of. With our humanist values and ethics, it is possible for us to make the choices we desire, without threat of hell and damnation and other religious dogmatic beliefs. How do you choose to be happy? Do you behave in a way to help spread peace, kindness and happiness? Do you actively pursue happiness?
While my dad was alive, he was a strong force of good in my life. He taught me from a young age to be a peaceful warrior. This term has had many evolutions in my life due to circumstances and to what was necessary at specific times. Mind you, this did not mean passivity. There have been times I have been the face of revolution, another voice in a crowd, a friend sitting with someone in crisis adding support or even the voice on an injustice in my own world. All of these things added to my pursuit for happiness.
As president of the Humanists of Utah, it is one my personal missions to bring our messages to everyone. There are those of us in our community who are searching for tools to assist in their pursuit of happiness too. I will be speaking at our November meeting on Humanism and what it means to be a humanist in our world today. Bring family, bring friends, bring anyone who is curious. Everyone is welcome. I genuinely mean this. Every single person on this planet! We are all in this life together. Even though there is a lot to be concerned about, stressed over and even fearful of… happiness is possible.
My friends, I come with a message of hope, kindness and the fight of a peaceful warrior. I see you. I know that life can be tough. It can also be incredibly beautiful as well. Again I invite you to come to the meeting this month. I would love to see you in person and to meet some of you for the first time.
Have a beautiful day and month, I am so very grateful for you all.
President of the Humanist of Utah
Jen-Daily-Provost on Medical Aid in Dying
Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost spoke to the Humanists of Utah on 10/15/23, about her work on medical aid in dying (MAiD). She is a Utah state legislator, currently representing district 22 and is Minority Whip. Jen grew up in Southern Idaho as a Catholic and now thinks of religion as a lifetime of exploration. On her journey, she discovered a Humanist philosophy, and this has guided her life, how she has raised her children, interacted with her husband, the kinds of education she has sought and the kinds of policy decisions she has made as a legislator as well as the bills she has tried to pass.
She has worked long and hard for equality, especially universal access to healthcare. She is in the last stages of her Public Health PhD. She teaches at the University of Utah in Human Genetics. She thinks the Utah Legislature is mostly collaborative and she is continuing the collaborative aspect of her work as it’s the most productive. “Rhetorical and strident “ is what Jen wants to avoid.
Medical Aid in Dying Bill
Jen has brought up the subject of MAiD to the Utah Legislature almost every year since she took office in 2019. Her bill has not been able to garner enough support to get a hearing in the Rules committee since, as they said, “it could not pass”. She insists that running a MAiD bill keeps the issue in the public spotlight, which continues to grow support for this aid.
Before 2019, Rebecca Chavez-Houck had been a proponent of MAiD and when Jen came to the legislature, she joined in this work. There was finally a hearing in this last interim session. Still after poignant and touching stories, the members said they still couldn’t vote for the bill due to the attitudes of their constituents and the predominant culture. Two members who said they would vote for the bill didn’t in the end, due to not wanting to suffer politically for a bill that they said wouldn’t pass anyway. Jen found it horrific that people don’t internalize the pain that the stories presented, and so can ignore the needs of those who could benefit from MAiD.
Legislators have said that their constituents were antagonistic to MAiD. But the data shows community support. A Dan Jones & Associates survey in November 2015, found that 6 in 10 Utah Residents support MAiD. Many arguments against the bill supporting MAiD have been shown to be specious from the sixteen years of Oregon experience. (ed note: Now eleven states and DC have passed MAiD laws.)
Voters can move a complicated issue forward by talking to their legislators. She suggests that we write, email, and call our state legislators to ask them to represent us and give hearing to, then vote fora bill creating MAiD for those who so badly need help. Jen remains confident that a MAiD bill will pass because it’s the right thing to do. For more information go to compassion and choices.org.
Your legislators work for you!
Their contact information is available at le.utah.gov
Call, email, communicate your interests!
The Military Humanist Paradox
“I’m not religious,” my new Readiness NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer, Sergeant First Class or E-7 in this case) said to me when I asked him about my endorsement form. In response I quipped, “Neither am I!”
Another soldier marveled that though she hasn’t heard of Humanism, Humanist principles are irresistibly compelling. “What is Humanism?” she asked. I answered in part, “It means that we as humans need to show up for each other and take care of each other. It is a human-centered approach to life. We believe in life before death. Functionally, all cultural institutions are Humanist, which means that functionally all humans are humanist, though very few claim that identity, or are even aware of Humanism.”
As I have mentioned before, I am deeply gratified by the level to which I have been able to serve as a functional Humanist Chaplain. I can be transparent about my double endorsement and my lack of traditional beliefs. The majority of soldiers I speak with resonate with Humanism and consider themselves either non-religious, spiritual, or at least skeptical of religion. Even the religious soldiers I speak with find my perspective refreshing. As anticipated, Humanist Chaplaincy is desperately needed in the military.
And yet we still have no official Humanist Chaplains in the military, notwithstanding the diligent efforts of the Humanist Society and the Military Association for Atheists and Freethinkers.
The irony becomes even more stark when one realizes that though there are no Humanist Chaplains in the Army, the Army manual section on Spiritual Readiness is explicitly Humanist! “The spiritual readiness domain is inclusive and universally vital to all personnel no matter their background, philosophy, or religion. It applies to both religious and non-religious persons and concepts… Spirituality is often described as a sense of connection that gives meaning and purpose to a person’s life. The spiritual dimension applies to all people, whether religious or non-religious. Identifying one’s purpose, core values, beliefs, identity, and life vision defines the spiritual dimension.
These elements, which define the essence of a person, enable one to build inner strength, make meaning of experiences, behave ethically, persevere through challenges, and be resilient when faced with adversity. An individual’s spirituality draws upon parts of personal, philosophical, psychological, and religious teachings or beliefs, and forms the basis of their character… Understanding the general spiritual readiness enables leaders to encourage personal spiritual readiness in a climate where mutual respect and dignity encourage dialogue, foster team cohesion, and enable healthy free exercise of religion or no religion by all personnel” (FM 7-22, Holistic Health and Fitness, 10-2).
Given that Spiritual Readiness training is mandatory for all Army personnel, and that Chaplains are the obvious ones to teach Spiritual Readiness, it is poignant that there are currently no officially Humanist Chaplains to teach this functionally Humanist training.
I’m curious about how many undercover Humanist Chaplains there are in the United States military. Unitarian Universalism and Buddhism both align well with Humanism (I considered both of those as potential endorsers before finding Unity).
I’ve gone back and forth a bit, but I’m back to envisioning the day when I get to trade out my cross (though I remain grateful for Unity’s radical version of Christianity that teaches there is no God other than us and that we don’t need to be saved) to the Humanist Happy Human. I was inspired and encouraged to have the chance to speak with the Chaplain (Captain) Marie-Claire Khadij, who serves in the Canadian Armed Forces, is currently the only official Humanist military Chaplain in the Americas.
Whether or not I ever get to officially pin the Happy Human on my uniform, I’m deeply grateful to be able to serve soldiers in the US Army, especially the non-religious and those who struggle with traditional religion. I’m currently working on implementing regular Spiritual Fitness teaching and training in the Battalion where I am assigned, with the help of the trusty Humanist Holistic Health and Fitness manual.
–-Chaplain Jared Anderson, 1LT
Board Member Lauren O. Florence, MD
When I first came into contact with the tenets of Humanism, I realized I had arrived home intellectually. When I started to meet the individual members of the Utah group, I felt at home socially. I asked if I could serve on the board. When they accepted me, I was clearly in my element and grateful. I finished a Master’s Degree program in Languages and Linguistics at USC. This background in words made me just the right candidate for Secretary. I have taken notes in the meetings as minutes of every meeting is a requirement for non-profits, and I have written an article about the presentation of the speaker at meetings. (Note: Lauren is looking forward to other roles in HoU as a board member, when Leona takes over as secretary in December.)
Craig Wilkinson, MD
Craig is a retired vascular surgeon. He is married to Devona Wilkinson, approaching their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Their three children are: Jay Wilkinson, BA in graphic design, MBA who works in the tech industry in Lehi; Margeaux W. Buechel, PsyD in child psychology and lives in Portland; Brooke Wilkinson, JD a lawyer in Los Angeles. Craig been a board member for ten years and currently the treasurer of the HoU. His hobbies include paleontology and fossil hunting. He loves to hike the numerous nearby trails in Draper, Utah where he currently lives.