In early June of this year, American Humanist Association members, including several HAGSA members, converged on Portland, Oregon for the annual AHA Conference. Due to the usual summer break in HAGSA’s program schedule, we had to wait until now to hear a report on the activities of this meeting. Nonetheless, Beverly Church, Mynga Futrell, Cleo Kocol, Hank Kocol, and Anna Andrews presented us with vivid recollections of their experiences.
Beverly’s report focused on the new Educational Program she proposed and, with others, is developing. The idea for the program is to create educational materials for use by all AHA chapters so individual chapters do not have to reinvent the wheel in order to educate members about cycle-of-life issues. Such topics might include childhood development and end-of-life issues. Anyone interested in volunteering to help Beverly with this commendable project should contact her directly. Contact information can be found in the HAGSA Board section.
Mynga Futrell expressed disappointment at the lag between the conference and the report of it to the membership. In addition to discussion aimed at shortening the delay, she expressed hope that, in the future, HAGSA might be able to sponsor an official representative. It would be the responsibility of this representative to report back to the membership and move forward action initiatives. Another source of disappointment for Mynga was the inaccessibility of the conference site via mass transit.
Other than those minor disappointments, Mynga stressed that her experience this year, as in years past, was overwhelmingly positive. She even described a level of euphoria attained at the conference due to the convergence of positive energy and intelligent discourse that she hopes will be more vividly reflected if and when reports to the membership occur in a more timely manner.
Among the presentations Mynga attended was one by the Rev. Dr. C. Weldon Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance (IFA) and host of AirAmerica talk show, State of Belief. His words indicated that the IFA might be very friendly to Humanists. Besides welcoming Judeo-Christian faiths, the IFA has Muslim and Hindu members on their board.
In light of our own chapter’s efforts to grow our youth demographic, it was heartening to hear of the overwhelmingly positive response to the Children’s Programs Forum which was so well attended that it had to be moved to a larger room than originally booked.
Anna Andrews was especially impressed with feminist Robin Morgan and with Weldon Gaddy.
Cleo Kocol reported on her participation in the AHA Feminist Caucus. Her report included a quote (paraphrased) from John Nugent, president of the National Abortion Federation and treasurer of the AHA, who hosted a workshop titled “Morality, the U.S. Constitution, and Reproductive Rights,” where he said that the bill was written in such a way that “partial birth abortion” was defined so broadly that all women might eventually be denied any abortion. Cleo was the founder of the Feminist Caucus.
Hank Kocol reported on the Feminist Caucus’ progress at the conference, as well as recounting disturbing anecdotes gained from working on the front lines of the abortion controversy at womens health clinics.
The meeting was also attended by a guest from Scotland, Alan Henness. Alan, a member of the British Humanist Association (BHA, runs the Think Humanism Internet forum. He is also a past convenor (equivalent of president) of the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) and a member of its National Executive Committee. Alan reported that, in 2005, Humanist Celebrants in Scotland were given the right to perform weddings. He attributed a doubling of their membership to this development.
Report prepared by Brian Jones, Recorder