The Humanist Association & Civic Involvement
The Humanist Association has been active in our City for quite a long time. In the past our members like our former President Phil Paulson taking on the unconstitutional Mount Soledad Easter Sunrise Cross to our current President Jason Frye writing a proclamation commemorating Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, signed by former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders; as well delivering the only two Humanist-specific invocations in our city’s history.
Phil’s influence on the town’s secularity-dialogue was such that he often commented on how the Union Tribune had renamed him as “Atheist” Paulson. In tireless campaign, Phil rose against the typical complacency of administrators admonishing the malcontents keeping their feet to the fire. Though loggerheads ruled the discourse, at Phil’s untimely 2006 death to cancer, the City Council recognized Phil as a worthy adversary with a letter of condolence.
In May 2008, the California State Supreme Court invalidated the ban on marriage-recognition for same-sex couples. The Humanist Association went the next step beyond merely celebrating. As Jason Frye is a Humanist Celebrant, we added to the number of legally-recognized same-sex couples in our state by performing two weddings on our Pride Parade contingent, choreographing it so that one of the couples would say “I do,” in front of the Christian-protestors.
Then Proposition (Prop) 8 happened. California is one of a handful of states that allows the general public to introduce legislation and vote on it directly. Direct democracy by ballot initiatives has its ups and downs. On the one hand, allowing the people to decide can avoid the pitfalls that sometimes befall state assemblies as big-money interests aren’t going to show up at everyone’s door. Conversely, the general public doesn’t generally have a full staff on hand to analyze issues for them followed by a season of hearty debate on a particular issue.
Prop 8 sought to limit marriage to that being between one-man and one-woman. Prop 8’s proponents outspent those supporting marriage equality (75 percent of funds coming from out of state). Self-appointed guardians of “family values” plastered their yellow background, blue text t-shirts and bumper stickers demonstrating their righteous indignation at their “rights being infringed upon.” The Humanist Association rose against this awful policy.
LGBTQ rights advocacy had been a staple of our organization as we had for a number of years a satellite interest group the Gay, Bisexual, and Lesbian Seculars (GABLES), and had marched in the San Diego Pride Parade since 1995 proudly presenting our “Separate Church & State” banner.
By late October, the United States was primed for regime-change and we Californians were presented with the option to rescind extended equality. On Monday, the 27th day of October, San Diego’s City Council was scheduled to vote upon this issue. Much to the chagrin of the large numbers of Prop 8 supporters, the Council (coincidentally) had invited an out gay man and Humanist celebrant to provide that week’s invocation.
If you listen carefully, immediately following his invocation, Jason is recorded saying the Pledge of Allegiance (that is, the traditional, pre-1954 version). The “Amen” you heard was also not delivered by someone from the Conservative, Evangelical contingent-but a progressive, Unitarian rallying to the spirit of the message.
As Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday-fever swept over the Atheist and Humanist communities, we requested a proclamation for this commemoration. For the city, former Mayor Jerry Sanders, and for her district, former Councilor Donna Frye (no relation to Jason) recognized February 12th, 2009 as Charles Darwin Day citywide and in San Diego’s Sixth Council District.
Two weeks later, Jason performed his second invocation for the council. This time, immediately prior to the invocation, a gentleman voiced was granted five minutes to voice his discontent over the presence of invocations and (“under God”) pledges in the chambers prior to the people’s business.
There is a necessary dialogue on the consistency of a Secular Humanist performing an invocation at a public meeting for a government body. Jason Frye’s position is that prayer is an obviously unconstitutional establishment and endorsement of religion by a public body. This practice (only protected by its historical nature) is too often the vehicle of nodding preference to certain religious sects, and also offers an inappropriate entrance of government sanctioning of “proper” religious forms. That being said, while working to finally keep public-prayer where it belongs (in the appropriate religious rather than governmental space), we will claim our proper (equal) place at the table alongside other faith and philosophical traditions.
The Humanist Association serves a necessary role in our general community representing the ideals of Secular Humanism, and the moral ideals and standards of Ethical Humanism. We have served as a watchdog for violations of the separation of church and state, as well as a space for Humanists and like-minded people to come together.