In Memorium - David Irwin

Founding and Life member David Irwin died on January 13, 2009.  He was 89.  David lived a long life highlighted with many accomplishments.  David was born on January 1, 1920 in Des Moines, Iowa; he served in the air corps during WWll, went to divinity school for two years and eventually realized he was an atheist.  From 1976 to 1984 he shared his life with his lover Dick Hewetson (a fellow Minnesota Atheist member).  Together they co-founded the Quatrefoil Library, dedicated to the collection and preservation of information about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other sexual minorities (GLBT).  They started the library with their own collection of 1,500 books relating to homosexuality.  In 1986 Matt Stark, also a Minnesota Atheists member and director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union (MCLU), rented them space in the MCLU building to display their books. The library never looked back.  This is only one of three such lending libraries in the country dedicated to GLBT issues.  It is open to the public daily and has educated the public and saved many GLBT lives over the years. The first part of David's life was that of a gay man trying to live as a straight man.  He married his high school sweetheart, a woman, and had two children.  This was in the 1940s and after a few years they divorced. David lived as a closeted gay man until the start of the Quatrefoil library.  When the public announcement of the library was made, he used this as an opportunity to let his family know about his sexuality.  The reaction was mixed.  His two children rejected him. Others reacted with love and understanding. For two of his family members, who David cared for deeply, it was a non event.  After that David and Dick came out to the GLBT community as atheists. But they still had more educating to do.  They both have won awards for their work founding the Quatrefoil where they always mentioned their association with Minnesota Atheists.  David and Dick separated, but worked together on the library and remanded good friends.   David was an avid book reader. He played Bridge as often as possible and was a regular at the Quatrefoil.  His legacy is he lived his life to its fullest and he eventually freed himself from the shackles of society conformity and used his experience to make a difference for the lives of others.  The world is a better place because of David.  We were honored to have him as a member.  Memorials are requested for the Quatrefoil Library, 1619 Dayton Ave., Suite 105, St. Paul, MN 55104 (651) 641-0969.  www.quatrefoillibrary.org.

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February News and Notes

By George Kane

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled over the words of the presidential oath, momentarily confusing Barack Obama, but he predictably tagged "so help me god" onto the end. Reverend Rick Warren provided for an invocation a prayer in Jesus' name. Reverend Joe Lowery implored the audience to shout "Amen!" to close his benediction. It all made the inauguration of our 44th president a tediously religious affair, like every other presidential inauguration that I can remember. But, had a District Court judge exercised a little judicial courage the week before, it need not have been so.

Michael Newdow, the Sacramento emergency room doctor who has gained fame for his suits to ban group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, brought an Establishment Clause challenge to the Obama administration before it even took office. Along with 30 other plaintiffs, he filed suit to prohibit appending the words "so help me god" to the presidential oath, and to prevent sectarian prayers at the inauguration ceremony.

Joining Newdow in the suit are many of the nation's leading atheist organizations and church/state separation watchdog groups, including Minnesota Atheists, the American Humanist Association, the Atheist Alliance International, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Notable individually named plaintiffs are the top officers of the plaintiff organizations, including Minnesota Atheists president August Berkshire. Another is Ellery Schempp, the named plaintiff in the 1963 case Abbington County School District v. Schempp, in which the Supreme Court outlawed classroom prayer in public schools. The list of plaintiffs also included "unnamed children," as their parents have a right to take them to view their government in action without being forced to confront the official endorsement of religious dogma with which they disagree.

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Read more: February News and Notes

January Meeting Review

Dan Barker had a busy day on January 18. He began the day at the KTNF studio for an interview on Atheists Talk Radio, filled the afternoon with an appearance at the Roseville Library as the speaker at our monthly public meeting, and after dinner with some meeting attendees, presented a reading of excerpts from his new book at the Midway Borders Book Store.

The public meeting was by far our largest ever, with attendance estimated at 140. Barker began by informing us of some recent activities of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the nation's largest church/state separation watchdog organization. Barker and his wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor, are co-presidents. They ran a quarter-page ad in the Washington Post on Inauguration Day, headlined "Mr. President, Rebuild that Wall!"

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Read more: January Meeting Review

New Members!

By Steve Petersen

The members of Minnesota Atheists should be excited about the incoming board of directors.  This marks an historic moment in the organization's history.  For the first time, no founding member will serve on the board.  Minnesota Atheists was incorporated on September 21, 1991, and I filed the papers myself.  The gauge that some of us founders set was that the organization will be successful when the founders are succeeded by other volunteers.  It has taken eighteen years of planning and working by so many, but the goal of passing the torch to the next generation of atheist leaders will happen.  This is not a change based on agreement of how things should be done, but agreement in the principle of keeping us moving forward in our founding purpose of creating an atmosphere of respectability for atheists.  Our objective has a long way to go before it will be met, but today each member can feel proud because we stand a better chance of reaching our goal of society's knowledge of atheists today than yesterday.

The members nominated this January and to be elected this February are a good mix of long-time members and newer members who each bring a set of experiences to the board that will enable Minnesota Atheists to be on the cutting edge of tomorrow's communication needs.  This is a board I look forward to supporting and assisting in their efforts to move us into years of future growth and thus enhancing our outlook for years to come.

 
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Minnesota Atheists Board Election Candidate Statements

Every year, Minnesota Atheists nominate and elect board members to serve in leadership roles for our organization.  This year, at the January membership meeting. nine atheists were nominated by the membership and await election in February.  Nominees for the board are, Bjorn Watland, Jeannette Watland, Grant Steves, Jack Caravela, Andy Flamm, George Kane, Cathy Prody, Crystal Dervetski, and Mike Haubrich.  Read the full article to see their candidate statements.
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Read more: Minnesota Atheists Board Election Candidate Statements

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