President’s Column: A Variety of Activities
By August Berkshire
Most of my past President’s Columns have focused on one particular aspect of our organization. I have done this because some of our newer members might not know our history, and as a way to publicly acknowledge and thank those members who have contributed to our success. I will resume this approach in future columns, focusing on such things as our website, Meetups, newsletter production, and charitable works. This month, however, I will briefly highlight a variety of activities.
“Atheists Talk” Radio
The big news this month is the restoration of our “Atheists Talk” radio program on KTNF AM 950 radio, Sundays, 8:00-9:00 a.m. starting August 1st. Mike Haubrich, the project’s host and scheduler, has a cover story about this. We could use a few more volunteers to conduct interviews and for web/technical aspects. We could also, of course, use some donations to help fund this project. Please donate if you are able to help.
Foundation Beyond Belief
We are pleased to announce that Minnesota Atheists has become a charter member of the Foundation Beyond Belief’s “Foundation Partners Program.” The Foundation encourages both one-time and monthly donations, which it then pools and distributes on a quarterly basis to ten secular charities in areas such as animal protection, child welfare, education, environment, health, human rights, peace, and poverty. Donors vote on which charities receive funding. To find out more about how you can help, go to: http://foundationbeyondbelief.org .
Sean Faircloth’s Visit
Sean Faircloth, the executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, gave a rousing speech at Southdale Library in Edina, detailing the many ways that religious organization are granted special exemptions and favors by our government. The Secular Coalition for America lobbies Congress and the President on behalf of non-theists to try to establish a level playing field and a truly secular government. The organization is also exploring the possibility of state secular coalitions.
To sign up for their monthly action alerts and to become a one-time or monthly donor, go to: http://secular.org .
Minnesota Atheists Center
Last month I listed a number of benefits to our owning a building. I forgot to mention that a building would allow us to set up a semi-professional TV recording studio with equipment donated by Jerry Rauser, so that we wouldn’t have to rely only on our once-a-month time slot at the MTN cable studios.
A building would also give us a place to hold secular weddings and memorial services.
For many years our research and lending libraries were stored for free in the home of Tom and Jean Riddering (thank you!). Last year they put their home up for sale, which necessitated our finding a new storage facility. We secured a 10x10x10 climate-controlled storage unit, which we also use to house other MNA material, for a discounted price of $82 per month.
Recently, the introductory deal we got on the storage unit expired and the cost was raised to the full amount of $124 per month. We have begun looking for lower priced alternatives. If you know of any, please call me at 612-338-4548.
Attendance at this year’s Minneapolis Juneteenth celebration seemed to be about half of what it had been in recent years, due to a new festival location and early morning threats of rain. Nevertheless, we were well received and found more allies than we did two years ago when we last had a booth at this event. Some recent articles have noted the decline of the Black Church in America and it’s no surprise that the rising tide of atheism would affect all communities.
The Bible and Slavery
In conjunction with this year’s Juneteenth celebration, Minnesota Atheists member Eric Harmon spoke on “The Bible and Slavery” at the Minneapolis North Regional Library three days later. Four Christian street evangelists who had debated Eric at Juneteeth showed up and continued their lively, friendly exchange. The evangelists seemed to conclude that anything bad that happened to anyone (such as slavery) was God’s will and a response to some type of sin the victims had committed.
Mpls. Gay Pride Festival & Ceremony
Minnesota Atheists has been marching in the Twin Cities Gay Pride Parade almost every year since we were the Twin Cities Chapter of American Atheists in the mid-1980s. We began staffing a booth about 2002, when the festival organizers dropped their requirement for event insurance for booths like ours.
This year we began another tradition when we provided a celebrant for an ecumenical ceremony to celebrate the two-year anniversary of three same-sex couples. From now on we will have a celebrant on-call at this festival because many couples engage in commitment ceremonies during the weekend and some specifically want a secular service.
Celebrants and Officiants
For many years, Minnesota Atheists has been well-served by Paul Heffron acting as our wedding celebrant and by Steve Petersen acting as our funeral memorial officiant. We are pleased that they will be able to continue in these roles, but we could use a couple more volunteers to help them. If you’re interested, please call Steve at 651-484-9277 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gay Pride with RAFT in Rochester
Minnesota Atheists will join the Rochester Area Freethinkers (RAFT) on July 17 in hosting a booth at the Rochester Gay Pride Festival. This will be the second of five gay pride festivals we will have a booth at again this year.
Fargo Regional Conference
On Sept. 18, the Red River Freethinkers will be hosting their first regional conference, called “Project 42.” For more information, go to: http://www.project42convention.org .
Winter Solstice Party
Representatives from Minnesota Atheists, the Humanists of Minnesota, and the Freethought Band met to brainstorm ways to lower the admission price of our annual Winter Solstice Banquet and Freethought Follies. It was decided that after the banquet (which typically costs about $45), we would open the doors to those who just wish to see the stage show, charging them about $5 each. While we expect to lose some money through lost banquet sales, we hope to recover it through show-only tickets. Hopefully, this solution will enable us to have over 100 attendees at our annual event.