This month, instead of the monthly issue of The Mississippi Humanist, I wanted to send a personal message to all the members and friends of the Mississippi Humanist Association (MHA).
Today, we humanists, along with a few other supporters of science and education, observe and celebrate Darwin Day in Mississippi.
How can we best do this, in a state where in a Pew Research Center sample of approximately 300 Mississippians, 53% of respondents stated humans “always existed in present form” – i.e. were “created”, and an additional 22% stated humans “evolved, due to God’s design?” **See below.
I believe one of the best ways to celebrate Darwin Day in Mississippi is to ACTIVELY support the Mississippi Humanist Association. If you aren’t a member, and you share our humanist beliefs of progress, equality, scientific fact, and the separation of church and state, join the MHA and become a member. If your MHA membership has lapsed, please take a moment to renew your membership. If you are a current MHA member, please consider making an additional donation if you can, or having a fundraiser on your Facebook page for the MHA. The MHA can also use your volunteer efforts, such as helping with the newsletter, or taking the initiative on other projects. Reach out to us and let’s all work together to make Mississippi a better place for us all.
2017 was a great year for the MHA, and we hope to build on our successes. With the generous support of members and friends, the MHA brought not one but two internationally known humanist speakers to Jackson – Seth Andrews in May, and Chris Johnson in November. The MHA hosts successful regular monthly events in the Jackson area - Second Sunday Brunch and Humanist Happy Hour - for humanists to socialize, building community and friendships. We are working to expand these MHA monthly events to Hattiesburg and beyond, and with the support and participation of our friends and members throughout the state, we can make this, and so many other great things, happen here in Mississippi.
However, the past year has also seen a major increase in First Amendment issues regarding the proper separation of church and state. While Mississippi has suffered from this for some time, these unconstitutional First Amendment violations have become an issue at the national level as well. The MHA’s existence in Mississippi is a major step toward pushing back against the “theocratic” creep we are seeing at all levels of government – from Bible verses on government vehicles, churches being given tax dollars, to the legal tragedy that is MS HB 1523, which essentially codifies Christian beliefs into law. Right now, we are working with the American Humanist Association’s Legal Department to address First Amendment violations reported to the MHA by our members. As the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) ads say, “if you see something, say something” – let us know if you are affected by HB 1523, or any violation of the First Amendment, and let’s see what we can accomplish here in Mississippi.
At this year's Annual Membership Meeting, two Board of Directors positions – Treasurer and Communications – are up for election. Please remember that in order to vote or to run for office, you must be a MHA member in good standing. Our current MHA treasurer, Stephen Frank, is running for re-election, seeking to continue the great work he has done for the MHA. Patrick Jerome, currently MHA Communications Officer, will not be running for re-election. I thank Patrick for the years of service that he has put into the MHA, from helping to craft our bylaws in 2014, to all work he has done along the way to help the MHA grow and prosper.
As it stands today, we have no nominees for the Communications position. Due to personal reasons, Eric Reisman has withdrawn his nomination for the Communications position.
If there are no other nominations, the MHA will have to function with three (3) board members - President, Secretary and Treasurer, as per the Secretary of State and the MHA Bylaws. Obviously, the more engaged and active people we have on the board, the more the MHA can accomplish, from raising the profile of humanists in Mississippi, to booking humanist and atheist speakers. The MHA needs the active support of its members, whether it be public support, or behind the scenes help, to keep the MHA moving forward and growing, and to keep an eye on all the church and state issues we are facing. Board members must be members in good standing, and are expected to be public about their humanism. If you are an MHA member, I encourage you to consider the available board position if you are interested (see description here), but there are other ways to volunteer your time that are less public.
Growing the MHA membership and its visibility means we are increasing the understanding of humanism in Mississippi, a state that is basically hostile to humanists and secularists, and indifferent to Darwin Day. The membership of the MHA has more than doubled over the past year, and we are reaching more people every day. The more visible we humanists and secularists are, to the public and to one another, the more humanists and atheists in Mississippi can express themselves without fear of misunderstanding, oppression and negative consequences. We can work together, support one another, and together we can build a voice to speak up to those who would insert their religion into our government.
I would like to thank all of our members and our friends for their support of the MHA and humanism in Mississippi. And I thank you for your time. I hope you all will make plans to join us at The Flamingo in Jackson on February 24th at 5:00 P.M. for a celebration of the year past, and of the years to come. Come learn more about the MHA, where we are going, what we are doing - we look forward to seeing you there! Please, RSVP with the number attending, so we can make sure we have everything we need for a great time!
So today…Happy Darwin Day, y’all! Let’s all work together to make the next one even bigger and better here in Mississippi!
My best to you and yours on this Darwin Day,
Mississippi Humanist Association
** I invite you to check out the Pew Research Center’s “Religious Landscape Study” of Mississippi - click here to see the daunting statistics with regard to religious issues we face here in Mississippi.