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This Week in Humanism 2017–09–17


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/09/17

“A Christian couple have removed their son from school. Why? Because there’s another child in their six-year-old’s class who is “sometimes a boy and sometimes a girl” — which means he sometimes wears frocks.

So “confused” is Sally and Nigel Rowe’s son that they are now homeschooling him. The school has been accused of acting with a political agenda in allowing the other child to wear a dress.

When I was a kid, there was a Jehovah’s Witness boy at my primary school. His parents made him sit outside when we had assembly. They did not approve of hymn singing and didn’t want him exposed to a hall full of children warbling We plough the fields and scatter, lest a plague of locusts flew out of his bottom.”


“Cynthia Todd Quam is the President and founder of ‘End of the Line Humanists’, and writer and poet. In this interview she talks with Scott Jacobsen about all things humanism.

Scott Jacobsen: What is your family and personal story — culture, education, and geography?

CTQ: I was raised in a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant family, originally from Pennsylvania. We moved to the Chicago area when I was two. My mother was Presbyterian and involved in the church, though not particularly devout. My father, a commercial artist, simply ignored religion; he never attended church but never openly disparaged it — I suspect because of the social norms of the time. I’m the elder of two children; my sibling is an evangelical Christian, and has been, more or less, since her teens. I attended public schools, where I was an introverted child and a reader. Not sure what I wanted to study, I dropped out of state college at nineteen to live on my own and work in downtown Chicago.”


“Let’s start with the celebratory humanist film from yesterday. Faces Places will put a smile on your face, with its embrace of ordinary humanity.

Though, actually, the beauty of Faces Places comes from making the ordinary extraordinary. It joins two French artists who excel at this endeavor. Agnes Varda, one of the founding members of the French New Wave, is now perhaps best known for The Gleaners and I, the 2000 documentary that honored the lives of those subsisting on her country’s fringes. JR is a street artist whose super-large black and white photos give prominence to those who could otherwise be forgotten: Palestinians and Israelis across the Separation Wall, the elderly of the world, Brazilian favela dwellers.

A charming, Seussian opening sequence calibrates the tone of their film at sweet and whimsical. A series of quick fictionalized scenes show where the co-directors didn’t meet: for example, a patisserie where Varda orders the last two eclairs, one customer ahead of JR.”


“Northern Ireland’s most senior judge has said that a secular marriage has the same equality of opportunity in the law as a religious one.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan was speaking during a court battle over whether humanist marriages should be legally recognised in the region.

The high-profile hearing involving model Laura Lacole and Leeds United and Republic of Ireland footballer Eunan O’Kane temporarily resumed in the Court of Appeal in Belfast on Monday.

The couple originally won a landmark case to have their humanist wedding in June recognised in law.”


“Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s order to pardon Alexander Lapshin is a step of exceptional humanism, Lev Spivak, director general of the Israel-Azerbaijan International Association, told Trend.

“We are very pleased with this. Many, including Lapshin’s family, appealed to the country’s leadership requesting pardoning,” he said, adding that the blogger’s pardoning is a very important step.

Alexander Lapshin is a citizen of several countries and had a criminal collusion with Armenians in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. He also illegally visited these territories. Lapshin was accused of violating Azerbaijani laws on state border in April 2011 and October 2012.

On Jan. 17, Alexei Stuk, deputy prosecutor general of Belarus, issued a ruling on Lapshin’s extradition to Azerbaijan. Lapshin was brought to Azerbaijan on Feb. 7. On July 20, Lapshin was sentenced to three years in prison by the Baku Grave Crimes Court.”


“The Government has published its response to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The UN’s report, published last month, highlighted the lack of sexual and reproductive rights and discrimination against same-sex couples in Northern Ireland as areas of concern and made recommendations that the UK Government changes current legislation to bring these two issues in line with human rights standards. Humanists UK raised the same issues in its submissions to the UN as part of the UPR, so is pleased to see the UN take the issues up; but is disappointed that the UK Government has chosen to merely note but did not accept these recommendations.

The UPR is a UN mechanism to monitor and report on the human rights performance of all UN member states. Approximately 42 states are reviewed each year with each state being reviewed at least once every five years. The current review is the third that the UN has carried out of the UK since the UPR was instituted in 2006.

The restriction on the sexual and reproductive rights in Northern Ireland, particularly the near-absolute prohibition on abortion, featured prominently among the human rights issues discussed in the report. Four countries made formal recommendations that the UK makes provision for abortion in Northern Ireland in cases of severe and fatal fetal abnormalities and brings abortion law in line with international human rights law.”


“The Waccamaw Neck Branch Library will continue its series “Common Threads in Diverse Spiritualities” in October with a look at atheism.

On Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 5 p.m, Michelle LaRocco will talk about what atheism is and is not, and will explain the types of non-religious labels, like agnostic, secular humanist, and freethinker. She will also discuss some of the benefits of secular humanism as a moral system and to fostering a free society.

“Atheists are one of the most mistrusted minority groups in the country, if not the world,” LaRocco said, promising in her lecture to sort through the realities and misconceptions about non-religious philosophy.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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