Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.

Oct 17, 2016 Newsletter

Every November 11, people across BC and Canada take a moment to remember those who've lost their lives in war, and that includes the many atheists and non-religious people who've served.

Yet every year, we receive reports that various public Remembrance Day Ceremonies, which are run by local Legions, feature explicitly Christian prayers and invocations to the exclusion of any other worldviews.

The BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion has said that they "do not have rules which force branches to use specific prayers or invocations."

This year, we've already helped challenge religious content in the Port Coquitlam Legion's ceremony and we'll be paying attention for any other stories.

We're also helping Vancouver Peace Poppies organize a special event in the afternoon on November 11 to remember the civilian casualties of war and conflict. Please let us know if you're able to volunteer for that event.

Finally, please also let us know if you're a veteran so we can help debunk the myth that there are no atheists in foxholes.

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Why do science issues seem to divide us along party lines?

By Lauren GriffinUniversity of Florida

Much has been made about the predictable partisan split between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on issues of science and public policy. But what about their supporters? Can Americans really be that far apart in terms of science?

That liberals and conservatives have different opinions toward science is taken as a given. Typically, conservatives are painted as anti-science, with some studies suggesting their mistrust of science is increasing. Liberals, on the other hand, are usually assumed to be more receptive to science in general and more supportive of using science to shape policy.

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Oct 11, 2016 Newsletter

While medical assistance in dying is now legal and available for some, too many hurdles remain and are causing too many Canadians to endure needless suffering.

The biggest challenge here in BC might be the fact that many religious hospitals (who receive around $1 billion in public funding) are refusing to even allow conversations to happen about a patient's legal right to an assisted death.

This is why Dying With Dignity Canada is asking you to write an email to Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Terry Lake, asking them to remove this unjust barrier.

The other barrier is the restriction put in place by Bill C-14 that restricts access to those whose natural deaths are "reasonably foreseeable."

We spoke against this at the time and now BCHA Honorary Member Gary Bauslaugh has launched a petition to repeal that section of the law.

Visit our website to read more about these two easy actions and then:



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Oct 3, 2016 Newsletter

Our group has existed in one shape or another since 1982 and since 1990 we've gone by the name British Columbia Humanist Association.

That said, like many "BC" organizations, we are likely guilty of spending much of our focus on Metro Vancouver to the exclusion of the rest of the province.

In an effort to address this concern, your Board of Directors has created a survey to collect your feedback on whether we're adequately serving your needs.

We'll collect these responses over the next few weeks and use them to inform and build upon our ongoing work.

So please take a couple minutes and let us know what you think.

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International Blasphemy Rights Day 2016

Today is International Blasphemy Rights Day – a day to remember the publishing of the Danish Mohammed cartoons ten years ago that sparked several violent protests across the world.

It’s still an important day for advocates for freedom of expression as people are still being imprisoned and murdered for criticizing beliefs and art critical of religion is still being censored. And blasphemy is still a crime in Canada.

This is why we were very proud to see the City of Victoria support our proclamation recognizing the day.

Victoria International Blasphemy Rights Day proclamation
Photo credit: Sarah Hayes

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Sep 26, 2016 Newsletter - End Blasphemy Laws

Yesterday, an atheist writer was gunned down on the courthouse steps in the capital of Jordan.

He was set to stand trial for offending Islam by sharing a comic satirizing Mohammed on his Facebook page. The suspected shooter, a local imam and extremist, was allegedly motivated by anger over the blasphemous cartoon.

Meanwhile, a new film by atheist Louis Theroux critical of Scientology will not be shown in Ireland because publishers are afraid they'll be sued under the country's new libel laws that include "blasphemous matter."

These two cases highlight the continued relevance and importance of events like Banned Books Week (this week) and International Blasphemy Rights Day, which is September 30.

It is also why it was so encouraging to learn last week that the City of Victoria had agreed to proclaim International Blasphemy Rights Day. Although that proclamation only came after some debate, further highlighting how precarious our right to free speech is, even here in Canada.

While we don't have any festivities planned for either event this year, I do strongly encourage you to sign the e-petition calling on the federal government to repeal Canada's blasphemy law and to make sure you share that with as many people as you can.

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Doctors have no right to refuse medical assistance in dying, abortion or contraception

Editor's note: This editorial was originally published in the journal Bioethics under a Creative Commons license. It's a follow up to an article first published by Udo Schuklenk in May 2015 and responded to by Christopher Cowley in December 2015. Unfortunately, both of those articles are behind paywalls.

The debate is over whether doctors should be able to refuse to provide certain legal medical procedures, such as medical assistance in dying or abortions. Schuklenk argues that the rights of patients and a doctors' professional obligations should outweigh any individual moral attitudes. The BC Humanist Association made a similar (albeit significantly more abridged) argument in our submission to the Parliamentary committee that studied medical assistance in dying earlier this year.

By Julian Savulescu and Udo Schuklenk


In an article in this journal, Christopher Cowley argues that we have ‘misunderstood the special nature of medicine, and have misunderstood the motivations of the conscientious objectors’.1 We have not. It is Cowley who has misunderstood the role of personal values in the profession of medicine. We argue that there should be better protections for patients from doctors' personal values and there should be more severe restrictions on the right to conscientious objection, particularly in relation to assisted dying. We argue that eligible patients could be guaranteed access to medical services that are subject to conscientious objections by: (1) removing a right to conscientious objection; (2) selecting candidates into relevant medical specialities or general practice who do not have objections; (3) demonopolizing the provision of these services away from the medical profession.

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Lessons in secularism from a human rights complaint against Bowen Island Montessori

Our education system is tasked with preparing the next generation for life in an increasingly pluralistic country. That system must be accommodating and welcoming to students of all faiths and none, or we risk segmenting our society and allowing extremism to foment.

Bowen Island Montessori School is facing a human rights complaint for demanding a couple sign a letter indicating their full acceptance of the school’s cultural programing before their daughter would be permitted to attend. The couple argues they were the only ones required to sign such a letter in order to register their child after they raised concerns about the school’s focus on Christian celebrations and other aspects of the curriculum that conflicted with their secular, non-materialist and pacifist views. The complaint will be heard in mid-2017.

While human rights law in Canada generally exempts religious organizations (a separate question), this school describes itself as non-denominational or secular. Specifically, it says its approach is to have “no distinction of culture.”

But secularism requires neutrality. A secular organization can no more suppress the views of religious students as it can push a Christian worldview.

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Sep 12, 2016 Newsletter

Last week, we shared our letter to BC's Minister of Education asking if he'd stand up for LGBTQ rights in BC schools.

On Thursday we got our answer: All public and independent schools will be required to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-bullying policies.

This is a good first sign but we'll have to see the details to know whether the rights of LGBTQ students will be upheld.

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Does climate change mean we need to have fewer children?

By Travis N. Rieder, Johns Hopkins University

Earlier this summer, I found myself in the middle of a lively debate because of my work on climate change and the ethics of having children.

NPR correspondent Jennifer Ludden profiled some of my work in procreative ethics with an article entitled, “Should we be having kids in the age of climate change?,” which summarized my published views that we ought to consider adopting a “small family ethic” and even pursuing fertility reduction efforts in response to the threat from climate change. Although environmentalists for decades have worried about overpopulation for many good reasons, I suggest the fast-upcoming thresholds in climate change provide uniquely powerful reasons to consider taking real action to slow population growth.

Clearly, this idea struck a nerve: I was overwhelmed by the response in my personal email inbox as well as op-eds in other media outlets and over 70,000 shares on Facebook. I am gratified that so many people took the time to read and reflect on the piece.

Having read and digested that discussion, I want to continue it by responding to some of the most vocal criticisms of my own work, which includes research on “population engineering” – the intentional manipulation of human population size and structure – I’ve done with my colleagues, Jake Earl and Colin Hickey.

In short, the varied arguments against my views – that I’m overreacting, that the economy will tank and others – haven’t changed my conviction that we need to discuss the ethics of having children in this era of climate change.

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