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Danish blasphemy case demonstrates risk of Canada's law

A man is facing blasphemy charges after allegedly burning a copy of the Quaran for an online video posted to an anti-Islam group in December 2015.

The prosecution marks the first time in 45 years that Denmark has invoked the law. The last accusations were brought against a radio station that was ultimately acquitted in 1971. The last conviction was in 1946.

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Feb 20, 2017 Newsletter

We had one of our best-attended meetings on Sunday as American Atheists President David Silverman challenged those in attendance to be firebrand atheists.

Later that evening, Silverman debated Christian Alex McFarland on the topic of "Can Christianity cause immoral behaviour?"

Interestingly, both speakers agreed that yes, any idea can lead to immorality, although McFarland argued that only the Bible provided an objective morality.

As the preacher spent parts of the debate belittling Muslims, feminists and the LGBTQ community, it highlighted how important it is that we stand up as atheists and continue to defend Humanist values.

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Feb 14, 2017 Newsletter

Today is Valentine's Day and Atheists in Kenya (AIK) are asking Kenyans to consider dating an atheist this year.

Atheists face particular discrimination in many African nations and even AIK faced difficulty getting the government to recognize their non-profit.

So while their request is tongue-in-cheek, it's done with an aim to normalize non-belief.

Today is also the day in 1989 when Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Rushdie also announced his engagement on Valentine's Day five years later.

So take today to celebrate love or to keep challenging norms and authority (or both).

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Can more religion in schools be a path to secularism?

In a blog post and coverage in the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) Chair Michael Janz is asking whether his schools should be able to open a Catholic Faith program.

I knew Janz when we were at the University of Alberta. Since being elected to the EPSB, he’s spoken out vociferously about ending public funding to private schools.

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Surrey Interfaith Pilgrimage 2017

The Surrey Interfaith Pilgrimage this year went something other than planned.

The snow came and stayed, so our walking route became somewhat impassable with snow covering many of the sidewalks and trails. Driving was treacherous, so many who would otherwise have driven wisely chose to stay home. I arrived at our starting point at about 9:30 and knew the day was probably a write-off.

David Dalley, the person who organized the event, was there when I got to the Thien Ton Buddhist Temple. We agreed that it was not a safe situation and decided to call the Pilgrimage off. However, a family of three (Robert, Andrea and their eight year old daughter Sofi) had already shown up to take part and wanted to continue. They had heard about the pilgrimage on the Early Edition on CBC. None of us really wanted to drop out, so we decided we could do as much of the pilgrimage as possible.

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Feb 6, 2017 Newsletter

Our Vice-President Gord Leslie spoke with CBC this weekend about how peace and compassion are now more important than ever. Gord was invited to speak about the World Interfaith Harmony pilgrimage that was schedule for Sunday but was ultimately cancelled because of the snow.

Listen to the interview.

Also over the weekend, one of our Humanist Chaplain, Marty Shoemaker attended a vigil for the victims of last week's attack in Quebec and Ian Bushfield attended the rally against Islamophobia downtown. Read more on CBC.

Crowd at Al Jamia Mosque

PANO_20170204_194847.jpgPanoramic of Rally Against Islamophobia crowd (click to view in Google Photos)

These events together are a strong symbol of solidarity against bigotry and irrational hatred. While many of the speakers were Muslim, they still spoke of Humanist values: tolerance, peace and compassion.

It's events like these that give us hope.

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The changing nature of the non-religious in the USA

By Richard FloryUniversity of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

recent survey of the religious profile of the 115th Congress revealed that despite the increase in the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation, members of Congress are overwhelmingly religious, with only one member identifying as having no religion.

Yet, despite whom they vote for, Americans are increasingly choosing not to identify with a religious tradition. Between 2007 and 2014, this “none of the above” category has increased from 16 to 23 percent. Among young adults, one-third say that they have no religious affiliation.

Most of the public conversation about religious disaffiliation tends to emphasize the idea that with the rise of the religious “nones,” a categorization that goes back to the 1960s, America is becoming more secular and less religious.

However, in my view as a scholar of American religion, this misses the diversity within the nones.

Who really are the nones?

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Justice Minister to review Canada's blasphemy law

Canada's blasphemy law is under review by the Minister of Justice and could be repealed as part of broader justice reform.

Jody Wilson-Raybould made the commitment in her response to a petition signed by nearly 7500 people calling on the government to repeal section 296 (the prohibition on blasphemous libel) of the Criminal Code.

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Jan 30, 2017 Newsletter

The country is reeling from the news out of Quebec City, where yesterday a man opened fire in a mosque, killing six people and leaving others in critical condition.

As Humanists and secularists, we must categorically condemn this attack on people practising their religion in peace.

This attack comes at a time of increasing tension south of the border, where President Trump has signed an executive order that's widely viewed as a Muslim ban, but our own country is hardly free from anti-Muslim prejudice.

A lot is still unknown about this attacker or his motivations but we do know that this mosque has been repeatedly targeted by anti-Muslim vandals. A number of Canadian politicians have spoken about vague "Canadian values" tests and hate crimes against Muslim Canadians have been on the rise.

Now more than ever the world needs an impassioned defence of compassion, human rights and secularism. The world needs Humanism.

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Muslim ban flies in the face of logic and humanity

Editor's note: The BC Humanist Association joins Humanist groups in the USA, including the Center for Inquiry and Secular Coalition for America, in condemning this executive order.

By Geoff GilbertUniversity of Essex

With an irony that hasn’t gone unnoticed, US President Donald Trump signed his executive order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the US on January 27, Holocaust Memorial Day.

The order’s instructions are harsh and shocking. Not only does it suspend the US Refugee Admissions Programme for 120 days and all refugee arrivals from Syria indefinitely, it suspends all new arrivals from designated countries, which, apart from Syria and Iraq, are reportedly Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – all predominantly Muslim.

The executive order is highly problematic on several levels, and it’s good to see the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration issue a joint statement expressing their concern. As the order came into effect, several foreign and dual nationals were detained by US authorities and others barred from boarding inbound flights from other countries. Protests sprang up at major US airports and two members of Congress went to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to secure the release of an Iraqi refugee who had worked for the US government in his home country.

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