Beyond Secularism?

I was informed last week of a panel tomorrow night, hosted by newly elected Chilliwack NDP MLA Gwen O’Mahony. The title is Beyond Secularism and will see three Christian scholars discuss the role they believe that faith should play in government.

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Quiet victories

In our campaign for Secular Schools in BC most of our public relations has been focused on Chilliwack and Abbotsford, but our research found a couple other anomalies across the province that are being corrected thanks to quick responses from local trustees.

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Tonight I had the pleasure to speak to the Board of Directors of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association about our campaign to end the distribution of Gideon Bibles in BC schools.

Below is the speech that I presented. I am pleased to report that the Board of the BCCLA has asked their legal staff to help us in our work on the Chilliwack case, the outcome of which will help them decide what further support they can offer.

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It was unclear last night what the deletion of Regulation 518 meant for the practice of distributing Gideon Bibles in Chilliwack public schools. A number of stories came out today, however, that start to paint a clearer picture.

First, here’s the mainstream media coverage:

Bibles could return to Chilliwack public schools under new policy – Chilliwack Times

Father’s complaint prompts Chilliwack School Board to nix free Bibles – Metro News

Chilliwack school board puts Bibles on hold – The Province

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Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend this evening’s school board meeting in Chilliwack, so I only have second hand reports from Twitter to go on. Nevertheless, the news is out that the Board voted to repeal their policy supporting the distribution of Gideon Bibles.

The Board was further unable to come to an agreement on bringing in a new policy to regulate the distribution of materials in schools. This new policy could have been similar to Abbotsford’s policy which is vague and leaves the rules about specific materials up to the superintendent. In Abbotsford this means a number of schools reportedly do distribute Gideon Bibles. Other districts maintain policies that reference the School Act’s mandated secularism.

In the absence of a policy, it seems likely that the decision is up to the superintendent, in which case the current practice may continue.

Hopefully the reports tomorrow and on Thursday will clear up the details. In either case, the BC Humanist Association will continue to advocate for secular values and freedom from religion in BC schools.

Update According to Chilliwack Times reporter Cornelia Naylor on Twitter, the Board is giving staff until March to draft a distribution of materials policy.

A Humanist Oasis

James Croft at the Temple of the Future tipped me off to the new group Houston Oasis. The group looks to be reinventing the Humanist community.

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Controversy has erupted in Chilliwack after Richard Ajabu protested his school board’s policy that explicitly permits the distribution of Gideon Bibles to Grade 5 children (with permission slips produced by the Gideons).

The Board recently reviewed the policy in a closed-door meeting and decided to uphold it.

I put on a press release yesterday evening, stating that the BC Humanists consider this policy to be discriminatory and it should be immediately revoked.

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A few weeks ago I was invited to contribute an essay on the Humanist position on animal rights for the Vancouver Humane Society quarterly newsletter. The edition is out and available online (although their website seems to be down at the moment) in PDF form.

I’ve also reproduced my essay below.

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A couple weeks ago I wrote that “Humanism makes belief in God irrelevant.” I ended that essay stating,

So while being a humanist doesn’t really mean you need to be an atheist, it doesn’t leave much room for any god worth believing in.

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I was at Skeptics in the Pub at the Billy Bishop and was asked a question that took me off guard for a second.

After more thought, I finally have my answer.
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