The limits of free speech? Jun 25, 2018 Newsletter

Yesterday, Samir Gandesha talked to our Vancouver Sunday meeting about the historical importance of free speech for dissenting from authority. He also talked about some of the nuances and limits that form the debates that dominate today's discussions of the topic.

If you didn't get a chance to see his talk and you'll be in Vancouver on Wednesday evening, he will be covering much of the same ground in his presentation at SFU Harbour Centre. LGBTQ2+ rights activist Morgane Oger and BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson will follow up with their own comments.

These debates are likely to continue as longtime anti-gay Christian activist Bill Whatcott has been arrested and charged with distributing hate literature at Toronto Pride and a "LGBT: Let God Be True" event featuring another anti-gay activist Kari Simpson was cancelled by New Westminster's Anvil Centre.

Meanwhile, in what's been described as a "concerning" precedent, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) paid out over $3 million to Maajid Nawaz following his threat of a libel lawsuit. The SPLC had controversially (and for bizarre reasoning) labelled Nawaz an "anti-Muslim extremist." Here in Canada, Jordan Peterson is suing Wilfred Laurier University following comments said in a disciplinary hearing with a TA last year. Peterson has said he wants his lawsuit to convince university professors and administrators "to be much more circumspect in their actions and their words."

Among our membership are many strong and differing opinions on each of these issues. While we don't have positions on any of these specific controversies, I think The Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression, adopted at the 2014 World Humanist Conference, can be informative for us all. It's worth reading the entire Declaration but the main principles are:

The right to freedom of thought and belief is one and the same right for all.

No one anywhere should ever be forced into or out of a belief.

The right to freedom of expression is global in its scope.

There is no right not to be offended, or not to hear contrary opinions.

States must not restrict thought and expression merely to protect the government from criticism.

Freedom of belief is absolute but the freedom to act on a belief is not.

Volunteers for Vancouver Pride 2018

It's almost time to pull out those rainbow socks and tutus and show your support for the LGBTQ2+ community again, Vancouver Pride is coming up in just over a month!

A few of our members have also signed up a "Humanists" team for the Vancouver Pride Run & Walk in Stanley Park on July 22. If you're interested in doing either the 5 or 10km, register here and join the team named "Humanists." Registration is $30 and proceeds support Out in Schools and LOUD Foundation Pride Youth Scholarship Fund.

Once again, we'll be inviting all Humanists and atheists to march with us in the Pride Parade on August 5. Make sure to RSVP on our website page to stay up-to-date with staging details (and so we have a sense of how many people we'll have this year).

We will also be tabling at the Sunset Beach Festival on August 5. We have three shifts for volunteers who are eager to help engage the public about Humanism and our work. Sign up for a slot here.

Finally, each year we incur some expenses to register for Pride. We're also looking at making some better marketing materials for our booth, like tablecloths, banners and pamphlets. But all of this costs money. If you can help us raise just $500, we can have a much more professional table and help raise awareness about Humanism and our work. Any extra funds will help us put on even better events in the future!

Nigerian Atheists Book Drive

Gail wanted me to extend a huge thank-you to everyone who's donated books to the Atheist Alliance International book drive. She told me yesterday she was overwhelmed with everyone's generosity (including those who brought literal cartloads of books to our Vancouver meeting yesterday).

If you didn't get a chance to contribute and still want to donate books to Gail you can reach her at: president@atheistalliance.org.

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Monday, June 25, 2018 at 07:00 PM
Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 09:30 AM
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Note: Our previously announced speaker for July 8 had to cancel and we're working to find a replacement.

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