Kia ora: It was horrifying, to wake to the news of the bombing at the Boston Marathon where three innocent people were killed, including an eight year old boy running to greet his father as he ended the race. Our thoughts are with the mourning families and all those who have received horrific injuries. I had thought we might be wakening one morning to dreadful news of conflict on the Korean Peninsula. It is possible for us to live together in peace.

Monthly Meeting: Monday 22 April Open to the public – All interested people are welcome – bring a friend

image of James Randi

James Randi – Super Hero of Skepticism

For decades now, James Randi has been the bane of dowsers, alternative healers, psychics, parapsychologists and various other quacks, charlatans and deluded individuals.
His approach has always been quite simple:
to subject those that claim supernatural or paranormal powers to rigorous testing and scrutiny.
Come and view this presentation about the work of Randi.
There will be a brief talk about his life and lots of video showing his exposure of the fakery, fraud and delusion that makes up the world of the paranormal.

*** Please note the day and venue ***

All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend..
Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff Street, Wellington.
Moncrieff Street is off Elizabeth Street, which is off Kent Terrace, Wellington – a short distance from Courtney Place
We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm
*** Please note the day, Monday 22 April, and venue, Tararua Tramping Club***

Radio Access: Humanist Outlook, 10.30 am, 783 kHz Wellington, on Saturday 27th April, 25 May, 22 June, and 20 July.
Humanist Outlook is broadcast at 10:30 am on Access Radio, Wellington, 783 kHz, every fourth Saturday.
If you are outside the Wellington area, go to www.accessradio.org.nz to listen or to download as a pod cast after the event.

Subscriptions 2012-2013:
Thank you to those conscientious members who have paid their subscriptions for the August 2012- August 2013 year. If you have not paid, subscriptions for the 2012-2013 year are now due. A hard copy of the newsletter with a subscription renewal form was posted to all members last year. A renewal form is also attached to this newsletter.
Subscription rates for 2012-2013 are the same as for 2011-2012 year. Please check your records and if you have not paid for this year please pay now.
If you have not paid for previous year, please pay arrears. Please return the form with your name and address on it with your payment.
An email giving details of how to renew your subscription using internet banking will be sent to all members with an email address shortly.

2013 Dates: This year our monthly meetings will be on the fourth Monday of the month. Please mark your diaries now. We will hold a winter-solstice gathering at a time and date to be announced near the time of the winter solstice.

Previous Meeting: At last month’s meeting we discovered a little about the life of John Maynard Smith, his earlier years, his innovative ideas in the field of evolution where he was able to apply new mathematical concepts, his attitude toward religion, and saw him in action in video clips. We were interested to learn that one of our members knew John Maynard Smith quite well from his younger years.

Sean Faircloth Tour: Sean Faircloth New Zealand Tour – 2013

Auckland, Saturday 16th; Hawke Bay, Sunday 7th;
Christchurch, Tuesday 9th; and Wellington, Friday 12th April.

The lectures held in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Christchurch, and Wellington were well attended, and provided an opportunity for many people to meet and discuss common interests. The tour of New Zealand was organised and supported by the NZARH. We thank Peter Harrison, Chris Cavanagh and Judith de Leeuwe, NZARH office administrator, for their work. Meetings outside Auckland were organised by local people with the Humanist Society of New Zealand organising the Wellington event. Sean’s book, Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms us All – And What We Can Do About It 2012 sold out in Wellington but is available from Amazon.com.

In Wellington, Max Wallace, from the Australian New Zealand Secular Association (ANZSA), ably coordinated the speakers and panel discussion. Speaking first, Peter Harrison outlined the work of the Secular Education Network to encourage Primary Schools to adopt an “opt in” rather than an “opt out” approach to religious instruction, held under the Nelson clause. Education in New Zealand State primary schools must be entirely of a secular “character” but forty percent, or more, of New Zealand primary schools hold religious instruction in the up to 60 minutes that a school or individual class may be officially “closed” during a week, under the Nelson clause, sometimes in the middle of the day, to allow religious instruction outside official school hours! Peter gave examples showing how some organisations that run these religious classes give no indication of their intent, for instance, choosing to describe them as “Values Education”. There is considerable concern at what some primary schools ask children who “opt out” to do while other children are attending the religious classes. We were shown a photo of a child “opting out”, who was sitting in a corner by a rubbish bin. Others have been asked to pick up rubbish, a punishment in the same school. Dave Armstrong, Dominion Post columnist and playwright told us that he has missionary antecedents, yet over the course of time this has been translated to a secular home front. Dave gave us a vivid word picture of the interface between secular and religious life in NZ, of how he once joined in with a group of Samoan actors in a prayer before they performed on stage. Dave made an unsettling observation that TVNZ does not support science programmes in their viewing schedule. Sean Faircloth spoke rousingly about our need to stand up for secular principals. He spoke of the American experience where the religious right seemed to have little influence in the 1980’s. Now they hold power garnered with strong organisation over the intervening years. Sean suggested that all persons of a secular persuasion must unite and work together. Secularists must stand up for the position of good reasoning, critical thought, and balanced emotion. Sean suggested that we must look to ourselves for inspiration and not rely forever on celebrities to encourage us. Richard Dawkins will not be here forever.

In Wellington, a Saturday night dinner was held in the James Cook Hotel. The after diner speaker, Clive Solomon, a surgeon and Wanganui councillor, spoke to us about the alienation he experienced when he endeavoured to have the prayer removed from official Council business. From a distance it is often difficult to understand the emotional cost experienced by people who have stood up for their convictions. Clive’s talk movingly reminded us of this. Clive and his wife Hayley, left South Africa and all he knew on a principled stand that he would not be drafted into the army and be forced to take part in medical atrocities that were occurring at that time. New Zealand is their new home that they adore and he stands behind the secular principals that New Zealand was founded on, but he came under sustained and almost daily attack in the Wanganui Chronicle from individuals for defending secularism. The dinner had a musical flavour as we began the evening with a musical arrangement of Jeff Hunt’s poem It’s Getting Better, which can be found on humanist.org.nz. The song sung by Simon Jones, was arranged by Craig Utting and accompanied by Craig on the piano and Benny Utting (12) on the cello. Sean reciprocated by singing with a very fine voice an Irish folk song.

Thank You: We wish to thank the New Zealand Charitable Trust for granting our application for the 2013 Eileen Bone Scholarship of $1000 to help a Naenae College Year 13 student attend Victoria University in 2014. This scholarship will be awarded in November this year. We also thank the Trust for a grant supporting the Sean Faircloth Tour.

NZEI Protest March, Saturday 13 April: Following the Friday night seminar some people joined in the nationwide protests to express their misgivings with the Charter School legislation. In Wellington, marchers gathered at Parliament. The Secular Education Network supported this march and placard slogans were available on their website.

Why do we need Charter Schools when … ?
In an interview on Radio New Zealand National “Nine to Noon”, Tuesday 16 April, the principal of Kelston High School, described how teachers have had great success at improving NCEA pass rates for their largely Maori and Pacific island students. It is the long tail of poor achievement for Maori and Pacific island students that the ACT party invoke to justify the introduction of Charter Schools in an attempt to tackle this issue. Surely the Kelston High School approach could be encouraged in other schools. ACT may have the best of intentions but it is a big concern that Charter Schools, or Partnership Schools, as they will be termed in NZ, could be opportunistically used by minority groups to set up schooling where religious beliefs or other dogma dominate.

Same sex marriage: The Humanist Society of New Zealand, with the exception of a few individuals, has long supported same sex marriages and before the third and final reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill sent a letter of support to Louisa Wall. On the evening of Wednesday 17 April the Bill passed its third reading with an overwhelming majority of 77 to 44. New Zealand becomes the thirteenth country to allow same sex marriage and the first in the Asia Pacific region. The Bill received the unanimous support of the Green Party’s thirteen members, the Maori Party’s three members, and United Future, ACT, and Mana parties with one member each. It was opposed by New Zealand first with seven members and the independent Brendan Horan. New Zealand First wanted a national referendum to justify the law change before supporting the Bill. National and Labour parties were split.

During the debate 16 members spoke in favour of the Bill while 3 spoke against it. Women showed greater support by 4:1 while men supported it 3:2. Of the seven openly gay members of parliament, six supported the Bill while one, National’s Chris Finlayson, voted against it. Two members of parliament who voted against homosexual decriminalisation in 1986 changed their position and voted for the Bill: National’s Lockwood Smith and ACT’s John Banks. John Banks told parliament that he had been wrong in 1986 and with the knowledge he now has he would have acted differently. He said that in line with his party’s position on individual freedom he now supports gay marriage. On the night of Wednesday 17th, members stood up one after another to speak in support of the Bill confident that the Bill would pass, with only three expressing their reservations.

Some speakers received standing ovations and some members were seen to move from their seats to shake the hands of those speakers who spoke well in support of the Bill. Dr Paul Hutchinson, National, speaking in favour of the Bill called for a separation of church and state, although it appeared that he was religious. Many members of the house supported the Bill because they saw it as a Human Rights issue rather than one of religious morality. Another saw Christianity as a reason to support the Bill. The National member for Wanganui, however, while appearing at first to be in support of marriage equality, said he would vote against it because he thought that allowing this change should be part of a broader debate on the meaning of marriage!

Marriage in New Zealand is regulated by the Marriage Act 1955. This Act was gender neutral, neither specifically authorising or prohibiting same sex marriage. However, after three female couples were refused marriage licences the High Court ruled in 1996 that at the time the Act was written it was understood that a marriage was between one man and one woman in accordance with common law. An appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Committee was rejected in 2002. In response, parliament passed a Bill authorising Civil Unions in New Zealand on 9 December 2004 by 65:55 and the first Civil Unions took place on 26 April 2005.

Wednesday 17th April was an historic and very moving day in parliament as many members spoke from the heart. The public gallery was full and an overflow was accommodated in the old legislative chamber. Others gathered outside and many gathered in bars throughout the country to watch the debate on TV. In Christchurch the debate was shown live in theatres. When the vote was called, the ayes were an obvious and overwhelming majority but a personal vote was called. When the result was announced, those in the public gallery stood in unison and burst into song.

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science:
On 25 April 2013 the Foundation calls for a stand with Bangladeshi bloggers and activists! In January 2013, 29 year old blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed. In February 2013, a 35 year old atheist blogger involved in the Shahbag protests, Ahmed Rajib, was brutally killed. The Shahbag protests which began in the Shahbag neighbourhood of Dhaka, Bangladesh on February 5, 2013, and later spread to other parts of Bangladesh, demanded capital punishment for Abdul Quader Mollah and others convicted of crimes against humanity during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Islamists continue to threaten prominent bloggers and have called for the “execution of 84 atheist bloggers for insulting religion”. Rather than defend freedom of expression and protect freethinkers, the Bangladeshi government has arrested several bloggers, promising to pursue others, and shut down websites and blogs. Bangladesh has an Honorary Consulate on Lambton Quay, Wellington.

Evolutionary Psychology Research:
Peter Clemerson who is working towards his PhD at Massey University is looking for people to help with his research work. Peter has a website www.tinyurl.com/massey-stories, and he invites interested persons to visit and work through the research exercise. Peter very much welcomes our participation as answering questions has been one way that has enabled Evolutionary Psychology researchers to develop and test their hypothesis.

Constitution Conversations: A constitution is the sets of rules that determine how we are governed and how we live together. In New Zealand, our constitution reflects our national identity – who we are, our unique history, values and aspirations. Information about these conversations can be found at www.ourconstitution.org.nz. A schedule of debates and discussions are available on Radio NZ http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/lecturesandforums/constitutional-review%20. Church-State separation was an issue raised during the discussion prompted by Sean Faircloth’s visit. There is a proposal to have parallel discussions in Wellington which could address constitutional aspects; including consideration of a formal establishment clause equivalent for NZ, of the Bill of Rights (whether other rights should be included) and becoming a republic, as well as of matters such the legal aspects of state-sanctioned prayers, eg., and the issue of Christianity being included as part of Maori culture and thus state-sanctioned.

2013 Skeptics Conference: This year the conference will be held in Wellington. While the list of speakers is not finalised, Peter Clemerson and Jonny Aqel who spoke to us at our monthly meetings last year are among the speaker line up.

Marriage Celebrants: Our society has two marriage celebrants very happy to help celebrate and solemnise a marriage, perform a Naming Ceremony for a new baby, or lead a funeral for a person who would like a non religious ceremony. In Auckland our celebrant is Pamela Sikkema, who can be contacted by phone (09) 570 4390, and in Wellington Peter Clemerson, who can be contacted by phone (04) 938 5923 and by email [email protected] .

Did you know: The bikini, was named after the Micronesian Bikini Atoll, that was vaporised by nuclear tests, because the designer compared the onlookers’ reaction to an atomic blast.