2012 Board of Directors Nominee Bios
AHA 2012 Board of Directors Election Slate
The 2012 AHA Board Nominations Committee nominated nine (9) candidates for six (6) open seats on the AHA Board of Directors. The nine candidates (in alphabetical order) are: Debbie Allen, Louis Altman, Robert Boston, Joey Carabetta, Rebecca Hale, Anthony Pinn, Herb Silverman, Kaspar Stoffelmayr, and Kristin Wintermute.
Debbie Allen currently serves as President of the Humanist Fellowship of San Diego. During the summer of 2009 Debbie organized the San Diego Coalition of Reason, and still serves as its local director. Since its debut three years ago, San Diego CoR has grown from ten to 18 cooperative freethought organizations.
For the past two years Debbie has served as the co-facilitator of Recovering from Religion—San Diego, and last year she reestablished the San Diego Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and serves as its president. In 2011 Debbie became a Humanist Chaplain in order to provide services for nontheists in the military and to advocate for their rights. She established the first ever humanist meeting at a military base in San Diego, and volunteers at the VA hospital in La Jolla.
Prior to her activism in secular causes, Debbie was an active volunteer at her Reform synagogue, serving (as a Secular Humanist) on the board of directors and chairing several committees including Education, Social Action, Outreach to Interfaith, and Membership. She is retired from a career as a psychotherapist in private practice and investigator in neuropsychological research at UCSD.
As a member of the AHA Board, Debbie would like to focus on 1) coordinating the AHA national resources to better serve the needs of local groups, 2) creating easily accessible humanist education for children and families, and 3) growing AHA membership.
Statement of Interest
I am aligned intellectually and philosophically with the stated principles and objectives of the American Humanist Association. As a member of the AHA board I would continue to devote myself to promoting a humanist worldview, building humanist grassroots organizations, strengthening alliances throughout the larger secular community, and encouraging commitment by Humanists to social action and social justice.
At Cornell University I became interested in the question of how to derive a system of ethics and also find some meaning in life itself without the traditional supernatural basis, and I wrote a senior thesis on that subject. Then followed Harvard Law School and a career as an intellectual property attorney in both private and corporate practice.
After I married and started a family, I joined the Unitarian Church and also a congregation dedicated to Humanistic Judaism, joining the board of the latter congregation. That activity led to my becoming a director of a national umbrella organization: the Society for Humanistic Judaism, which I have served as Secretary, Vice-President and now President for six terms. This work has afforded me the exhilarating experience of participating in board meetings of the Secular Coalition for America, and led to my being elected a director of the American Humanist Association.
I also was asked to join the board of directors and executive committee of the Humanists of Florida, which is an affiliate of the American Humanist Association, as well as the boards of The Humanist Institute, the Institute for Humanist Studies, and the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism.
While serving on the boards of these organizations, I was frequently called upon for pro bono advice on trademark and copyright issues, thus allowing me to use my professional background on behalf of humanism.
I am also a member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the Atheist Alliance International, and the Humanists of Sarasota Bay.
Statement of Interest
Over the last few years I have become alarmed as the United States moves toward irrational theism, negatively affecting issues of public policy and education such as stem cell research, gay marriage, faith-based initiatives in government-funded social services, vaccination of young women against human papilloma virus, and the teaching of evolution in public schools. By promoting humanism, I am doing what I can to avoid being governed by religious zealots, and to keep our national tradition of separation of church and state alive.
Bio and Statement of Interest
I was a Humanist before I knew what Humanism was. As a teenager, I began to experience doubts about the conservative form of Catholicism I had been brought up in. These soon blossomed into doubts about all religious claims and the existence of God. I probably became a Humanist at 17 – although I didn't know it at the time.
As an adult, I began to explore organized Humanism. In 1989, I joined the board of directors of the newly formed Washington Area Secular Humanists and helped that organization get off the ground.
I have worked for Americans United for Separation of Church and State since 1987 and now hold the title of senior policy analyst. Through Americans United, I came into contact with various Humanist organizations, and it has been my pleasure to speak to many of them over the years.
In recent years, Americans United and the AHA have been working closely together to defend the separation of church and state. I believe that the church-state wall is the only mechanism that can protect the religious and philosophical liberties of all Americans. The Humanism of the AHA appeals to me because it represents a positive vision. The AHA recognizes that Americans have the right to affiliate with whatever religious or philosophical movement they choose – but that no denomination or faith group has the right to use the power of the government to write its theological notions into law so that all must follow them.
I believe the central tenets of Humanism – respect for diversity, promotion of open inquiry, equality among genders, races and nationalities – are appealing to most Americans (although they may not identify them as Humanist principles). Our challenge is to define ourselves according to that positive vision rather than allow those who oppose Humanism and its principles to define us.
I write frequently on church-state topics, publish a regular column in The Humanist and have authored three books on the Religious Right and church-state relations. I believe my background, experience and willingness to serve qualify me to continue my service on the AHA Board.
From an academic standpoint, I have bachelor degrees in Physics and Mathematics from Berea College and a Master's of Science in Electrical Engineering from Duke University.
I am currently the Vice President of Sales for a sales consulting firm representing Microsoft. My professional career began as computer chip designer specializing in CPUs for Mitsubishi. After spending eight years in hardware design positions I decided to venture into the world of sales. I held sales and business development positions in the telecommunications semiconductor industry for over twelve years. Through these roles I have gained significant business experience including contract law, SEC filings, revenue recognition and corporate acquisitions.
My personal time is split primarily between being involved in the lives of my two daughters (ages 5 and 8) and my activities as a freethought activist. I am a member of the board of directors and treasurer of the Triangle Freethought Society in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. We are an extremely active affiliate of the AHA. I was one of the first twenty members of this group which has now grown to almost 300 members in less than three years. Examples of my activities in this group include being involved in the planning and running of monthly membership events and programs as well as an annual National Day of Reason event to name of a few. I also serve on the boards of Camp Quest South Carolina and the Renaissance Montessori School. One of the new humanist activities I've been involved with is working directly with all the national freethought groups (such as the AHA, AA, CFI, SSA and many others) to create teams on the local level to raise a combined $1,000,000 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Light the Night fundraiser. This is an exciting project and will really highlight how we humanists can do good things without god.
Statement of Interest
In the last few years I have been increasingly involved in the humanist movement and have found this work to be more rewarding than I ever imagined. I feel I am truly making a difference and building a better world for my daughters to grow up in. I believe my business experience from a legal, financial and budgeting standpoint could be of benefit to the board. I will also bring the experience gained by being an active member of my locally successful AHA affiliate in assisting other groups to grow a larger and more effective humanist community. I would also like to thank Todd Stiefel for recommending me for this position. I have enjoyed working with him on many humanist group activities and look forward to working with others at the AHA.
I am a lifelong Humanist, although I didn't know there was an AHA until 1996. I was born in New York City to Humanist parents, although they called themselves Unitarians. Throughout my upbringing and life the focus has always grounded on a life philosophy of personal responsibility. If there is something that needs doing it is incumbent on each of us to do what we can towards getting it done. This carries through on all aspects of life; from cleaning up after dinner to cleaning up the environment.
The unexplained has always been that which science does not yet understand. After my own due diligence I have come to appreciate the value of laughter, beautiful music, friendship, a walk on the beach and good nutrition. As the late great Albuquerque humanist, Harry Wilson, wrote in Freedom from God there is this sense of wonder and awe, the “oceanic” feeling one gets when confronted with the magnificence of nature.
In 1976 I received my MPA (Master in Public Administration) and embarked on a career in government, real estate development, and college administration. In 1993, observing the unsavory effects of the rise of evangelical Christians in Colorado Springs, my husband and I started the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs and subsequently our web based business, EvolveFISH.com. In 1997 EvolveFISH was asked to take over the Humanist Book store, by its founder Lew Dunlap. We attended the 1998 AHA convention and every convention since (except 1999, that is the weekend our daughter, Tani, was born!) Attending the conventions I discovered the AHA and found my philosophical home. Being a humanist makes me a better person.
Statement of Interest
I have enjoyed my involvement with the AHA and the past eight years on the Board of Directors. I have served as Secretary of the Board and am currently serving as Vice President. I am pleased with the collegiality that we have established on the Board. In spite of intellectual disagreements we readily maintain a dedication to the common purpose of furthering Humanism and the AHA. During my tenure the AHA has grown and thrived. I can't take credit for our growth, that is a product of our times, our staff and a board that remains focused on furthering Humanism. I look forward to being able to continue on the board, working toward greater understanding and acceptance of humanism in the public dialogue.
I completed my undergraduate degree (BA) at Columbia University, and I received the Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University Divinity School, as well as the MA and PhD from Harvard University in the study of religion. I taught at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) before becoming the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. I am also the founding director of the Houston Enriches Rice Education Project – a program meant to foster creative partnerships between Rice and the larger Houston community that impact both the work of the University and the quality of life in Houston. Related to my research, I am the author/editor of twenty- six books, including By The Hands: A Documentary of African American Humanism (2001); African American Humanist Principles: Living and Thinking Like the Children of Nimrod (2004); and, The End of God-Talk: An African American Humanist Theology (2012). I am also the director of research for the Institute for Humanist Studies. In 2006, I was named the Harvard University Humanist Chaplaincy "Humanist of the Year." In 1999, I received the African American Humanist Award from the Council for Secular Humanism.
Statement of Interest
2012 marks my twentieth anniversary as a humanist in thought and deed. And during these twenty-years I have made an effort to think and act consistent with the best of humanism. Both my personal humanism and my involvement with humanist organizations speak to my deep belief that humanists are uniquely positioned to provide productive approaches to public life that move away from theistically charged ideas and practices. In this way, humanists have the potential to decrease the damage done by the limitations of theism. Two things are necessary at this point: (1) more effective strategies for communicating the benefits of humanism, and (2) creative approaches to the application of humanism to the pressing issues of our times.
The AHA has the ability to play a central role in accomplishing all this vital work. And, I am excited by the possibility of helping to advance the AHA's agenda for a more reasonable society.
Herb Silverman is Founder and President of the Secular Coalition for America, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston. He founded the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry in Charleston, SC, and was founder and faculty advisor to the College of Charleston student Atheist/Humanist Alliance. He is a board member of the American Humanist Association as well as a Humanist Celebrant, advisory board member of the Secular Student Alliance, and member of the Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He has written for "On Faith" at the Washington Post and for the Huffington Post. He has spoken at a number of conferences and written articles for The Humanist and other freethought publications. He has appeared in a number of debates representing the humanist point of view, including one at the Oxford Union in Oxford, England on the topic: Does American Religion Undermine American Values?
Statement of Interest
I was raised as an Orthodox Jew in Philadelphia and became an apathetic atheist soon after my Bar Mitzvah. When I moved to South Carolina and learned that our state Constitution prohibited atheists from holding public office, my apathy turned into activism. I ran for governor to challenge this unconstitutional provision and won a unanimous decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court, which struck down the anti- atheist clause in the state Constitution. My recently published book, "Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt," describes some of my activities. It is a joint publishing project between Humanist Press (first ebook from the AHA) and Pitchstone Publishing (hardcover).
During my run for governor, I learned about a number of humanist and atheist organizations, and joined them all because they were working on causes I supported. These organizations were spending too much time arguing about labels (atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker, Bright, etc.) and not enough time showing our strength in numbers and cooperating on issues that matter to all secular Americans. The AHA was the first national board I joined, in 1998, and I proposed forming a coalition with other national organizations. After overcoming some roadblocks, the Secular Coalition for America was formed and now consists of eleven cooperative national nontheistic organizations. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic Americans, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government. Since member organizations, including the AHA, are educational nonprofits with strict limits on lobbying, the Secular Coalition incorporated as a political advocacy organization to allow unlimited lobbying on behalf of secular Americans for the first time. I'm thrilled that the AHA is now supportive of the secular movement as a whole, and hope we can continue to work together and advocate for those millions of Americans without god beliefs.
Kaspar Stoffelmayr is an attorney who lives in Chicago with his wife and two sons. Originally from Michigan, Kaspar received a BA from Grinnell College, an MA in philosophy from the University of Washington, and a law degree from the University of Chicago. He works as a senior in-house lawyer at a large international corporation. Prior to that, he was a partner in a law firm specializing in civil litigation. Beyond practicing law, his professional background includes extensive experience managing people and finances.
The challenges of raising children in a world flooded with explicit and implicit religious messages convinced Kaspar that it was not enough to be silently frustrated with the widespread deference accorded religious beliefs and institutions and the accompanying marginalization of any viewpoint that expressly rejects the supernatural. Like so many others, when Kaspar discovered the AHA, he was pleased to learn that he had been a Humanist for years and just did not have a name for it. He has been an enthusiastic supporter ever since.
Statement of Interest
I believe that Humanism and the secular movement are at a time of great opportunity. The number of Americans who self-identify as nonreligious now exceeds the membership of most major religious denominations; serious books defending expressly anti-theistic views have attained mainstream popularity; and religious institutions have seen their authority in society weakened by a political environment that encourages them to take extreme and divisive positions on social issues.
The AHA now faces the challenge to take advantage of this opportunity while we have it. The AHA must act resolutely and intelligently to expand its publicity efforts to reach broader audiences, to create effective coalitions with people and organizations who agree with us on discrete issues, to participate in public policy discussions and in American public life more assertively than ever before, and to introduce more people to the positive alternative that Humanism offers to supernatural religious belief. And the AHA needs the resources to make all of this happen, which requires smart fundraising, including aggressive efforts to reach the growing number of Americans who are the AHA's natural allies but not yet supporters.
With the AHA at such an exciting juncture, I was very happy when I was asked to consider running for the AHA's Board. I would be honored if I could play a greater role in the AHA's work and success going forward.
Kristin Wintermute is a life long Humanist who attended the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis through out her childhood and teen years. She was enrolled in their Humanist Education Program and later became a classroom teacher. As a college student, she helped the Unitarian Fellowship of Missoula, Montana start their first Sunday school program. Following college, she returned to Minneapolis and the First Unitarian Society where she began the twenties and thirties group, which continues to meet today.
Kristin received an undergraduate degree from the University of Montana in Pre-professional Psychology and a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Maine. Her early career was working as a mental health practitioner in a variety of settings including private practice, public schools, non-profit clinics and a major health care company over a 7-year period. In 1998, she made the decision to leave the field of social work to become a stay-at-home Mother. Pursuing part-time work from home, she was hired by the North American Committee for Humanism (NACH) to be their Executive Director. In 1999, NACH and it's subsidiary, The Humanist Institute (THI) became one organization. Kristin initially served as THI's Business Manager, but has now become their Executive Director. She has worked for THI for over fourteen years. She currently lives in Minneapolis, MN with her husband and three children.
Statement of Interest
During my first term, I concentrated my efforts on serving as the chair of the Chapter Service Committee. I sought to better meet the needs of Chapters and Affiliates of the AHA. I oversaw the consolidation of Chapter distinctions resulting in a more streamline program that provides consistent benefits to all closely involved local groups. I helped to improve communication between AHA staff, board and local groups by ensuring a way for Chapters and Affiliates to share ideas and best practices utilizing social networks. I firmly believe that Chapters and Affiliates of the AHA are crucial to growing our movement and wish to support their efforts in providing a viable option for all communities. I also served as a liaison to the Feminist Caucus. The issues they tackle and the work they do is of primary importance to this movement.
I continue to stand by my original statement of interest in serving on the AHA board. It would be wonderful to attend a dinner party without having to explain, at least once in the evening, what a humanist is. I would like the Humanist worldview to have more visibility and respect in our society. Those who have arrived at a non-theological life stance should know that Humanism is not only a reasonable alternative to theism, but also an ethical position of responsibility for one's actions and the welfare of others and our planet. Like most people of my generation and younger, I am interested in action as opposed to just hearing words. The AHA is an organization that is moving in this direction—leading the humanist movement into the public arena and striving to make it a viable and honored tradition. It is a most dynamic enterprise with activists, leaders and spokespersons who bring vitality and visibility to our movement. I would welcome the opportunity to continue contributing to the AHA's efforts.