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Humanism Gets Million Dollar Boost from Louis Appignani

For Immediate Release - Contact Fred Edwords at (202) 238-9088 fedwords@americanhumanist.org - www.americanhumanist.org

(Washington, D.C., June 10, 2008) During an awards ceremony at the 67th annual conference of the American Humanist Association (AHA) Friday night, humanists from across the United States witnessed a turning point for a movement which has been edging closer to "mainstream." Louis Appignani, a well-known entrepreneur and philanthropist from Miami, Florida, and current chairman and founder of Louja Realty Inc., awarded the AHA a check in the amount of $250,000 and indicated it was a down payment on his million dollar challenge grant. (See photos at: www.americanhumanist.org/press/appignani_press.php)

Met with cheers and applause, Appignani explained that he has pledged to match donations made to the AHA up to the amount of one million dollars. With over a quarter million already raised against the challenge, Appignani presented the check at the Humanist of the Year banquet for Representative Pete Stark. Representative Stark became the first openly nontheistic member of Congress last year, a revelation that was met with overwhelming public support.  An enthusiastic crowd donated tens of thousands of additional dollars following the awards ceremony, indicating an excitement within the humanist movement that this secular life philosophy is gaining traction and mainstream recognition.

"We're indebted to Lou Appignani for his generous gift," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "His donation to the movement will help us develop more and better programs and initiatives. In addition, his excitement for and dedication to humanism and the AHA can't help but be contagious, and we expect it will galvanize our members and supporters for some time to come. For that we can't thank him enough."

The announcement was made during an awards ceremony that recognized distinguished politicians Representative Pete Stark and Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin for their contributions in raising the profile of humanism. Senator Raskin, who received the Humanist Distinguished Service Award, has been at the forefront of humanist struggles for years as a civil-rights and civil-liberties advocate.

"Simply looking at our awardees, you can see clearly that times are changing," continued Speckhardt. "In the past, admitting the lack of a god belief for those holding public office was the kiss of death--you simply could not admit to such things without an immediate backlash." In his acceptance speech, Stark reported that about 4,900 of the 5,000 letters he received regarding his "coming out" were strongly supportive. "So, now we have public figures not only coming out as humanists but doing so and being applauded by their constituents for it. We're very optimistic about what the future holds for humanism."

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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

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