This is my first President’s Message and comes at the end of my first year leading the AHA. While a nonbeliever my entire adult life, I have identified as a humanist for at least twenty years and have been heavily involved with supporting the AHA for more than ten years. I am therefore thrilled to have the gratifying privilege and awesome responsibility of leading this organization with a history of almost eight decades fighting for the rights of nontheists in our country.
2019 was a year that the AHA continued to make progress in advancing its mission. We kept up our ongoing efforts to uphold the legal and constitutional rights of nontheists, with the important milestone of our Legal Center arguing a case before the Supreme Court for the first time. Being a grassroots organization, our efforts to help humanist communities across the country are critical, and we launched the Humanist Environmental Response Effort (HERE) for Climate to connect local individuals and community organizations with the resources they need to have an impact on the pervasive crisis facing our planet. You will read about these and many other aspects of our impactful and ongoing work throughout this annual report.
But the last year was also a very difficult one for us humanists who take seriously our tagline about being good. Our republic saw the continued and intensified degradation of ethical behavior in the public sphere. We watched a president impeached, allegedly engaging in violations of the most basic ethical standards. We observed politicians and other public figures across the country appear to enthusiastically enable such personal unethical behavior and gleefully participate in advancing unethical policies against refugees and other marginalized groups. My view is that the most important contribution any of us can make to our cause in such an environment is to continually set an example of ethical behavior, while openly identifying as nontheist, whenever that identification can be done without endangering our personal safety. This is a contribution we can make wherever we live, whatever work we do, whatever our financial situation.
If we do not want what is past to be prologue in 2020, each of us has another important role to play. This year each of us has the opportunity to participate with our nation in choosing whether the degradation of ethical standards in our public life continues or whether our republic takes a turn away from this path. Needless to say, one’s individual view on this will have no influence on the nation’s choice unless each of us makes an effort, however busy our lives are, to register and cast votes for those whom we want to represent us. But beyond that, we need to impress upon others in our lives the importance of the choices that will be made in 2020. This is especially applicable to younger people who are increasingly nontheist but not sufficiently part of our movement. Make no mistake, the damage that could be done to the institutions of our republic as a result of the nation’s choices in 2020 may be extensive and long lasting.
When you speak up on matters such as why our nation’s choices in 2020 are important to you, don’t let anybody tell you that humanist values are not American values. To those who would show you that being godly is an excuse to condone unethical behavior and to indulge in it if one can get away with it, show them that you would rather be good than godly any day.