May 2020: HMN Programs, Social Action, and Outreach

Participants at HumanistsMN’s annual meeting, which took place over Zoom on May 11, broke into groups to discuss three topics: programs, social action, and geographical outreach. Suggestions from those sessions included engaging top-notch national speakers for our monthly community gatherings, giving priority to the environment in our advocacy work, and working with secular groups and others throughout  Minnesota to expand humanism’s reach.

Reports from the three discussion leaders follow.


This  breakout group discussed planning for our monthly community gatherings. From September through April, HumanistsMN brings in guest speakers to address our association. In recent years, the scope of these talks has been quite broad to include the humanist worldview, social policy issues, and recent developments in various scientific fields.

Participants expressed a strong interest in bringing in renowned speakers from across the country whenever possible. As we try to raise the visibility of humanism in our region and attract a wider audience to our monthly gatherings, we should consider using our organizational resources to book top-notch people: national humanist leaders, authors on current issues, and influential thought leaders who align with humanist/progressive values.

I shared a number of possibilities for topics and/or guest speakers that have been suggested by members over the past several months. Especially of interest are Christian Nationalism and separation of religion and state, along with national speakers on the humanist/atheist stage – Chris Stedman, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Dave Warnock. Making space for “hot” social topics is another proven strategy for selecting speakers.

Whether we will be meeting in person come September is still an open question. And, given our growing comfort with meeting digitally, one option for securing speakers from across the country is to use Zoom or Skype to keep costs down. However, HumanistsMN should not rule out the possibility of doing one or two larger in-person events, even collaborating with other organizations, to make a big splash for humanism, and specifically HumanistsMN, in our region.

— Audrey Kingstrom, HMN program coordinator

Social Action   

  • Participants in the breakout session identified caring for Mother Earth as a top priority: from climate justice to  fighting climate  change to overall taking care of the environment, including advocating for and against relevant projects and laws.
  • Second place: voting.  That ranged from encouraging voting (especially to flip the state and U.S. Senates from Republican control)  to voter registration and voter  suppression. 
  • Additional topics of interest: criminal justice reform, medical aid in dying, and promoting vegetarianism. 
  • A suggestion was made to communicate updates and alerts via a range of social media (Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and Discord), if possible 
  • Because this meeting occurred  before George Floyd’s murder elevated issues of racial injustice and police brutality, I wonder what participants would have answered now.  HMN is  starting a regular discussion and working group titled Systemic Change for Justice, with the first meetup on June 18.  Please join in!  

— Christine Retkwa, co-chair, HMN Social Action Team

Geographical Outreach

My presentation to the annual meeting explained that in addition to expanding HumanistsMN’s activities and audience beyond the Twin Cities, this initiative would attempt to communicate the humanist worldview to nonsecular people, including some—rural, religious, conservative—who wouldn’t normally be receptive to our perspective.

During the breakout session, I identified five goals for the project, three of which reflected my belief that humanism, as the modern-day heir of the 18th century Enlightenment, should take on the task of promoting widespread human flourishing.

I proposed 10 principles of humanism having important implications for contemporary social and political issues. Session participants identified secular organizations throughout Minnesota that could provide partnering opportunities for this initiative, as well as other organizations—churches and student groups, for instance—with which we might be able to collaborate.

— Jerry Smith, HMN board member


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