Meeting Minutes – Monday, 11/5/2012

Approximately 18 persons attended the Lancaster Freethought Society Meeting held Monday, 11/5/2012 at 6pm at Isaac’s Restaurant, Lancaster, PA.

Scott Rhoades welcomed the attendees and referred interested parties to the membership forms located at the front of the room. Scott discussed that membership benefits include the opprotunity to run for board membership, participate on committees, and to utilize the LFS lending library. Membership forms include space for listing talents, hobbies and skills. Dues will be decreased by half for post-July applicants. Scott discussed that membership dues payment creates an investment in the group.

Scott also mentioned that donations are welcome, (a donation box was placed at the front of the room, Suggested donations are in the amount of server tips. Donations support LFS activities including sponsorship of the first PA State Atheist/Humanist conference.

Scott discussed that the LFS board members are currently working toward incorporation, reviewing by-laws for 501C3 status application. Any donations made to the group post-filing will be tax-deductible.

Scott discussed that LFS’s number one priority is community. While the group may occasionally opt to participate in protests, picket lines, etc., we also engage in social activities.

Claire Larson, Dan Mercer, Rose Ann Schultz, Tom Johnson, and Paul Rothrock recently participated in an Ask an Atheist event in downtown Lancaster. Tone of the event was uplifting, and a number of freethinkers and other interested parties approached these representatives.

Scott stressed LFS’s focus on transparency- the treasury ledger will be available to all members for review at any time. Members should email Scott if they wish to borrow any boooks from the lending library.

Board Member Reports:
Claire Larson discussed that LFS pub nights are held approx. every thrid Saturday of the month, currently at Loxley’s Restaurant, Lancaster. Interested parties should RSVP through the MeetUp site announcements.

Dan Mercer discussed recent volunteer efforts at the Habitat for Humanity Restore center. Dan is attempting to arrange for a volunteer effort on 11/24, and or during the first weekend of December. Dan also continues to make efforts to contact the DOT regarding Adopt-A-Highway participation, and consider other charities, (for ex., Foundation Beyond Belief).

Guest speaker Brian Fields, (President, PA Nonbelievers), presented to the group on the importance of coalitions in the Freethought Movement, (transcript available through this blog site).  Discussion was made regarding Mormon Mitt Romney’s presidential bit on a fundamentalist Republican platform, when Billy Graham had previously dropped Mormons as a cult.  This may have precipitated from Big Tent Parties/Moral Majority activities of the 1980s and provides an example of a broad goal of electing a Republican president overriding ideological differences.  In Brian’s opinion, a greater degree of disagreement among Christians than exists between Christians and the Secular movement.  Secular parties should consider shared goals and work to protect our rights through leveraging our numbers.  Brian urged us to work with religious groups that advocate for church/state separation and reject divisive leaders, (avoiding assumptions, labels).     

Brian discussed that divisiveness, (“in group/out group” bias) is a problem in the Atheist movement and recommended we emulate the way religious groups work together despite fundamental differences.  Likewise, we should not allow arbitrary issues to inhibit secular groups from working together.  We too often work/react in an emotionally-driven way, (not immediately-jumping to rationality).  Initial emotional response makes logical response more difficult.   

Brian also mentioned recent efforts by PA Nonbeliever member Grace Langheine’s efforts to bring donations to the Red Cross to help Hurricane Sandy-affected people in New Jersey.  Interested parties may contact Grace via email, (  The Freethought Society of Philadelphia, ( is also organizing a charitable fund. 

Brian discussed that – as a result of Linda Thompson’s speech at the Atheist/Humanist convention, an atheist group will be participating in Harrisburg clean-up activities, (Bob Philman/organizer). 

Brian mentioned an upcoming ACLU panel to be held at the Harrisburg Midtown Scholar- a, “Year of the Bible” discussion to be held on the last Thursday in November. 

Further discussion was held regarding LFS-PA Nonbelievers coalition building.  Brian last-visited an LFS meeting in April 2012, and found both groups working on the same short list of goals.  for ex.:

1) Protect church-state separation, (a PA Secular Coalition was recently-formed as a separate lobbying group);

2) Grassroots organization, for ex., Scott’s FGO/Freethought Group Organizers) Facebook group – sharing best practices, helping other organizers learn from experience);

3) Informing the public, (for ex., through the recent atheist/humanist state conference).

Also discussed were recent church challenges to IRS nonprofit law, (i.e., priests/preachers expressions of personal points of view protected under freedom of speech.  In a recent court case, claim was made that an IRS rep was not a, “high-ranking official”. 

Brian/Scott discussed groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the National Council of Churches.  Brian stressed that it’s unnecessary to sacrifice principles to work with those with whom you disagree as long as you share goals.  Demonizing others is counterproductive to achieving goals.

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