Meeting Minutes – 6/3/2013

Approximately 10 persons attended a meeeting of the Lancaster Freethought Society held Monday, 6/3 at Isaac’s Restaurant, Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

Pres. Scott Rhoades initiated an informal discussion regarding feminism withing the Freethought movement, and how it’s effects may be described as a, “fracturing”, or, “layering”. Rebecca Watson (skeptic, feminist) and Skepchicks are associated with “Elevatorgate”. Certain POVs have arisen based on an incident, and there is some debate over whether these are reasoned or emotional- (for ex., an anti-homosexual stance taken by an atheist group in Atlanta).

Upcoming Events:

6/9 – Coffee & COnversation, Prince Street Cafe
6/15 – Lancaster Pride Festival
6/22 – Ask an Atheist at Penn Square

All of the above are advertised at

Scott idsucssed that group members are welcome to advertise for their businesses at meetings. Scott briefly discussed that he has recently started, “New Traditions”, (a secular wedding officiant service).

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LFS Meeting Minutes – 5/6/2013

LFS Meeting Minutes – 5/6/2013

Approximately 14 people attended a meeting of Lancaster Freethought Society help Monday, 5/6/2013, 6pm at Isaac’s Restaurant, Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

Scott Rhoades began by discussing the upcoming Atheist/Humanist conference in Philadelphia. Cost will be $113, (to include the Friday PM party). The admission fee covers dinner and lunch.  Embassy Suites Hotel has reserved a block of rooms.  Room fees will include complementary breakfast and happy hour.  Suites include two queen-sized best and a pull-out couch.

Scott discussed conference volunteer opportunities, (inquire via the web site), also gave a run-down of speakers including:
Shelly Saegal (comedian)

George Hrab

Jerry DeWitt (Clergy Project)

Jamila Bey

Ropb Boston

Mark Cohen

JT Eberhard

(and many others)

VIP tickets will be available.  Student tickets will be availbale for $40, (ticket price to include a piza party – in lieu of lunch/dinner).

Board Member Reports:

Dan Mercer briefly discussed recent Habitat for Humanity volunteer events. 

Claire Larson discussed that Pub Night will be held in May, also a Coffee and Conversation event, (possibly at the Pillar Hookah Lounge).

Scott Rhoades discussed Ask An Atheist, (held recently in downtown Lancaster).  The next will be held 6/22w, hosted by Dan & Lisa Mercer.

SPEAKER: The Scientific Methods, by David Kolesar

Key terms/ideas, (as per Claire Larson’s observations):

-Where did it come from?

-Scientific revelation

– Printing Press

– Descartes

– Rationalism-empiricism fusion, (people very susceptible to bias- force observer from the observed)

– Independent/dependent variables

– reliance on assumptions

– Scientism – belief that scientific knowledge is superior

– Two realms of reality we can be certain of – math & logic – cannot be proven by the scientific method.

– Sociological method

– The Moral Landscape – by Sam Harris –  Although we cannot use science to define morals, we can work toward more or less suffering….  Science works on behalf of morality to reduce suffering.  (Book available in LFS library for dues-paying members.)

– John Stuart Mill (Utiles, secular method of coming-out with morality)

– Jeremy Bentham

– The Golden Rule disrespects sadists & masochists

– “Always be skeptical.” – David Kolesar


Scott summarized the meeting by emphasizing that the first priority of LFS is community.

A summer LFS picnic may be scheduled.


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Hearing the Voice

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Meeting Minutes -04/1/2013

Approximately 16 persons attended a meeting of Lancaster Freethought Society at Isaac’s Restaurant on Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

Attendee Al Eckert presented readings from The Portable Atheist, (a compilation of thoughts from famous atheist thinkers through time).

Attendee Scott Bitzer presented a discussion of an article, “Hearing the Voice of God”, (see attachments). 

Attendees discussed continuing pub nights or having a coffee get-together at Prince Street Cafe in lieu of these.

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LFS Meeting Minutes – Monday, 3/4/2013

Approximately 18 people attended the LFS Meeting held Monday, 3/4/2013 at 6pm at Isaac’s Restaurant, Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

Scott discussed his work with the Secular Coalition (lobbying organization) including arrangements for a luncheon with Richard Dawkins on 3/12 in Philadelphia. Lunch will be held at a colonial tavern and will include 4-courses. The event is $300/ticket. Intended to be a small group discussion, members will be able to converse with Dawkins as he gets a feel for the political landscape in Pennsylvania. Secular Coalition flyers were made available at the front of the room for interested parties.

Member Reports

Dan Mercer – Charity Director

Saturday, 3/9, LFS will volunteer at the Habitat for Humanity Restore.  All spots are covered, but interested parties should notify Dan.  Dan solicited three volunteers for a 3/30 volunteer session. 


Claire Larson – Secretary

21-22 persons attended the most recent Pub Night at Loxley’s Restaurant, Lancaster.  Attendees were given a private room, but commented that table arrangement made socialization difficult. 


Beginning in March, Ask an Atheist events will be scheduled monthly, (per recent board decision).  Scott Rhoades provided clarification regarding AaA:

10 or 11am start downtown with sign on the square

we should not consider ourslves alone in a sea of believers- they are not a cohesive group

AaA is not intended to be a debate session, but an invitation to people to ask questions.  Attendees may answer at will.

Attendees were encouraged not to, “gang-up” since others who approach us do so as a minority- we should not appear belligerent

bringing folding chairs is recommended

Use of the Socratic method may be helpful, i.e., asking instead of telling while the other party waits their turn to speak

stay calm and consider your presence there as a member of LFS, not as an individual. 


State Atheist/Humanist Conference – 9/13-15 in Philadelphia

Embassy Suites will host and offer $120/night room accommodations, (rooms include two beds and a couch, plus breakfast and happy hour)

Tickets will be $113 and include meals – reference the Meet-Up site for more info

Speakers to include Jamila Bey, Katie Seagel, (Australian singer), George Hrab, and a representative of the JamesRandi Foundation.  The conference will include a Humanist and an American Atheist panel. 

A $60-80/night budget hotel is located in the vicinity.

Discussion – 10 Commandments-styled lists for atheists, (three discussed):


1) Bertrand Russel’s Liberal Decalogue

2) Alaine Dey Patan (Swiss expat philosopher/writer in Britain, proposed athrist temple) – 10 Commandments/Suggestions

3) 12 Virtues of Rationality – Eliza Yokowski


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LFS Board Meeting – 2/17/2013

Dan Mercer, Scott Rhoades, Claire Larson and Craig Clearwater met at 10am on Sunday, 2/17/2013 for an LFS Board Meeting. Attendees gathered at the hookah lounge, but moved to Fractured Prune when the lounge was found closed until 10:30.

Scott discussed continued review of incorporations documents.

Scott discussed that the LFS treasure includes $657, (mostly comprised of membership fees and Zazzle/online t-shirt sale profits. Incorporation fee will be $125. LFS will need to obtain/budget for a PO box pre/post incorporation.

Other budgeted items:

MeetUp site: $70/six months, (PAN pays $30)

Donations to LFS are non-tax deductible pre-incorporation.

Scott discussed that post-incorporation, we will refine the by-laws and share them with the membership.

Scott discussed that generic LFS business cards may be produced for group members to promote the group. 

Scott may need some office supply subsidization- esp of printer ink. 

The WordPress site cost is covered. 

Scott is unaware of another other known regular expenses, other than that we should try to maintain an approx. $2,000 emergency fund, if possible.

Scott discussed that other freethought groups maintain revenue differently.  PAN, for instance, has a treasury totally approximately $10,000.  Margaret Downey’s group in Philadelphia retains only around $400, (spending money as they get it). 


2013 Atheist/Humanist Conference – Philadelphia, PA

Board members discussed that LFS will likely provide a 2013 conference donation of $100, (consistent with last year’s amount). 

The 2013 conbference attendance fee is likely to be $100.  Groups from New Jersey and other nearby stated should be attracted to this event. 

The 2014 confered location will likely be Pittsburgh. 


Scott discussed that the LFS MeetUp side includes ~200 members, (with a few adds/departures monthly).  Scott encouraged Board Members to plug the monthly LFS meetings at Pub nights. 
Dan Mercer – Charity Director

Dan discussed that Lisa Mercer volunteered at the Lancaster Women’s WInter Shelter recently.  LFS has been active in supporting this organization, (which will be in place until April/May).  LFS will consider another volunteer night at shelter, then seek another chairty to support in spring.  The WWS is supported by the Council of Churches- LFS volunteers since the mission is in line with our secular viewpoint.     

Dan is planning another HFH Restore volunteeer event for Saturday, 3/9. 

Dan will continue to pursue highway clean-up opportunities through the DOR.  Dan will call this week.


LFS intends to hold Ask an Atheist on a monthly basis downtown.  The Board will take responsibility for staffing these events.  At the March meeting, Scott will discuss forming a committee to plan this event in 2013.  The organizer should bring a copy of the rules document on paper.  An emergency back-up person may be designated. 

Board Member Paul Rothrock is moving away soon, but may still be available to assist with the LFS web site, (IT). 

Scott discussed that LFS should eventually name a Vice President- but it cannot be Claire (Secretary), or Craig, (Treasurer). 

Scott discussed using FGO FB page for idea discussion.  Scott and Brian Fields (PAN) are working on an FAQ page for FGO.  Scott is also initiating a PA Freethought Group Organizers group- separate from FGO. 

ZGroup members discussed that Paul has been maintaining the LFS Twitter account.  Claire expressed an interest in helping with the account. 

Board members will solicit local speakers from outside the group for presentations at meetings. 


Upcoming activities:


Lancaster Gay ride Festival

other local festivals and parades as we become aware of them- we may consult PAN’s list

LFS may sponsor a contest for paid tuition to Camp Invention or Camp Quest.  Claire will gaterh info regarding Camp Quest, Scott on Camp Invention, to present at the March LFS Meeting.


Dan will locat online links to incorporation documents and share these on the LFS Board page.


Claire discussed that the most recent LFS Pub Night was attended by more than 25 people.  Claire will try to book a private room at Loxley’s- since the group is commonly very large. 

Next board meeting agenda: Discuss incorporation documents, fundraising activities.

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Meeting Minutes – 2/4/2013

A meeting of the Lancaster Freethought Society was held on Monday, 2/4/2013, at 6pm at Isaac’s Restaurant, Manehim Pike, Lancaster, PA. Approximately 19 persons were in attendance.

Scott Rhoades discussed LFS membership benefits, (e.g., paid membership is not required to attend meetings, although certain priveleges are extended to members including the ability to vote and to borrow books from the library, (one month check-out).

The next PA State Atheist/Humanist conference will be held September 13-15 in Philadelphia. Margaret Downey’s group will host a Friday the 13th party for $13 on 9/13, (as part of the conference). The 2014 conference will likely be held in Pittsburg. Attendees were told to check tghe conference’s FB page for updates concerning event hotel & venue, (or As in 2012, a block rate (~$120/night) will be offered for hotel accommodations). “Big name” speakers are being solicited for the event, (slated to end at some point during the afternoon on Sunday). Margaret Downey’s Freethought Society will be the official sponsor. Volunteer assistance is welcome. Tickets will be $100, (to include meals- daily breakfast-lunch-dinner).

Current Events

Scott referenced the recent case of a congresswoman from Louisiana’s expression of shock when school vouchers were used in Muslim schools.  The senator made allusion to state funded terrorism.  Americans United and SeCOR continue to try to educate regarding church/state mixing. 


PRESENTATION : Atheism and Christianity from a Psychotherapist’s Perspective

(The following are Claire Larson’s observations of material presented by Craig Clearwater, not a complete transcript of material presented.  Observations of attendees may vary.) 

LFS Treasurer Craig Clearwater presented regarding identified worldviews of Verifiable Truth, (i.e., is information verifiable/falsifiable), and Utility, (i.e., how useful an idea is to its believer) and how these combine in various proportion, (with reference to the story of Oedipus).  Faith gives access to high utility ideas, (for ex., an afterlife).  And while it’s not possible to disput personal experience, one can dispoute an intellectual claim.  Attendee’s discussed Craig’s question, “Is there a time when utility should trump truth?”  Craig discussed that christians observe how non-believers conduct themselves, and summarized his discussion with statements to the  effect that skeptics of reason and science state that these things are human-constructs, (and therefore flawed).  Luckily for humans, God is perfect, and has revealed himself to us.  Therefore, (in some POVs), it makes sense that some of religion does not make sense….

Craig referenced, “The Way of the Master” by Ray Comfort

Scott briefly-discussed, “coming-out” as an atheist to friends and family, suggesting that- in some cases- perhps it’s better not to officially, “come-out”.  Don’t hide, but no need to announce. 

Scott discussed his capacity outside of LFS with the Secular Coalition For America.  Pamphlets were distributed.

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New York Times Articles – January 2013

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LFS Meeting – Monday, 1/7/2013

Approximately 12 people attended a meeting of Lancaster Freethought Society held Monday, January 7, 2013 at Isaac’s Restaurant on Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

New Business
Scott discussed that Samantha Murphy has left the board and Craig Clearwater has been voted-in.

Claire Larson provided an event overview. Scott elaborated on the Winter Women’s Shelter volunteer effort.

Scott discussed interfaith outreach, stating that LFS is contemplating doing more in the future- assuming common goals and no prosletyzing (spelled-out).

2013 Planning

Ask an Atheist

Scott emphasized taking a non-conforntive, “psychological edge”/Socratic method approach, moving lengthy conversations to the side.  The purpose of holding Ask an Atheist events is to dispel myths/misconceptions regarding atheism.  LFS will attempt to schedule 3-4 of these events in the upcoming year. 

Solstice Parties

Atheist/Humanist Conference

Quick organization efforts in 2012 resulted in a 120+ attendee conference. 

Science festival for children – emphasizing science and critical thinking.

Attend public festivals/parades

Guest speakers

Scott reiterated LFS’ foremost emphasis: community.

On 1/16, Scott will be speaking at the Dayspring Christian Schoolk’s World Views Conference.  Katie SHeetz and David Kolesar will join him for this event.  Scott connected the organizing teacher with representatives of the Muslim faith and the Buddhist POV.  Scott discussed that the organizer was happy to have a representative of atheism/humanism.  Scott will be given 5 minutes to summarize his worldview, then will be available for a two hour Q&A session.  Scott stated that he plans to explain atheism as a response to the event’s solicitation of worldview, and will emphasize Humanism.


Attendees distributed two NY Times articles:


1) The Blessing of Atheism

A discussion of how atheists are consoled differently vs. believers when affected by trajedy.

2)  A Critical Response to Humanism

Where were humanists when trajedy struck, (at Sandy Hoook School)?  Per Scott, some criticism may be fair- churches handle community well.  Some discussion was held in re: what can the atheist community offer?  In many cases, we lack the funds and cohesion necessary to react as a group. 

Scott ended the meeting with a reasing: Oration at a Child’s Grave by Robert Ingersoll

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Board Meeting – 1/6, 11am, Pillar Lounge, Lancaster, PA

Scott Rhoades, Claire Larson and Paul Rothrock attended an LFS Board Meeting on 1/6.

Attendees approved addition of Craig Clearwater as a Board Member. 

Claire will bring applications to the upcoming LFS meeting so that memberships may be renewed.  (Post incorporation, dues will be renewed in March.) 

2013 Planning

Claire will prepare a list of 2012 “bullet point” LFS events from 2012.

Scott will update the mission statement listed on the web site with emphasis on LFS’ focus on community, charity, avoiding any, “militant” image. 

The Prudhomme’s case addressed by member John Wolff with the Human Rights Commission was resolved in 2012.  Member Heather Abbatto recently noticed a local yogurt place offering a church bulletin discount.  Going-forward, LFS will avoid contact with local newspapers regarding such cases until a letter & invitation to talk has been issued, (to avoid publicity-driven responses).

Another conference will be held in 2013, probably in Philly.  Brian and Scott will work with Margaret Downey & Carl Silverman on the arrangements.  Scott noted Carl Silverman had expressed disappointment in a lack of Philadelphia-area representation at the 2012 conference. 

More Ask an Atheist events will be scheduled. 

Charity Efforts

Dan Mercer will continue to aggressively-pursue participation in the Adope a Highway program.

LFS will continue to partner with First Interfaith/Council of Churches to support the Lancaster Winter Women’s Shelter.  Scott discussed how local church facilites are used week to week, also the YWCA basement & gym.  Offered shifts are 6:30-9:30, overnight, (9:30-1:30, 1:30-AM).  Assistance processing check-ins and general area supervision is needed.  Volunteers are guaranteed 6 hours sleep. 

LFS will try to participate in more festivals, (such as 2012’s Gay Pride).  Public festivals must allow our participation- LFS administration will be on the lookout for opportunities. 

LFS intends to hold family events for kids, (pizza and movie nights), also to encourage participation in local family activities offered through the county park and the North Museum. 

LFS intends to solicit meeting speakers, internal and external to the group.  .

By-laws for 501C3 incorporation will require further revision in 2013.


Claire to announce 1/19 Pub Night on Meet-Up, (confer with Dan Mercer/cancel room, if necessary). 

On 1/16, Scott will present to a Christian school on, “Worldviews Day”.

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