An Open Letter to Governor Bevin

This morning, Tri-State Freethinkers sent an open letter to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin regarding his recent statements made at the Values Voter Conference. TSF additionally invited Mr. Bevin to attend one of their events to better know his secular constituents and discuss some non-violent ways of resolving issues.

The letter was as follows:


Governor Bevin:

We were gravely disturbed by your comments at the Value Voters Conference in Washington D.C. this past Saturday.

“I want us to be able to fight ideologically, mentally, spiritually, economically, so that we don’t have to do it physically,” Bevin said during an impassioned speech at the Values Voter Conference in Washington D.C. Saturday. “But that may, in fact, be the case.”

“It’s a slippery slope,” Bevin said. “First, we’re killing children, then it’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ now it’s this gender-bending kind of ‘don’t be a bigot,’ ‘don’t be unreasonable,’ ‘don’t be unenlightened, heaven forbid,’ ‘just keep your mouth shut.’”

“Whose blood will be shed?” Bevin asked. “It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something that we, through our apathy and our indifference, have given away. Don’t let it happen.”

This hyperbolic fear-mongering is reminiscent of the dark ages when the Church, feeling threatened by new ideas of science and humanism, called its followers to pick up their pitchforks and resolve things with violence. The slippery slope you refer to is the positive movement toward more inclusive human rights.

You claim you support limited government to make our nation stronger, and yet you would use the law to impose radical Christian beliefs on the people of Kentucky. The government should not tell a woman that she cannot access reproductive health care such as contraception and abortion services. The government should not restrict who can serve in the military or use public restrooms based on sexual orientation or gender identity. You hide behind the guise of religious freedom to deny the most basic human rights to your constituents. If society is moving away from conservative Christian values, it is because they are immoral, and violence is never the answer.

As humanists, we respect a woman’s right to health care, we do not discriminate based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or economic status. The Tri-State Freethinkers invite you to a monthly meeting, so that we may have a discussion about humanist values and non-violent solutions for our problems as a community.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky is mocked world-wide as the anti-science capital of the United States, thanks to the recent addition of the radical Christian theme park “Ark Encounter”. We urge you to not drag Kentucky back into the dark ages by encouraging violence and bigotry. Let science and reason guide your decisions instead of ancient mythology that has historically lead to mass genocide and the destruction of human rights.

We look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,

Jim G. Helton
President, Tri-State Freethinkers


screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-11-19-20-am-800x430

PRESS RELEASE: Tri-State Freethinkers to Protest KKK Rally in Madison, Indiana

September 13, 2016

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jim G. Helton
tsfreethinkers@gmail.com

Tri-State Freethinkers will protest a recruitment rally for the Confederate White Knights branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Madison, Indiana on September 24.

“Our first priority has always been to defend equal rights and the separation of church and state.  The KKK is nothing more than a Christian hate group. Their racist remarks and historical acts of violence are protected by the guise of religious freedom. They are a shining example of what can happen when the bible is read, cover to cover, and its words taken literally.  Our country gives the KKK the rights of free speech and assembly, but those same rights allow us to call out their hateful bigotry and discrimination. They would have us return to a time in this country when the law segregated people who were different from them. Religion is quite possibly the most divisive tool humanity has ever created. It prescribes a set of unquestionable rules that tell you what to do, what to eat, what to wear, who to love, and to hate those who are different from you. As humanists, we believe all people should be treated equally, regardless of race, sex, gender identity, or economic status. Religion has always been and remains the greatest obstacle to equality.” said Jim G. Helton, President and Co-Founder of Tri-State Freethinkers.

Tri-State Freethinkers recently staged a successful international protest at the site of the Answers in Genesis “Ark Encounter” park for their discriminating hiring policies in Williamstown, KY. The theme park, granted millions in state tax dollars and tax increment financing, required potential employees to sign a strict statement of faith, excluding most Christians, Jews, Muslims, and the entire LGBT community.

About the Tri-State Freethinkers
Tri-State Freethinkers is a social, academic, and activist group with over 1600 members in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. They are advocates for equal rights and the separation of church and state. They empower members to make positive change by giving back to the community. They encourage critical thinking and decisions based on facts, logic and reason, not superstitions, myths, or dogma.

KKK RALLY
A member of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan waves the Confederate flag during a klan rally on the steps of the Warrick County courthouse in Boonville, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 17, 1998. (AP Photo/Evansville Press, Jonna Spelbring)

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator shouldn’t inform anyone’s daily life

Ghosts, psychics, horoscopes and demons. These are all things I, as a self-proclaimed freethinker, have rejected. There simply isn’t any hard evidence to support the veracity of these things. Sure, I allow that they may be real, but without any reliable to way to verify their realness, why should I spend my time thinking they are? Another example of such a weak idea is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Before I get in too deep, we need to clarify a term: Freethinker. It’s a word that calls up ideas like open mindedness, rumination and independence of thought. It’s also a word that tends to confuse people both inside and outside of the freethought world. In his recent book Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, David Silverman wrote at length about the confusion words such as nonbeliever, agnostic, humanist and others have caused. Freethinker is no different.

A freethinker, according to Merriam-Webster, is one who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority or one who doubts or denies religious dogma. A freethinker is someone who approaches any given idea with an open mind – at least initially. Once one vets an idea, evaluating how well it holds up to rigorous scientific standards, one is free to embrace or reject the idea. This meaning sometimes seems lost even to those who claim this label as part of their identity. It’s not uncommon to hear one freethinker claim that another isn’t open enough to some concept or even that declaring a stance on some issue is the opposite of freethought, as if freethinkers should spend all their time in the most wishy-washy, indecisive states. Freethinker does not mean staying neutral on all matters and it certainly doesn’t require an inability to make absolute statements.

I used to be indecisive... Now I'm not sure.
What some imagine the freethought life to be like. Free use via Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos’s Flickr stream.

Allow me to make an absolute statement: MBTI is unscientific and should not inform anyone’s daily life.

MBTI was created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. The first handbook was published in 1944, although the two had been working on the idea in varying degrees of involvement as early as 1917. Based on prior ideas by Carl Jung, Briggs and Myers created a questionnaire designed to focus on a person’s perception and decision making processes to place them into a particular personality category. One of its original intentions was to help women entering the workforce during WWII identify which jobs would most suit their personalities, but its use has continued into the modern day, being used by anyone wishing to find out more about themselves.

I admit that the idea is appealing. Who wouldn’t want to more deeply understand themselves so as to interact with the world more fully and efficiently? It speaks to certain narcissism many of us have, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s the same drive that compels some to fill out those random questionnaires floating around on social media platforms, such as this one. We fill them out partly because they’re sort of fun, but we also have this secret hope that others will see our answers and somehow care or that the results will unlock secrets about ourselves.

However, MBTI holds about as much weight as a horoscope, despite what CPP (the test’s exclusive publisher – a group with a vested interest) may claim. Its validity, reliability, objectivity and other aspects have come under fire – and deservedly so. While there have been published studies supporting MBTI such as this one from 1986 by Thompson and Borrello or this one from 2002 by Robert and Mary Capraro, most studies tend to suggest otherwise. If you want to see these or summaries of these, click here, here, here, here, here or here for a few examples, bearing in mind some of these links are only to abstracts or to books in which the research is contained.

For MBTI to move into the domain of a scientifically rigorous personality test, it must attain approval of its validity. Does it measure what it claims to measure? In particular, do its four dichotomies (intuition/sensing, feeling/thinking, introversion/extraversion, perception/judging) hold water? David Pittenger’s writing is a good place to get an idea. To quote Pittenger’s words on MBTI’s validity, “Research on the factor analysis of the MBTI has not produced convincing results.” Using factor analysis in one study (as described in Pittenger’s linked work), 83 percent of the differences among 1,291 college-age students who participated in a study about MBTI could not be accounted for by MBTI. This number is very disconcerting. MBTI does not seem to be an adequate measuring tool when considering this situation (and there are others).

MBTI should also be reliable, meaning that when you take the personality test multiple times, you should get the same result. This has not been the case. Pittenger notes in his section on reliability that “Several studies… show that even when the test-retest interval is short (e.g., 5 weeks), as many as 50 percent of the people will be classified into a different type.” If a chemist were to apply a particular reaction test to a chemical to see its resultant chemical and, over a series of tests, that chemical changed differently in numerous ways, the test itself would be questioned. The same should go for MBTI. While some would argue that the human brain is obviously far more complex than one chemical and therefore could yield differences given the mood of a person, that argument is irrelevant because MBTI is claiming to measure your unchanging personality which you could then use to guide your course through life (which job one should apply for, for example). Failing to provide reliability violates the premise of the test itself.

Objectivity is yet another area MBTI falls short. Since this test relies on people being honest about their responses, there should be safety nets in place to account for participants exaggerating answers or choosing ones they feel are more socially acceptable even if those answers don’t align with the participant’s beliefs. Other tests have tools to do this, such the Personality Assessment Inventory. People could be embellishing their responses or choosing ones that don’t actually represent them and MBTI has no way of measuring or adjusting for this.

I have heard some claim that since MBTI has been used in the hiring processes of some companies so that the hiring entity can screen out applicants based on personality, it’s a valid and reliable tool. Why would it be allowed if it weren’t up to snuff? CPP itself has acknowledged it is unethical to use MBTI when hiring. And indeed, companies have turned to other tests over time for this specific purpose. As CPP has said, “It is unethical to use the MBTI tool for hiring. Completing the assessment must be voluntary (not required of job applicants), and the results are confidential and belong to the respondent. Furthermore, people of many different types excel at the same job for different reasons. Individuals should not be pigeonholed based on their personality preferences.” They say it can’t be used to hire but that you can use it to better assist employees in giving their best performance. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case thus far, given the issues discussed above.

Like the paranormal, horoscopes and other things of that sort, I do feel they are fun. I love going on ghost tours even though I don’t believe in ghosts. It can be fun to read my horoscope (I’m a Libra) despite not putting any stock in its veracity. I’ve even sat down with a psychic just to have the experience (apparently the military is in my future – we’ll see). So do I think MBTI can be fun? Absolutely. I enjoyed myself while taking the test and I can easily see people gathering together in a jovial, social setting to compare results and talk about their personalities while understanding it’s all just fun and games.

Test result image: ISTP - The Mechanic
I took the questionnaire and received ISTP: The Mechanic.

As shown in the image above (some it was cut off to conserve space), I received ISTP from the test, otherwise known as The Mechanic. Honestly, the traits it describes do seem to line up with how I perceive my personality to be, much like I’ve read the summary of my zodiac sign and felt the same way at times. I do feel I’m logical, easy going, realistic and open to new experiences. I do like James Dean, Clint Eastwood and Alan Shepherd who were listed as famous individuals who also received the same result. But at the same time I have to wonder if my responses were given because I thought that was how I was versus how I actually am. Or maybe I became a victim of social pressures, answering in a certain way that is more socially acceptable despite not really feeling that way. Maybe I interpreted the questions in a way that wasn’t intended. Perhaps if I take the test after at least five weeks I’ll unintentionally receive a different result (the likelihood is about 50 percent that this could occur).

To wrap this up, I’ll say that while I think MBTI is sort of fun and interesting on a certain level, given the clear shakiness regarding MBTI’s scientific alignment, it’s unreasonable to seriously apply this to your daily life.  Unless research begins strongly suggesting otherwise, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator should be shelved with the likes of tarot cards, horoscopes and star chart readings. Should we, as freethinkers, participate in something shown not to meet the standards of science? Should we promote this kind of bad science to our family and friends despite the possibility of unintended consequences? Should anyone be altering the course of their life based on this test? If the research is anything to go by, the answers seem clear.

Tri-State Freethinkers invite Governor John Kasich to meet some of his atheist constituents

Earlier this morning, Tri-State Freethinkers delivered an open letter to former presidential candidate and current Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, regarding recent statements made about Daniel Radcliffe and his professed atheism. The group ended the letter with an invitation for the Governor to join them at a monthly meeting or volunteer event to better know his constituency and their contributions to the state of Ohio.

The letter was as follows:

Governor Kasich,

 

We were disappointed to hear the news of your comments regarding Daniel Radcliffe declaring himself an atheist. “What the hell is wrong with him?” you stated, when only months earlier, while on the campaign trail, you agreed with his best known character stating: “I’m with Harry Potter. We’re not going to the dark side.”

For you to exclaim in disgust that there is something “wrong” with someone expressing their religious belief (or lack thereof) is both troubling and goes against what we stand for as a country. In 2014 Pew Research Center found that 22% of Americans identified themselves as unaffiliated with any religion, and over one third of young people do not consider themselves religious. These tens of millions of citizens are your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. They are doctors, teachers, scientists, and soldiers. To single out such a large and diverse group of people with such bigotry shows a disconnect from your constituency, as “Nonreligious” is the second-largest religious demographic in the state of Ohio.

Tri-State Freethinkers is a local nonprofit organization that provides activism, community service, education, and social opportunities for those in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana who consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or freethinkers. With over 1,600 members in our group alone, we can confidently say that there is nothing “wrong” with Mr. Radcliffe’s declaration of atheism. We invite you to join us for one of our monthly meetings or community service events so that you may become better acquainted with your atheist constituents, their views, and contributions to the great state of Ohio.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Jim G. Helton

President, Tri-State Freethinkers

 

Two victories in removing religion from local public schools

Tri-State Freethinkers have been busy monitoring local school districts for violations of separation of church and state. Two letter writing campaigns recently came back with positive results:


Boone County School District: Social Media 

13734966_559040244304221_668246057237099684_o

Tri-State Freethinkers were alerted by a concerned parent a few weeks ago to a troubling post on the Boone County School District Twitter account which had retweeted a post from famed mega church preacher and televangelist, Joel Osteen. The quote stated “God is not going to stop every difficulty, but He will give you the strength, the power, the grace to go through it. #NightofHope”. A letter was written explaining the violation and citing relevant case law addressed to the Superintendent of Schools, Randy Poe Ed.D. Tri-State Freethinkers received a timely written response from his office explaining that the post was “inadvertently and mistakenly retweeted” from the Superintendent’s personal account to the official Boone County School site and was not authorized by the Superintendent himself.

This is not the first time Tri-State Freethinkers have written Boone County Schools. In 2015, TSF wrote a letter to the principal of Longbranch Elementary School on behalf of a concerned parent including photos taken of a teacher’s classroom which contained items promoting prayer and God. The principal had the items removed quickly.

Youngstown City SchoolsIntelligent Design in Biology

Tri-State Freethinkers became aware of an Ohio School District including Intelligent Design in the classroom via an Arstechnica article which linked to a document found on the school’s server. The document was a biology lesson plan laced with stereotypical Intelligent Design “teach the controversy” propaganda.

Untitled

Initially, Tri-State Freethinkers wrote to the interim superintendent of schools, Mr. Stephen A Stohla. After monitoring the Board of Education meeting minutes, it was discovered that an attempt by one of the board members to address the issue was overwhelmingly shot down by other board members whose background was heavily religious. TSF then decided to write additional letters to each board member individually, outlining the legality of teaching intelligent design in the public classroom and asking for its removal. School Board Member Dario Hunter additionally wrote to the ACLU who investigated and followed up on the violation.

We received wonderful news a few days ago from the local newspaper The Vindicator, with an article titled: “CEO directs removal of creationism from Youngstown science curriculum”. Mr. Hunter spoke out against the incident:

“He believes his attempts to get the creationism references removed were rejected by the majority of school board members because some school board members are motivated by their own agendas and personal interests rather than what’s best for the district’s students and their education.”

Tri-State Freethinkers encourage all parents and community members to be vigilant in observing their local public schools and government meetings for violations of the separation of church and state and contact us immediately tsfreethinkers@gmail.com.

Example violations can be found here.

Nontheists get apology for denial of service at Ark protest

PRESS RELEASE:

A regional freethinkers group has received an apology for discriminatory denial of services during a recent protest at a religious theme park.

On June 30, Five Star Septic and Portable Toilet Rentals agreed to send portable toilets to a July 7 demonstration against the Ark Encounter park put on by the Tri-State Freethinkers, a group made up of nonbelievers from Kentucky, southern Ohio and southern Indiana, the area the firm serves. But on that morning, when the company’s offilinkffrf_300x140ce called Tri-State Freethinkers to get directions to the site, it asked the organization representative whether the portable toilets were for the protest. Upon learning that they were, the office denied service, indicating that this was partially because it did not want its name associated with the atheists’ protest.

It is unlawful for legitimate businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion, the Freedom From Religion Foundation contended in a formal letter of complaint. In addition, Tri-State Freethinkers relied on the promise of Five Star Septic to deliver a service, and it reneged on that promise because of the protesters’ reasonable message.

With such short notice, Tri-State Freethinkers had to hastily organize a shuttle caravan to a nearby gas station for the nearly 200 attendees needing to use toilets. This entailed a major time expense for volunteer organizers and individuals needing the ride, as well as financial outlay for gas and mileage. For some individuals, the inconvenience caused by the breach of contract meant missing parts of the protest.

FFRF’s complaint was taken seriously. Arwood Waste & Demolition, with which Five Star Septic has been a subcontractor, said sorry to Tri-State Freethinkers and made a pledge that the inappropriate behavior will not recur.

“Sir, I do apologize for services having been refused to your organization by our affiliate company (Five Star Septic),” Michael Nancarrow, Arwood’s associate director of communications, emailed Jim Helton, the president of Tri-State Freethinkers. “I want you to know that this does not in any way reflect the values of Arwood Waste and, as such, certain measures will be taken to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again. There will be no charges made to the MasterCard provided to Arwood Waste.”

Helton was also assured by another company official that Arwood would not be using Five Star Septic as a subcontractor in the future.

FFRF is grateful for Arwood’s response.

“The denial of such a service is a serious matter, as I can personally attest to,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, who was on hand at the all-day July 7 protest at a hot time of the year. “We’re glad that Arwood realized our rights were violated and quickly took decisive steps to redress the situation.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including members in Kentucky who were present at the protest.

FFRF decries business discrimination against nonbelievers at Ark Park Protest

PRESS RELEASE:

ls.jpg

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and a regional freethinkers’ group are decrying the discriminatory denial of services during their protest against a religious theme park.

On June 30, Five Star Septic and Portable Toilet Rentals agreed to send portable toilets to a July 7 demonstration against the Ark Encounter park put on by the Tri-State Freethinkers, a group made up of nonbelievers from Kentucky, southern Ohio and southern Indiana, the area the firm serves. It agreed to deliver the toilets on the morning of July 7.

The company’s office reportedly called Tri-State Freethinkers at 9:13 a.m. that day to get directions to the site. During this conversation, it asked the organization representative whether the portable toilets were for the protest. Upon learning that they were, the office denied service, indicating that this was partially because it did not want its name associated with the atheists’ protest.

With such short notice, Tri-State Freethinkers very obviously did not have time to make alternative arrangements. Instead, it had to hastily organize a shuttle caravan to a nearby gas station for the nearly 200 attendees needing to use toilets. This entailed a major time expense for volunteer organizers and individuals needing the ride, as well as financial outlay for gas and mileage. For some individuals, the inconvenience caused by the breach of contract meant missing parts of the protest.

Tri-State Freethinkers provided a lot of water for participants. As the day heated up, those in the open sun by the highway were drinking copious quantities. The denial of convenient toilets produced inevitable discomfort. To those affected, the denial of service felt like a punishment for their views.

It is unlawful for legitimate businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion. In addition, Tri-State Freethinkers relied on the promise of Five Star Septic to deliver a service, and it reneged on that promise because of the protesters’ reasonable message.

The nonreligious population in this country is the fastest growing segment by religious identification, with fully 23 percent Americans identifying as nonreligious.  Nationally, about 35 percent of millennials—those born after 1981—are nonreligious. That would be a lot of individuals for Five Star Septic to refuse to serve on discriminatory grounds.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including members in Kentucky who were present at the protest. FFRF Co-President Dan Barker also participated.


 

For additional information regarding this release or the Ark Encounter Protest please contact Jim G. Helton (tsfreethinkers@gmail.com)

The main obstacle to equality is religion.