Humanists of Fort Worth


Cowtown Humanist

Official publication of the Humanists of Fort Worth ● ● E-mail:

A Chapter of the American Humanist Association and allied with the Council for Secular Humanism

August 2003, Volume 5, Number 5                                E-mailed August 4, 2003                   Editors:  Jim Cheatham & Michael Rivera





Also in this issue:

Chairman’s Corner

Vatican Issues Guidelines Against Gay Marriages

HoFW Announcements - Everyone Welcome at Monthly Meetings

Board Meeting Minutes

HoFW Calendar of Events


Officers & Contacts



The largest crowd yet to attend a HOFW monthly meeting gathered July 15 at West Side Unitarian-Universalist Church to hear Dick Trice speak on the many threads drawn from other middle eastern religions to constitute Christian mythology.


If you want peace of mind and happiness, believe.

If you want truth, seek.

 --Friederick Nietzsche (letter to his sister) 


From a Christian point of view, to be loved by God and to love God is to suffer.

--Soren Kierkegaard, Journals


Dick stressed that many of the beliefs and dogmas of Christianity originated in religions other than the Jewish and that many of the beliefs of the latter were influenced by encounters with other peoples, particularly in Egypt and Mesopotamia.  The pharaoh Akhenaton, who lived in the fourteenth century BCE, drove Egypt's old gods out of the temples and proclaimed Aton the one and supreme god.  It is credible to believe that the Hebrews first came in contact with monotheism during their residence in Egypt, assuming the Genesis and Exodus accounts of the Bible have historical validity.   The Hebrews subsequently drew on Babylonian myths for the first two chapters of Genesis, particularly the myths of the Garden of Eden and the six-day creation, as well as Noah’s flood.  During the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century BCE they came into contact with the concepts of Satan, which explained the existence of evil in the world albeit at some cost to their monotheism, and of the Last Judgment.


Aside from the myths that Christianity inherited by way of Judaism, a rich lode filtered into Christian dogma directly from Persia. The life of Zoroaster, who is variously reported to have lived from the seventh century BCE to the eleventh century BCE, parallels that of Jesus in many respects.  He reputedly was divinely conceived; he withdrew for a time in the wilderness for contemplation; he was tempted by the devil, to no avail; he was ridiculed and persecuted; after his death, he ascended into heaven.  Another Persian religion that was to have great influence beyond Asia Minor, Mithraism, contributed to Christian ritual and symbolism.  Mithra was depicted in Persian myth as a divine youth with a radiant halo over his head symbolizing the sun, the object of worship for devotees of this cult.  Their holiest day coincided with the winter solace at which time the sun triumphed over his enemies.  Mithraism obtained a strong foothold among the Roman legions up until the fourth century CE when Christianity became dominant.  No doubt, the adoption of December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus eased the transition from Mithraism to Christianity.


From this potpourri of myth and superstition the Gospels and Revelations sprang. Competing versions of first century CE events were suppressed.  It was not until 1945 and the discovery of Coptic Gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi in the Egyptian desert that the world was to know much about an alternative version of Christianity and in particular the concept of a creator Demiurge responsible for the evils of this world.


Dick Trice asks if it isn’t time to substitute a rational belief system for myth and superstition.  Wouldn’t believers be more ready to make the move if they were aware of the true origins of their beliefs?  He suggests that the Humanist Manifesto is a good place to begin.  (Is there anything very edifying in either the smug self-assurance of the dogmatists on the one hand or the “fear and trembling” of the guilt-afflicted Christian on the other?)


For those wishing to learn more about ancient religions Dick recommends The Great Religious Leaders by Charles Francis Potter, a Unitarian minister and founder of the Humanist Society of New York, and Religions of the World by Lewis M. Hopfe.  The former includes discussions of Akhenaten, Moses, Zoroaster, Jeremiah, Buddha, Confucius and a remarkable predecessor of Jesus, The Teacher of Righteousness, who taught sometime between the third and first centuries BCE.


Jeanette Popp, Chairperson of the Texas Moratorium Network, an organization working to abolish the death penalty, will be our August speaker.  In 1988 Mrs. Popp’s daughter, Nancy, was murdered. In the ensuing investigation, two men were arrested, wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for twelve years.  Even after the real killer had confessed, it took four more years before the two were finally released.


Mrs. Popp has made numerous media appearances, including Good Morning America, the Today Show, The View, and Nightline.  She has also testified before Senate and House Committees.


This promises to be an informative and thoughtful talk from someone who has had wrenching experiences with our judicial system.  The meeting is at Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, 6901 McCart Avenue, Suite 125, Fort Worth, Texas, and begins at 7:00pm.


Chairman’s Corner

by Russell Elleven

Hello Friends!


This past month it did my heart good to see 35 people at our meeting.  Like I said at the meeting, there are times when I ask the question:  Is the Humanists of Fort Worth group offering anything worthwhile to our membership?  Well, there were 35 people at the meeting and almost as many people at our picnic answering "Yes!" to my question. I hope we can build on this momentum.


If we are offering something worthwhile I hope you will choose to support our organization. Single memberships are only $18. You can now pay your membership dues through our website.  You'll have to become a member of in order to pay by electronic check or credit card.  However, once you are a PayPal member you may continue to pay dues each year in this fashion. I hope you will agree that our efforts are worth $18.


On July 19th I attended the inaugural meeting of the Humanist Church of North Texas ( The meeting was held at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Church.  I thought the meeting went very well for a first effort.  There was music, readings, and a "sermon" given by David Croft.

I believe the next meeting will be Saturday, August 16th and I hope those so inclined with attend.  Unfortunately, I will be in Tyler, Texas that weekend.


Please do not hesitate to call on myself or any of the other officers.  We welcome your input and need your program and other ideas.


Humanistically yours,





More on Religion




Well, you’ve got to hand it to Pat (Robertson, that is).  He hasn’t lifted his foot out of one pile before he’s got it in another.  According to news reports, he has come to the defense of Charles Taylor, still of this writing President of Liberia albeit besieged by rebel forces and facing prosecution by a United Nations special court with war crimes if he leaves Liberia.  Taylor and a Sierra Leone rebel have been charged with fomenting uprisings in Sierra Leone with a view to seizing that country’s diamond mines.  Prosecutor David Crane, a former U.S. military adjutant, claims the rebels massacred and mutilated civilians, abducted girls as sex slaves, and forced villagers to work the diamond minds.


To his credit, Taylor is a practicing Baptist. Robertson attributes Taylor’s troubles to the machinations of the State Department, which seems to love Muslims more than Christians.  (The U.S. government has been instrumental in setting up the special court.) Of course, it is only incidental that Robertson has an $8 million gold-mining venture in Liberia.  (A former State Department official who served in West Africa recently characterized Taylor as “pathological”.)  “Followers” of the Virginia Beach demagogue will recall that Robertson also was involved in a private mining scheme in Zaire (as it was then called) at the time of President Mobutu’s (known to many as the “biggest kleptocrat in the world”) removal from power.  Perhaps Robertson will get around one day to explaining to his “700 Club” the connection between his self-enrichment schemes and saving souls, the alleged goal of his African gold and diamond investment activities.  (WSJ et al)



The Vatican has launched a global campaign against gay marriages, warning Catholic politicians that support of same-sex unions is "gravely immoral."


The Vatican issued a 12-page set of guidelines with the approval of Pope John Paul II in a bid to stem the increase in laws granting legal rights to homosexual unions in Europe and North America. (CNN)



People who believe they have God in their pocket and know what God wants for them have proven time and again that they’re capable of doing anything because it is not their will but God’s will being carried out.  You see this most obviously in a suicide bomber - someone who is convinced he or she knows what God wants, and can end up doing horrific things to innocent people.  –Religion Prof. Charles Kimball, Wake Forest University,  (FreeThought Today)



New U.S. Department of Education guidelines warn public schools to allow more religious expression or lose federal funding.  Critics say the Education’s interpretation of current law is biased toward allowing broader religious expression than the courts permit. (FI)



Attorneys general from all 50 states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court decision that found the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional when recited in public schools.  According to a Quinnipiac University poll released in June, 89 percent of Americans want to keep “under God” in the Pledge.  Six percent do not.  (AU)



About 7,000 believers convened in Phoenix in mid-June for the notorious annual Southern Baptist Convention, which announced an initiative to “liberate” gays from homosexuality

via Jesus.


Rev. Jerry Vines, who at last year’s gathering infamously called Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile,” received a standing ovation for his sermon denouncing the “culture of perversity” and for positing that “all religions are not equally true.”


Previous conventions have attracted ridicule for boycotting Disney, for issuing a booklet in 1999 saying, “Hindus are living in the hopeless darkness of Hinduism,” (talk about the kettle calling the pot black) and for such pronouncements as “God almighty did not hear the prayers of a Jew.”  (Or rather three.  Apparently God didn’t hear the prayers of Jesus, Peter and Paul, since all three, according to Christian tradition, suffered capital punishment). (FreeThought Today)



Americans United and others have filed a lawsuit against the first state to enact a voucher program since a 2002 Supreme Court decision holding that an Ohio voucher scheme did not violate the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.  The Colorado Opportunity Contract Pilot Program, set to begin in fall 2004, will provide certain public school students with state funds to attend private schools—most of which are religious. The law is being challenged not on the basis of the First Amendment but on the law’s running afoul of several Colorado constitutional provisions. Besides Colorado, voucher advocates are seeking passage of voucher programs in other states, including Texas and Louisiana.  (C&S)


Editor’s Note:  AU has an interesting analysis of the Supreme Court Decision on school voucher programs on its web site,




Video presentations of Lecture 7 and 8 will be shown at Westside Unitarian Universalist Church again on the second Wednesday of the month.  If you didn't see the earlier videos, much has been lost but that is no reason to miss out on a high quality presentation.  The lecturer, Edward J. Larsen, has a law degree from Harvard, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He currently holds a joint appointment in the history department and law school at the University of Georgia, where he teaches the history of science to undergraduates, and health, science, and technology law to law students.  He knows his brief. 

     Following are descriptions of the lectures:  (Skip Lecture Outlines)

Lecture Seven

Genetics Enters the Picture


Scope: Evolutionists were mired in doubts and disagreement at the dawn of the twentieth century. Biologists still believed that evolution happened, but there was no consensus among them on how it operated. All the options seemed inadequate, especially classical Darwinism. As often happens in science, answers came from an unexpected source.


Looking for evidence of sustainable evolutionary development though gross inborn mutations, rather than the minute variations posited by Darwin, two separate biologists simultaneously rediscovered the thirty-five year-old work of Gregor Mendel. Mendelian genetics suggested ways-for subtle inborn variations to sustain long-term evolutionary change. Laboratory studies in genetics pushed naturalists' fieldwork from center stage in evolutionary research.


I.                   By 1900, divisions among evolutionists over how evolution operated seemed irreconcilable.

A.                 Classic Darwinism, which envisioned the natural selection of minute, random, inborn variations of an essentially continuous nature, was widely dismissed as leading nowhere.

1.         Under a continuous view of hereditary variations, as then prevailed, the characteristics of an offspring would be a blending of those of its parents.

2.         Even if an individual with a beneficial variation was more likely to survive, it would likely breed with a "normal" individual, and their offspring would regress toward the species norm. Over time, continuous variations would be "swamped."

B.                 Lamarckism, the principal alternative, encountered increasing objections.

1.         Variations are acquired during life. If the reproductive seed is drawn from across the body (via "pangenesis"), as most scientists (including Darwin) then believed, that seed could transmit those acquired characteristics.

2.         Despite the plausibility of Lamarckism, proponents failed to produce experimental evidence that acquired characteristics could be inherited, while opponents, such as German cell biologist August Weismann, marshaled opposing evidence.

3.         Rejecting pangenesis for the theory of an immutable germplasm transmitting hereditary information, Weismann argued that only inborn traits could be passed on. Stripped of all Lamarckian taints, this was the birth of neo-Darwinism.

4.         Lamarckism survived as a scientific theory into the mid-twentieth century, particularly in the Soviet Vnion, but gradually lost influence in the West.

C.                 Around 1900, Dutch botanist Hugo De Vries offered mutation theory as a possible compromise explanation for the evolution of new species.

1.          Mutation theory accepted Weismann's position that only inborn traits are inherited.

2.         To overcome the concern that inborn variations would be swamped, De Vries postulated that mutations could be significant, discontinuous, and widespread enough to form abruptly a breeding population of a new variety or species.

3.         De Vries saw natural selection operating to preserve beneficial mutations.

4.         Although interest soon passed as scientists failed to find beneficial mutations, De Vries's idea called attention to the propagation and preservation of discontinuous variations. This laid the ground for rediscovering Mendel's work.

II.                Mendelian genetics would provide the basis for reviving Darwinian theories of evolution.

A.                 During the 1860s, Gregor Mendel (an Austrian monk with an interest in natural history) experimented with the idea of new species as hybrids of old ones. He tested this by crossing distinctly different varieties of pea plants.

1.         Rather than producing intermediate varieties, his crosses produced a remarkably regular re-emergence of the parent types.

2.         When tall and short pea plants were crossed, the next generation was tall (not mid-sized as predicted by blended inheritance), but in the third generation, three-fourths were tall and one-fourth was short. The same discontinuous pattern appeared for other crosses.

3.         Because Mendel's work was mathematical, dealt with discontinuous variations, and involved hybrids, it was largely ignored for thirty-five years.

4.         As long as scientists studied apparently continuous variations, they did not see Mendel's pattern. When De Vries and other scientists accepted discontinuous variations, they rediscovered Mendel's work.

B.                 Although Mendel's laws were initially associated with major discontinuous variations (or mutations), rather than small continuous ones, their critical significance for salvaging Darwinism ultimately became clear.

1.         The mutation theorists who rediscovered Mendel's laws explained them by positing the existence of two "genes" for each trait, with one gene from each parent. The dominant gene would be expressed; the recessive gene would lie dormant.

2.         For example, when a pea plant with two tall genes was crossed with one with two short genes, each member of the next generation would be tall (if tall was dominant}, but each would carry a short gene that could be transmitted to the third generation.

3.         This physical process fit recent microscopic observations of meiosis, in which egg and sperm cells were formed with only half the chromosomes of a normal cell and then were brought together in a fertilized egg cell having the normal number.

4.         There would be no blending of characteristics under Mendelian genetics. Beneficial variations would survive without any danger of being swamped.

5.         Further, even recessive traits would not be lost permanently. They could reappear in a later generation and be propagated through selection if they were then beneficial.

C.                 Mutation theorists extrapolated this process to genetic mutations. They postulated that mutations would not be lost through continuous blending and could spread through a population if they were beneficial for survival.

1.         In 1910, while studying fruit flies, American genetics pioneer Thomas Hunt Morgan became the first to observe a spontaneous mutation and watch it spread through a breeding population in a Mendelian fashion.

2.         His research team later found that mutations could be induced by exposure to radiation and chemicals, suggesting a source for accelerated mutation.

3.         With time, geneticists grew to appreciate that this natural process for propagating beneficial gross mutations could also propagate minor variations.

4.         Morgan and other Mendelians initially saw mutation alone (without selection} as the source of new species, with natural selection acting only within the normal range of genetic variations in an existing species.

D.                 Although Mendelian geneticists at first operated in isolation from Darwinian naturalists, their ideas would come together in the neo- Darwinian synthesis of the 1930s.


Essential Reading:

Bowler. Evolution. ch. 9.

Supplementary Reading:

Allen, Life Sciences in the Twentieth Century, ch. 3

Eddy and Johanson, Blueprints, chs. 5-8.

Mendel, Experiments on Plant Hybridization.


Questions to Consider:

1.       Why was Mendelian genetics ignored until 1865?  Why was it so quickly appreciated after its rediscovery in 1900?  What does this change suggest about the nature of scientific discovery?

2.       How did Mendelian genetics solve the problem of swamping and, thereby, pave the way for the revival of Darwinian theories of evolution?  How did Mendelian genetics undermine Lamarckian theories of evolution?



©2002 The Teaching Company Limited Partnership


Lecture Eight

Social Darwinism and Eugenics


Scope:  Evolutionary thinking in biology spilled over into social thought. Even before Darwin published his theory in 1859, Herbert Spencer promoted the idea of a survival-of-the-fittest process driving social progress. With the rise of Darwinian biology, such thinking gained credence under the banner of "social Darwinism." Theories about how humans evolved increasingly influenced ideas of how people should live. Competition appeared beneficial.


Coupled with a rudimentary appreciation of genetics, social Darwinism fostered the eugenics movement, a social crusade advocating more children from genetically "fit" parents and fewer children from genetically "unfit" ones:  Proponents typically equated fitness with intelligence, but they often favored physical strength, health, and beauty, as well. Some of their methods were voluntary, but many nations and most American states enacted at least some compulsory eugenic laws before the movement was discredited by Nazi practices during World War II.




I.                   Coined by its critics, the term "social Darwinism" gained currency during the Victorian era as a catch-all phrase to identify various utilitarian philosophies and policies that attributed human progress to unfettered competition among individuals.

A.                 Valuing competition fit the spirit of the day. It predated Darwinian biology.

1.         In the late 1700s, Adam Smith argued that economic progress depended on individual initiative. His faith in the natural harmony of human interactions gave him hope that all people would benefit from laissez-faire capitalism.

2.         Embracing the idea of laissez faire, by 1800, Thomas Malthus noted that because of natural limits in resources, any social competition would have losers as well as winners. He saw that a "struggle for existence" fostered the general good by weeding out the weak.

3.         Malthus 's thinking inspired Darwin to conceive of natural selection as the engine of biological evolution, but he did not publish his views unti11858.

4.         Beginning in the early 1850s, English philosopher Herbert Spencer popularized a Malthusian view of individual and group competition. He hailed the "survival of the fittest" as the only sure foundation for human progress.

5.         With the advent of Darwinism in biology, Spencer's views of social development became known as social Darwinism even though Darwin did not fully endorse them.

B.                 Social Darwinism encouraged laissez-faire capitalism and discouraged helping the "weak" in an era of widespread industrialization and urbanization.

1.         Spencer maintained that government should never interfere in domestic economic or social affairs. Business regulation slowed progress, he said, while public health and welfare programs simply harmed people in the long run.

2.         Under the banner of "root, hog or die," y ale economist W. G. Sumner argued that nature eliminates inefficiency and that any interference would backfire.

3.         Such Gilded Age industrialists as Andrew Camegie, John D. Rockefeller, and James J. Hill publicly justified their business practices in social Darwinist terms.

4.         Opponents of public health and welfare programs drew on social Darwinist thinking in shaping American and European public policy throughout the late 1800s.

5.         Biological Darwinists did not necessarily accept social Darwinism (with some, such as Alfred Russel Wallace, arguing that humans could guide their own evolution), but social Darwinists did use biological Darwinism to justify their views.

II.                For many late nineteenth-century Europeans and Americans, the most important area of competition was between races and among nations. Social Darwinism was invoked to justify Western imperialism, colonialism, militarism, and scientific racism.

A.                 Racism predated Darwinism, but biological evolution appeared to justify it.

1.         Lamarckism posited a hierarchical view of progressive development, with more "civilized" races seen as more biologically advanced.

2.         Despite Darwin's view of evolution as branching rather than linear, most nineteenth-century Darwinists saw a single line of human development, with Northern Europeans having evolved the farthest because of conditions in the locations they lived.

3.         Both of these views inevitably blurred notions of cultural and biological evolution.

4.         Darwin and Spencer believed that racial struggle contributed to human evolution by "superior" races replacing "inferior" ones where they mixed. Darwin subtitled his 1859 book "or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life."

5.         At the time, such views justified European colonization of Asia and Africa. They led many European-Americans to believe that Indians and Negroes would die out in the United States.

B.                 For some, social Darwinism called for militaristic competition among nations.

1.         Beginning in the late 1800s, Germany's leading Darwinian biologist, Ernst Haeckel, argued that nations and races advance through competition. An ardent nationalist, he advocated a strong, united Germany to dominate the world.

2.         Haeckel's social Darwinism contributed to German militarism leading up to the First World War. Germany's defeat in that war embittered Haeckel and his followers.

3.         Convinced of the biological superiority of the German people, some of Haeckel's followers contributed to the rise of Nazism and its policies of racial purity.

III.             Combined with Mendelian genetics, social Darwinism led to the eugenics movement.

A.                 Shortly after Darwin published Origin of Species, his cousin, Francis Galton, conceived of applying its teachings to human development.

1.         As in other species, Galton argued, fit humans produce fit offspring and unfit humans produce unfit offspring. As a thinking species, humans can use this understanding to accelerate the evolutionary process through selective breeding.

2.         Galton defended his theory with surveys purportedly showing that ability and success ran in some families while inability and failure ran in others. He linked intelligence, beauty, and health with ability; ignorance, ugliness, and sickness with inability.

3.         In 1883, Galton coined the term "eugenics" to designate polices and programs designed to encourage more children from the fit and fewer from the unfit.

B.                 Eugenics attracted widespread interest after the 1900 rediscovery of Mendelian genetics.

1.         Genetics appeared to offer a physical basis for Galton's theories. Many experts saw such traits as mental illness and retardation, epilepsy, and criminality as the products of easily eliminated simple hereditary factors.

2.         At a time when science was held in high esteem, eugenics offered a scientific methodology for the social sciences. Nature all but replaced nurture in social scientific thought. The intelligence quotient (IQ) was invented as an objective measure of intelligence.

3.         Sociologists conducted public health surveys and compiled family pedigrees showing a hereditary basis for crime, poverty, anti-social behavior, and low IQ.

4.         Although eugenics never gained broad popular support, many scientific, professional, and philanthropic organizations promoted its acceptance. These efforts influenced public policies throughout the United States and Europe.

C.                 "Positive eugenics" sought more children from the fit.

1.         Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and other prominent politicians openly worried that the professional classes were not reproducing in sufficient numbers. Progressive sociologist Edward A. Ross called it "race suicide. "

2.         Educational efforts taught students the importance of eugenic mate selection and the civic duty of having children. Pre-existing anti- miscegenation law was revived.

3.         Eugenic societies held "fitter family" and "eugenic baby" contests.

4.         Eugenic fitness was proposed as a prerequisite for marriage and adopted as a policy by some liberal Protestant churches. Some countries adopted tax and employment policies to encourage able citizens to have children.

D.                 "Negative eugenics" sought fewer children from the unfit.

1.         Every American state and most Western countries adopted polices of sexually segregating certain supposedly dysgenic classes, typically the mentally retarded.

2.         Thirty-five American states and many European countries instituted compulsory programs of sexual sterilization for the mentally ill and retarded, habitual criminals, or epileptics. Germany's program was later extended to include Jews.

3.         During the period from 1900 to 1960, some 60,000 Americans were sterilized under compulsory state programs. Such programs were upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1927.

4.         Partly on eugenic grounds, Congress curtailed immigration by non- Nordic stock.

5.         Nazi Germany moved from eugenic sterilization to euthanasia. German geneticists actively supported racial purity programs. Biologists joined the Nazi Party at a higher rate than any other professional group.

E.                  Except for the Catholic Church, opposition to eugenics was disorganized and ineffective until the late 1930s, when Nazi practices discredited all such efforts.

1.         Beginning in the 1930s, social scientists increasingly looked to environmental causes of human behavior. Nurture replaced nature in social scientific thought.

2.         More slowly, geneticists recognized the complexity of human heredity. Simple eugenic remedies were abandoned as ways to deal with multi-factorial traits.

3.         By the end of World War II, social Darwinism appeared morally bankrupt.

Essential Reading:

Bowler, Evolution, ch. 10.

Supplementary Reading:

Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought.

Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics.

Larson, Sex, Race and Science.

Paul, Controlling Human Heredity.

Questions to Consider:

1.       Is it fair to blame Charles Darwin for social Darwinism? How much did biological Darwinism contribute to racism, imperialism, colonialism, and militarism?

2.      Why did early twentieth-century public policy makers so readily accept radical scientific solutions (including eugenic sterilization) for traditional social problems (such as crime)? Did this reflect undue faith in science?


©2002 The Teaching Company Limited Partnership








America’s prison population grew again in 2002 despite a declining crime rate, costing the federal government and states an estimated $40 billion a year.  The inmate population in 2002 of more than 2.1 million represented a 2.6 percent increase over 2001.  Experts say mandatory sentences, especially for nonviolent drug offenders, are a major reason inmate populations have risen for 30 years.  Advocates of alternatives to prisons said drug treatment alternatives were partly responsible for the absence of growth in prison population in Texas and several other states.  “The nation needs to break the chains of our addiction to prison, and find less costly and more effective policies like treatment,” commented Will Harrell, executive director of ACLU Texas.  (AP)




The Senate Judiciary Committee by a 10-9 party-line vote has approved Bush’s nomination of Alabama Attorney General, William Pryor, to serve on the 11th Court of Appeals.  The nomination now goes to the full Senate where the Democrats are expected to launch a strong effort to block his confirmation. (Three other Bush nominees to federal Appeals Courts, including Texas Supreme Court justice Patricia Owens, are currently seeing their confirmations blocked by Democratic filibusters.) “If he is confirmed, his rulings on civil rights, abortion, gay rights and separation of church and state would probably do substantial harm to all Americans,” editorializes The Times.


The American Civil Liberties Union joined several Islamic and Arab-American groups July 29 in a legal challenge to a key provision of the USA PATRIOT Act, which allows the government to seize business, library and computer records without publicly disclosing that it has done so.  The lawsuit argues that the anti-terrorism law violates free-speech rights and constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.


More than 140 cities and counties, in addition to legislatures in Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont, have passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act.  On Capitol Hill the week of July 20-24, the House voted 309-118 to roll back part of the law that allows the government to conduct secret “sneak and peek” searches of private property.  (WP)






HoFW President, Russell Eleven, made it clear at last month’s Regular Monthly Meeting that one does not have to be a member in order to attend regular HoFW meetings.


“HOFW very much wants people to participate in our meetings”, he said in a recent web board posting, adding the hope that those who attend would find it worth their while to show support for the organization.



The board would like to remind everyone that canned food for the needy will be collected at the regular meeting August 19.  Those attending the Evolution lecture series can also bring canned food at that time.  Your generosity helps those in need.


All canned food is donated to WestAid for the needy in Fort Worth.


Many have said it:


The newsletter is too long to print!

I can’t save the newsletter to my hard drive!


Absolutely right!  With the lecture outlines, it can get pretty lengthy and HTML format can be difficult to save.  That’s why we’re offering a new service to members - Adobe Acrobat format.  This format should be much easier to save and print since it’s relatively easy to specify which pages you would like to print.  Please note the Acrobat format newsletter will be shorter (more editing) and formatted like the printed newsletter.


If you’d like to receive the e-newsletter in Acrobat format instead of, or in addition to, the HTML format, e-mail Michael Rivera.  Please specify if you only want Adobe Acrobat format of if you want both Adobe Acrobat and regular HTML formats.


If you don’t already have it, you can get the Adobe Acrobat reader free at the Adobe web site:, or click the “Get Adobe Reader” button.




This month will begin a regular (or maybe semi-regular) section on tangible ways we can all help to “reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community”.


The month of August has been designated “Commute Solutions Month”.  Fort Worth Mayor, Mike Moncrief, and other civic leaders are encouraging all area residents to participate in the Commute Solutions Challenge.  This event, sponsored by the North Texas Clean Air Coalition, tracks the miles saved by participants who "try parking it" by sharing a ride or telecommuting to work.  It even offers prizes for those who document the miles they “saved” by using alternative transportation.


The number of single-occupant vehicles in D-FW is making our already serious pollution problem worse every day.  Poor air quality creates severe problems with health, productivity and the economy.  As part of Commute Solutions Month, the Challenge has been created to encourage D-FW residents to drive less and use alternative means of transportation to and from work.


More information is available at the Challenge web site,


Got a suggestion to reduce suffering, improve society, or develop global community?  Send it to Michael Rivera.




The HOFW Board Met on July 14, 2003.  The meeting was called to order by

Chair, Russell Elleven at the home of Reed Bilz, 6316 Walburn Court, Fort Worth.


Present   Dolores Ruhs, Reed Bilz, Mike Haney, Mike Rivera, and Russell Elleven


Minutes   The minutes of the April 14, 2003 board meeting were approved as distributed.


Memberships   We currently have 24 paid memberships.  Mike Haney moved that we send the newsletter for three months to those who have not renewed their dues.  The motion was seconded and CARRIED.


Russell will investigate the possibility of setting up a Paypal account for payment of dues via the Internet.  We will initiate this program if the cost is no more than 4%.


Meetings   We will continue to take food to our meetings for WestAid to be distributed by the Westside Church.


Russell will be our first “Speak-Out” presenter and we will seek volunteers for future meetings.  The holiday party will be December 16, 2003.


Possible speakers   Phil McClure from the Hemlock Society will speak in October.  Other suggestions included:  Speaker from Women’s Center/Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention; Planned Parenthood; Home School Association; ACLU.  Other suggestions should be given to Jeff Rodriguez.


The board agreed to co-sponsor a forum in the fall with Jefferson UU and the ACLU on the Patriot Act and Erosion of Civil Liberties.


Newsletter  Kudos to our new editors.  Mike Rivera will be listed as Editor and Jeff Rodriguez as Program Coordinator in the future.


Board meeting minutes will be published in the newsletter.


Russell will write a column and include a report on the Humanist Church which is meeting in Denton on July 19, 2003.


Other Business   Our next Adopt-a-Street pick up will be September 27, 2003 at 8 a.m.  Mike Haney will continue to coordinate this effort if we have at least 10 people show up.


Treasurer’s Report   Dolores reported that our balance is $741.56 with some July expenses outstanding.


Next Meeting  October 20, 2003 at Mike Haney’s house.




The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment

by Franklin E. Zimring


This recently published (March 2003) study of capital punishment in America by the William G. Simon Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Justice Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley is a must read for all opponents of the death penalty and for all its supporters a challenge to rethink the moral and ethical foundations of their positions.  The principal contradiction referred to in the book’s title is between public concern for “due process” and the vigilante values which still resonate in much of our country, particularly in the South.


The author attempts to answer four questions about American policy toward capital punishment:


  1. Why did the U.S. reintroduce the death penalty after 1976 when the trend in most other developed democracies was to abolish the penalty as a matter of domestic policy and to press for the prohibition of capital punishment in all civilized nations?


  1. What explains the many peculiar patterns of death penalties and executions that have emerged in the U.S.?


  1. Why have the conflicts over the death penalty in the U.S. intensified rather than abated in the 1990s and at the turn of the twenty-first century?


  1. How might the conflicts about the death penalty get resolved in the proximate American future?


The last state execution in Western Europe took place in France in 1977, the year in which the ten-year moratorium on executions in the U.S. came to an end.  Prospective members of the European Union are being obliged to give up the death penalty before they will be considered for partnership in the organization.  Moreover, the EU has launched a vigorous campaign to get other governing entities to follow its lead and has in particular aimed its diplomatic efforts at the U.S.  (Japan, the other developed country holdout, allows capital punishment but executions are relatively infrequent.)  The EU argument that capital punishment is a violation of human rights, thus a moral issue, has, as to be expected, raised the emotional temperature of bilateral differences on this issue.  France’s refusal to cooperate in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, for whom the Justice Department is seeking the death sentence, has dramatically highlighted the gulf between Europe and the United States.  Zimring attributes the taking of a different direction in the U.S. to the introduction of lethal injection (replacing methods widely perceived to be brutal, namely the electric chair and the gas chamber) and the transformation of capital cases into processes serving the interests of the victims.


Implementation of the death penalty in the U.S. varies widely among states and among geographical areas.  Twelve states are without any death penalty and seven other states have not executed anyone in the last quarter century.  Regionally, the South is far more prone to impose capital punishment than any other region with an execution rate per million citizens more than a hundred times the level in the Northeast and several times those of any other region.  Among states with populations of more than 4 million, Virginia had by far the highest rate and Missouri and Texas (of course, having the highest absolute number) virtually tied for second and third places.  Rates among the states decline very rapidly thereafter.  Why the much higher rate in southern and border states than in the rest of the country even though opinion polls show about the same degree of support for capital punishment throughout the U.S.?  Zimring attributes it principally to the tradition of vigilantism in the South.  It might seem that a generally higher distrust of government in southern states would tend to offset the vigilante spirit.  Apparently this is not the case.  His explanation is that the southern public views capital punishment as an exercise in community control much more so than of state power. “The death penalty is in this view protecting victims and potential victims from predators who threaten the community; the vigilante spirit regards community rather than state as the real party of interest in executions.”


While most of the rest of the world has seen an abolition of capital punishment or at least abatement in its employment, public support in the U.S. has risen and some states have recently reintroduced it.  Why is the U.S. so far out of step with most of the rest of the world?  Zimring notes the introduction of victims’ rights into the sentencing process has exercised a strong emotional tug on jurors.  It is much harder to render a milder penalty when the case is not The State of X v Killer Doe but Victim Johnny v Killer Doe, at least as presented by many prosecuting attorneys these days. 


Perhaps surprisingly, Zimring is quite optimistic about the abolition of the death penalty in the U.S., although he acknowledges that it is going to be a hard slog:  1) diplomatic pressure, not only from Europe but increasingly from Mexico, the rest of Latin America and many other developing countries, even former iron-curtain countries; 2) Will we take our stand with China (accounting for an estimated 80 percent of all judicial executions in the world) and a few other holdouts?  (India, the second most populous country, executes only about 12 persons annually.)


The Court put a moratorium on executions once before and could do so again.  It should be obvious to everyone that competent legal counsel under the current system almost always keeps his or her clients out of the death chamber.  You can almost say anyone suffering the death penalty had inadequate legal support.  In fact, Justice O’Connor, oftentimes the swing vote on the court, gave a speech on July 2, 200l to a group of women lawyers in which she bluntly declared:  “If statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed.”  In time, the public may generally come around to the same view, even without a poster victim.  (None of the executed has subsequently been shown to be innocent.  But then again there hasn’t been much effort to vindicate the dead who are almost entirely from poor backgrounds.)  Zimring warns, however, that its abolition will not be accomplished by stealth.  A change in public values as well a political pressure will be required to budge U.S. policy on this issue.



HoFW Events

For an up-to-date listing of meetings and events, see the calendar on the HoFW e-list group page.

August Evolution Studies

The next installment of the Evolution series will be Wednesday, August 13, from 7-9:15 pm at Westside UU Church, 6901 McCart Avenue, Suite 125, Fort Worth, Texas.  The church is located on McCart Avenue between Altamesa Boulevard and Sycamore School Road.

August Meeting

The next regular HoFW meeting will be August 19 at 7:00 pm at West Side UU Church.  Jeanette Popp, Chairperson of the Texas Moratorium Network, will speak on the death penalty.  Mark the occasion down in big red letters on your calendar.

Board Meeting

The next quarterly meeting of the Board of Directors is set for October 20, 2003 at the home of Immediate Past Chair Mike Haney.

September Evolution Studies

The September installment of the Evolution series will be Wednesday, September 10, from 7-9:15 pm at Westside UU Church.

September HoFW Meeting

The regular HoFW meeting will be Tuesday, September 16 at West Side Unitarian Church.  Speaker TBA.


Adopt-A-Street Trash Pick-up

Our next Adopt-a-Street pick-up will be September 27, 2003 at 8 a.m.  Mike Haney will continue to coordinate this effort if we have at least 10 people show up.  Usual meeting place is at the Osteopathic Family Medicine Clinic parking lot on the corner of Granbury Road and South University Drive.  The address is 3750 S University Dr, Fort Worth.  Contact Mike Haney with questions.




Chairman and Webmaster: Russell Elleven, 6120 Comfort Dr.,
Fort Worth TX 76132; 817-370-2171;
Vice Chair and Newsletter Editor: Jim Cheatham, 1582 CR 2730,

Glen Rose, TX  76043; (254) 797-0277;

Newsletter Editor:  Michael Rivera, 4004 Fox Trot Dr, Fort Worth,

(817) 294-1143,

Secretary: Reed Bilz, 6316 Walburn Ct., Fort Worth 76133;
Treasurer: Dolores Ruhs, 1036 Hill Top Pass, Benbrook 76126-3848;
Immediate Past Chair: Mike Haney, 924 Roaring Springs Rd.,
Fort Worth 76114; Ph. 817-737-7047;
Past Chairman and Programs Director: Jeff Rodriguez,
4901 Bryce Ave., #5, Fort Worth TX 76102; 817-732-4235;

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