Opening Words from Sun. June 13 by Brett Bartrum

June 13, 2021

When I asked to give opening words this week I was surprised by the theme being revelation. Growing up Mormon we heard a lot about revelation as it’s what the church was founded on. In Mormonism, revelation is communication from God to man. They believe that Jesus Christ and God spoke to Joseph Smith directly in person to start the church.

Since I’m not Mormon anymore I don’t want to spend much time going into that.


Opening Words from Sun. June 6 by John Whittier

June 6, 2021

I should preface the body of my talk with a disclaimer. The following will mention the age 75. For those in the audience who are past this age, which includes my life partner, this may cause some discomfort. It is not my intention to cause discomfort, and I apologize to anyone made uncomfortable by my talk, but discomfort cannot be avoided when discussing end-of-life decisions. Also be aware that the age of 75 is not meant to apply to all persons, it is merely a starting point and is meant to be adjusted as fits each individual’s circumstances.


Opening Words from Sun. May 30 by Christian Hayden

May 30, 2021

My name is Christian, my pronouns are he/him/his and I am interning as a leader in training with the Ethical Society of St. Louis. I want to use this time as both an invitation and time to reflect.

The pandemic has taken a toll on literally everything; my physical health, my mental emotional wellbeing, and stressed the social ties I formed over the years. Nevertheless, I am not trying to lose sight of the fact this is a uniquely opportune moment for transformation. Few times in one’s life, or if you are a millennial too many times in one’s life, are there these seismic shifts-communally felt disruptions in one’s routine.


Opening Words from Sun. May 9 by Leader James Croft

May 9, 2021

Hello everyone. I decided to give Opening Words today because I wanted to give an update on where we are. It has now been more than a year since we closed the Ethical Society’s building due to COVID. In that time we have achieved so much together as a community. We transferred all our programs online; developed many new ones; and have done everything we could to keep this community together despite being physically distant. I want to take a moment to thank our staff: Christian Hayden; Nancy Jelinek; Louise Jett; Kat Wier; JD Brooks; and Terri Arscott. They have all worked incredibly hard to ensure that the Ethical Society of St. Louis remained a community, even if only virtually. I also want to thank all the members who have stepped up to offer online programs: there are too many of you to name, but each of you has made a huge different to the life of this community. Thank you.


Climate Action Now! Climate Justice

May 2, 2021

The negative impacts of climate and environmental degradation often fall most heavily on marginalized peoples in this country and around the world. Climate justice is a subset of environmental justice.

Presenter: Climate Action Now! and End Racism teams

Presentation slides (pdf, 200k)
Key points from presentation and breakout groups (pdf, 252k; image, 226k)

ACTIONS – Climate Justice

  • Watch the PBS series “My World Too” showcasing sustainable living practices from around the World
  • Make a environment/climate justice sign and participate in BLM protest (16-May and then every second Sunday, from 1-2 pm, in front of the Society)
  • Read about and contribute to the Solutions Project
  • Discuss the relationship between the climate change and race with your friends and family
  • Take the Environmental Justice self study program from Washington University
  • Learn about and participate in programs from “Just Moms STL” about Bridgeton’s West Lake landfill superfund site

Related Links

CAN! materials

These materials have been prepared by the Society’s CAN! (Climate Action Now!) team. This post and its links do not express or imply an endorsement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

St. Louis faith leaders express ‘horror and total opposition’ to church firearms bill

April 29, 2021

Ethical Society leader James Croft and other religious leaders to denounce a proposed law to allow concealed weapons in houses of worship.

James Croft, leader of the Ethical Society of St Louis, joined to express “horror and total opposition to House Bill 944.”

Watch the KSDK report.

“Accidental Courtesy” – Noah Schrenk’s Coming of Age Graduation Address

April 25, 2021

Recently I saw a documentary about a man named Daryl Davis. He is a musician who plays the piano. But more than that, he’s a man who reaches out to members of the Ku Klux Klan, who makes friends with them, and changes their minds. It started when he talked with someone from the Southern Poverty Law Center who told him that you can’t change peoples’ minds. His story is captured in a documentary called “Accidental Courtesy.”

Daryl Davis is Black. It surprised me that KKK members they would ever talk to a black guy, much less listen to him. That seems contradictory to me.


“The Paradox of Mask-wearing” – Rhys Harden’s Coming of Age Graduation Address

April 25, 2021

One day in the past year I went to Target with my grandma. A police officer at the door told people to put on their masks on. As soon as they walked away, from the police, they pulled it down to their chin and kept walking.

I saw that and was immediately pissed off. Don’t they know…masks don’t just protect you — but also the other person? It’s a paradox.


“The Art of Worldbuilding” – Douglas Finney’s Coming of Age Graduation Address

April 25, 2021

Hello. My pronouns are they/them, and I’m interested in reading and writing more than most other things. In fact, I’ve already finished writing the first drafts of three separate novels. You might not be surprised to know I spend most of my time reading.

My favorite genre is fantasy, probably due to the fact that within those stories, nothing needs to conform to the rules of the real world. Societies could have completely different ideals, or natural laws could differ, or something else could be divergent that would entirely change the world in ways it can be difficult to imagine.

Since I can design these worlds with nearly any major or minor modification I wish, I can see some of the ways how our world might be different or might change. This is especially evident when I change things like societal norms and conventions or other parts of our society, as those are things that could actually change within our world.


Derek Chauvin Verdict

April 23, 2021
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The American Ethical Union’s Statement on the Derek Chauvin Verdict This Week

The American Ethical Union joins with all Americans who strive for racial justice, and especially the Black community, in acknowledging the conviction of police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, 2020. The conviction brings a rare moment of accountability for the relentless killings of Black people at the hands of the police.

The murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin, as he kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, as Floyd pleaded for his life, occurred in broad daylight before witnesses. The egregious and blatant nature of the murder, and the fact that the entire encounter was video-taped by a courageous teenager, sparked the most widespread demonstrations for racial justice in American history.

The killings of People of Color by the police has been relentless. The murder of George Floyd brought into stark relief the pervasive racism that characterizes much of policing in America and the immunity and lack of accountability that shield the police from prosecution. We note that between 2013 and 2019, only 1% of killings by police have resulted in criminal charges.

The Ethical Culture Movement has long committed itself to the struggle for civil rights and racial justice. The central value of Ethical Culture is the respect for dignity of all people regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or social status. This commitment has animated anti-racism initiatives and our abhorrence at police practices that have denied the full humanity of People of Color.

We hope that the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd is not so much the just resolution of a particularly egregious case, as it is the beginning of a transformation of police practices and, more broadly, the overcoming of racism in American society. Whether this trial marks an inflection point remains to be seen. 

A noteworthy part of the trial was testimony by the Minneapolis police chief condemning Chauvin’s action as a violation of police norms, practices and ethical values. As such, it marked an extremely rare, but highly visible, crack in the “blue wall of silence” which for far too long has shielded police from public accountability. We hope that this will not simply be the defining of the crime as an exceptional violation easily isolated and rationalized, but rather that this high profile moment in the trial will initiate an essential transformation of police culture. It can mark a reorientation of police loyalties toward primary devotion to the public whom the police are sworn to serve and away from mere protection of their own. We urge that it does.

Policing in America is in need of immediate and radical reform inclusive of how police are recruited and trained. We commend efforts to reorganize the function of police to reassign services they are ill-equipped to execute to professionals trained for those functions and can do so in ways that lessen confrontations with the public and are non-violent. We strongly support the Senate’s passage of The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021. The Act will create uniform national standards for policing, including increasing police accountability, require the use of body cameras, abolish “no-knock” warrants, mandate that police officers use deadly force only as a last resort, and other long-sought reforms.

We recognize that the racism that pervades policing in America and the immunity that the police enjoy from being held accountable for the killing of Black people is a symptom of deeper and long-standing racism that pervades American society. The police would not act with a sense of impunity if they felt that their behavior was not enabled by society at-large. Radical reforming of the police alone, therefore, is not sufficient. Social attitudes need to change and racism needs to be expunged from all American institutions. Only then can we claim to truly be the nation of, for and by all our diverse citizenry. In accordance with the highest values of Ethical Culture, the full humanity of Black people and all People of Color needs to be recognized and honored.

The American Ethical Union pledges itself to work with others toward that end.

See this statement on the AEU website.

Opening Words from Sun. April 18 by Cathy Pickard

April 18, 2021

“If you build it, they will come.” That thought ran through my mind a lot last summer, as Bob and I spent countless hours working in our expansive backyard. And, no, we did not create a ball field, expecting to see the ghosts of baseball’s past emerge from the mist. For those who don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, the reference is to the 1989 film “Field of Dreams”, starring Kevin Costner as an Iowa farmer, who, hearing voices, interprets them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his corn fields, hoping the infamous Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 Chicago White Sox will come and play.


Climate Action Now! How Low Can You Go? Track Your Personal Climate Impact with Carbon Footprint Calculators

April 11, 2021
carbon footprint image

How to measure your carbon footprint and track the impact of your changes.

We are all familiar with dietary choices being associated with different climate impacts: a carnivorous diet has a significantly greater impact than a vegan one. But what about organic vs. non-organic? Internationally or locally grown? What about the type of packaging it comes in? Every single thing you consume in the modern world has a unique carbon impact associated with it, including (but not limited to) personal hygiene, fashion sense, electronics usage, transportation, and even recreational activities. Carbon footprint calculators allow you to measure the size of your personal carbon footprint and to break down the relative significance of each of the different types of consumption in your total carbon emissions. Find out which of your lifestyle choices have the most potential to reduce your individual climate impact!

Presenter: Michelle Elmore

Presentation slides (PDF 1 mb)

ACTIONS – Carbon footprint

  • Explore carbon footprint calculators using the “advanced” mode when available.
  • Note the areas in your lifestyle with the greatest carbon emissions. Test yourself to reduce the impacts of these over time.
  • Learn about the impacts of the foods you consume, goods you buy, services you utilize, and activities you do, and just be cognizant of these impacts.
  • Reuse and recycle to reduce your carbon emissions.
  • Return to the carbon footprint calculator at a later date to see how much your emissions have decreased!

Calculator Links

  • The results of the Global Footprint Network’s calculator tell you how many Earths we would need for everyone to share your lifestyle and what your personal Overshoot Day is.
  • The CoolClimate Network of The University of California – Berkeley offers a detailed calculator that emphasizes the comparison between your personal impact and that of the average person within your demographic. It also recommends changes to lifestyle and consumption habits with modifiable options to weigh the impact of potential changes for you to consider.
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s calculator has a helpful bar chart that updates in real time as your responses are added and offers suggested actions to offset your emissions.
  • The Inquiry to Student Environmental Action’s calculator is highly detailed and has a sliding bar that updates in real time as your responses are added.
  • Carbon Footprint is a UK-based resource that provides tools to calculate your personal carbon footprint and offers tips to reduce it.
  • The EPA’s calculator provides estimated carbon emission reductions based on alternative actions to be taken.
  • The United Nations offers a unique calculator which allows you to calculate the carbon emissions associated with a particular consumer good.
  • BBC News offers an interactive applet that lets you explore the greenhouse emissions associated with different types of foods.

CAN! materials

These materials have been prepared by the Society’s CAN! (Climate Action Now!) team. This post and its links do not express or imply an endorsement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Hate Has No Place Here – AEU Statement

March 23, 2021
Category: ,

The hearts of Ethical Society members are with the victims of the heinous attack on March 17 by a white man at three spas in the Atlanta area, who killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent. The police have identified four people who were victims of the attack on Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County and four who were victims from the attack on the Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa. We stand in solidarity with the victims, their families, and the wider community of people whose vulnerability in this climate of hate was highlighted by this shooting and the increase in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The shootings come at a moment of increasing harassment and hate crimes against the Asian-American community. Violence against Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) has been rising for years, stoked more recently by falsely blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic. The Atlanta shooting at three separate Asian-identified massage parlors follows nearly 3800 cases of Anti-Asian hate incidents reported in the past year alone.  We call on members of Ethical Societies, friends and community members to stand against anti-AAPI violence and to center the experiences of Asian women in this moment. 

We are especially horrified at this mass shooting because, in targeting vulnerable working class Asian women, the forces of white supremacy, anti-AAPI hate, and xenophobia have joined with misogyny and a history of labor exploitation. We applaud House Democrats for holding a Congressional hearing on the dangerous uptick in anti-Asian violence and discrimination, and hope to see the continuation of public discourse on the issue.  

We condemn the police response which quickly minimized the murders on the basis of having a “bad day” or being the result of a sex addiction. This response is especially fraught considering news that the officer who delivered it has posed with home-made anti-Asian propaganda in the past, and has posted anti-Asian opinions on Facebook.  Excuses for the shooter’s behavior ignore the humanity of the victims, rely on the shooter to decide the narrative, and contort the nexus of responsibility. The responsibility is on the person who made the choice to commit a mass shooting and on those who primed that person to blame and then shoot particular people.

We call on allies against white supremacy and misogyny to support Asian-led organizations that work to counter this rising tide of anti-AAPI violence and hate, and especially ones that center Asian women.  Two examples are the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.  Other groups working against anti-AAPI violence and hate, centering AAPI leadership, include Stop AAPI Hate, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

A fund for victims and their families can be found here:

Go to the original statement

Note: A previous version of this statement listed the names and ages of the victims of this attack. It has since been announced that the families of the victims have requested that their names not be shared in order to protect their privacy. In an effort to respect their wishes, the AEU has removed their names from this statement and its posted version on

Opening Words from Sun. March 14 by Brian Vandenberg: Creative Genius

March 14, 2021

Leonardo. Michelangelo. Newton. Mozart. Einstein. They have altered the shape of Western civilization; some of whom, while dead for over 500 years, we know by their first names. Their contributions are so extraordinary, that when we hear the term, “creative genius,” our first association is likely to one of them. Indeed, one of the synonyms for genius listed in the thesaurus us is “Einstein.”


Board President’s Report – April 2021.

March 11, 2021

Board President’s Report from Stephanie Sigala. April 2021.

Our goal is to report only good news for this Ethical Connection Board update. And we can do it easily.

Despite our forced distance from one another, the Ethical community is still strong. The building looks great and our staff is beavering on just as if we were physically there. It seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel—planning is going on now for a re-opening.

Our volunteer action has also been terrific despite social distancing. Kent Forrest spends many days at the Society repairing the vestibule woodwork. He has been rewarded by a big special gift from the Ethical Board. It’s what he wanted—a gift card to Menard’s!

Jim Rhodes linked up with environmentally active friends to propose that the Society Board ratify the Climate Emergency Declaration which encourages Missouri institutions to prioritize climate action.

The Board has also recognized another one of our super members for the AEU Anna Garlin Spencer Award for volunteer contributions. That super long-time member is David Brown who has been Board President, Governance Plan implenter, and now leads our good works with the International Institute.

Our financial picture at the Society is rosy, despite a somewhat declining membership now at 334. 2020-21 pledge monies are still rolling in. And the good news is that we are not spending as much while we are closed. The 2021-22 pledge team is keeping up the good work and ensuring adequate funds for a great year when we finally to see each other in person.

See you at the Annual Meeting, May 13 at 7 p.m. Details are elsewhere in this Connection. Please join us and show off your special dessert! Celebrate with us! It’s our last Zoom Ethical Annual Meeting, we hope!

If you have questions about the Ethical Board of Trustees, contact me or other friendly Board members.

Climate Action Now! – Plant a tree. It matters.

March 7, 2021

Trees and forests play a critical role in removing CO2 and releasing oxygen from the environment. Forest ReLeaf has been working hard, planting and growing native trees and shrubs through Missouri and surrounding regions.

Meridith Perkins,
Forest ReLeaf Missouri

Presentation slides

Listen to the presentation and Q&A

Links mentioned in the presentation

ACTIONS – Reforestation

  • Plant a native tree in your yard; private land makes up 80%+ of our city so individual action is critical to impact canopy increase.
  • Volunteer and/or donate to Forest ReLeaf to ensure trees are available to everyone regardless of income, zip code, or privilege.
  • Join, or support, your local citizen advisory group (ex. Tree Board, Park Commission, Planning Commission, etc.) to advise and champion municipal forestry programs; these programs need citizen buy-in to prove they are a priority and justify budget allocations.
  • Maintain and protect mature trees in the landscape. Thriving mature canopy trees offer the biggest benefits for climate resilience. Understand tree ordinance language in your communities and advocate for stronger preservation regulations.

CAN! materials

These materials have been prepared by the Society’s CAN! (Climate Action Now!) team. This post and its links do not express or imply an endorsement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Facing the Threat of Christian Nationalism

March 5, 2021

Join the Ethical Society of St. Louis and Center for Freethought Equality for “Facing the Threat of Christian Nationalism” on Zoom (ID# 384 422 5785) March 12 at 7 p.m. to learn from a panel of distinguished experts who will help attendees understand – and confront – the threat of Christian nationalism.

The program is over but you can watch the recorded video.

“Christian nationalism is fast becoming one of the greatest threats to the United States – and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley is at the heart of it,” said Ethical Society of St. Louis Leader James Croft. “Politicians, like Hawley, who seek to impose their own religious vision on society do incredible harm to our religiously diverse nation and undermine the secular principles on which America was founded. At this event you will learn about the dangerous influence of Christian nationalism, and what you can do to fight it.”

Panelists will include Dr. Sabrina Dent, senior faith adviser at Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Katherine Stewart, author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism;” and Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. The Zoom meeting ID# is 384 422 5785.

The Ethical Society of St. Louis is a Humanist congregation where people come together to explore the biggest questions of life without reference to scripture, religion or God. To learn more, visit

Climate Emergency Declaration

February 11, 2021
Category: ,

Saint Louis Ethical Society Declaration of a Climate Emergency

  1. The Ethical Society of Saint Louis urges all municipal governments inside not only the Saint Louis metropolitan area but also across the State of Missouri to declare a climate emergency and then to take all appropriate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other contributing factors to the climate crises, and
  2. The Ethical Society of Saint Louis urges the State of Missouri to mobilize all entities within the State government, especially the Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Conservation, Transportation, and Economic Development to also declare a climate emergency within the State of Missouri.

On the Need to Declare a Climate Emergency

  1. Whereas the Ethical Society of Saint Louis is a Humanistic Religious Organization founded in 1886 and it strives to educate and encourage its members and the broader community on ways to live an ethics-centered life, and
  2. Whereas it is essential to have a healthy and biologically intact planetary ecosystem which can provide for a sustainable life for all of the earth’s human inhabitants as well as the millions of plant and animal species that cannot survive in the absence of such ecosystem, and
  3. Whereas it is now widely understood that our current planetary climate is undergoing great change because of human activities including unprecedented burning of fossil fuels and the widespread destruction of natural plant and animal habitats for subsequent human use, and
  4. Whereas it is understood that if trends continue in this direction, the future of all humans living all over the world will suffer and result in unpredictable suffering, and
  5. Whereas many people in the St. Louis region and the State of Missouri, including Missouri farmers and businesses, will suffer from climate disruptions if current trends continue, and
  6. Whereas there has been little governmental action taken within the State of Missouri and its local governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to formulate plans to deal with climate change, and
  7. Whereas the Ethical Society of Saint Louis has over the years recognized the urgency of this global problem and has and is continuing in its education effort to bring this to the attention of the membership, and
  8. Whereas, on 12 December 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General asked the world’s governments to declare a climate emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached, and
  9. Whereas thus far over 1,800 governmental jurisdictions in 33 countries have joined to declare such a climate emergency, the Ethical Society of Saint Louis is adopting a two-part resolution.

Climate Action Now! – Solutions Through Reproductive Health: Why Population Dynamics Matter to Climate Change

February 7, 2021
Overburdened earth

This presentation explores the connections between population dynamics, access to comprehensive health care, and climate change. Through an historical examination of global population dynamics, the talk will clarify the links between poverty, marginalization, women’s rights, and environmental pressures made worse by climate change. It will conclude with a detailed argument explaining why expanding access to family planning and reproductive health care services is critical to women’s empowerment and can play an impactful role in climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Presenter: Hannah Evans, Communications Manager
Population Connection

Presentation slides (pdf, 308 MB)

Listen to the presentation

ACTIONS – Curbing population growth

CAN! materials

These materials have been prepared by the Society’s CAN! (Climate Action Now!) team. This post and its links do not express or imply an endorsement by the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Opening Words from Sun. January 24 by Krystal White: Why am I a Teacher?

January 24, 2021

I have a story to tell.  A few years back, a student noticed a Washington University banner I had in my classroom.  After learning that I had both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from this great school, he looked simultaneously impressed and befuddled.  He cocked his head and asked “No offense, Ms. White, but if you have a degree from WashU, why would you become a teacher!?”  The answer is simple: teachers change lives.  Specifically, teachers changed my life.