Notes on a meeting in Paris on 29 August 2010 between ILCAF, Internationaler Bund der Konfessionslosen und Atheisten e.V., Danish Atheist Society, Atheist Ireland with representatives of IHEU

Tuesday 31 August 2010

Note from a meeting in Paris on 29 August 2010 at which the following were present:

Philippe Besson (International Liaison Committee of Atheists and Freethinkers) Catherine LeFur (International Liaison Committee of Atheists and Freethinkers) Roger Lepeix (International Liaison Committee of Atheists and Freethinkers, IHEU treasurer) Christian Eyschen (International Liaison Committee of Atheists and Freethinkers)

Andrew Copson (International Humanist and Ethical Union)

Rene Hartmann (Internationaler Bund der Konfessionslosen und Atheisten e.V.)

Stinus Lindgreen (Danish Atheist Society)

Michael Nugent (Atheist Ireland)

All concerned discussed and will continue discussions about how to best organize international atheist, freethought and humanist organizations, and to explore the ways for common campaigns to promote and defend separation of church and state and rationalism internationally.

All concerned specifically discussed (a) the proposed motion being discussed within AAI about AAI’s relationship with American Atheists; (b) the proposed new organisation for atheists and freethinkers being discussed within ILCAF; (c) how best everybody involved can work together on issues of common interest; (d) the relationship of all groups and potential groups with IHEU.

ILCAF board members stated their desire to prepare together the Oslo Convention in 2011.

The AAI representatives stated that they would be recommending, within AAI, that the vote about the AAI/AA merger be postponed as the matter is so fundamental that it needs proper reflection and discussion. Due to the complexities of this issue, no deadline for this process could be decided presently.

Andrew Copson stated IHEU’s desire to enter into discussions with the non-US affiliates of AAI with a view to find out what they looked for from an international organisation in the hope that they could be accommodated within IHEU if the US affiliates of AAI become one with AA. He made clear that negotiations would be open and frank and IHEU would wish to be flexible and accommodating in such negotiations.

FROM KEITH PORTEOUS WOOD, LONDON (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECULAR SOCIETY AND ILCAF BOARD MEMBER)

I am very sorry not to be with you today in person. I am working away here to make the Pope’s visit to the UK memorable, but perhaps not in the way he would like!

Could I send best wishes to our friends in Libre Pensee with whom we have had a fruitful and warm relationship for around ten years. And send my greetings to our guests from Denmark, Deutschland, Ireland and the UK.

It had been planned for me to speak with you by telephone, but as the discussion is running late, there is probably insufficient time, so I am writing this email instead. Unfortunately that means I will not be able to answer any questions, but if there are any they can be relayed back to me.

Could I say that I am delighted that AAI have expressed interest in joining ILCAF. One of the reasons I went to speak at AA’s Annual Convention at Easter this year in New Jersey was to support and build links with atheists in the USA. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and professionalism of many people there, and the progress being made.

Were AAI to join ILCAF it would seem to be a good fit for the mutual benefit of both organisations. If there is an ILCAF vote on that, it has my support.

It is good that this meeting is taking place with IHEU observers. I recall co-chairing a debate at the IHEU congress in Paris as to whether state neutrality was sufficient or whether complete separation was preferable. While perhaps not a majority, a significant proportion of delegates, like the NSS, passionately hold the latter view. So, given the vote on Education at the last general Assembly in Brussels, IHEU needs to demonstrate by its deeds – as I am sure it will – that:

1. IHEU continues to accept a plurality of views on neutrality and separation and encourage mutual respect between those holding divergent views 2. IHEU does not wish to impose the neutrality (majority) view on ILCAF or impede it in any way from flourishing within the IHEU family.

I conclude by thanking you and sending also the best wishes of my President, Terry Sanderson. Keith Porteous Wood



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