AEU 105th Assembly on Zoom

02 Aug 2020 | 03:00 pm - 05:00 pm

Breaking Barriers

July events plus Saturday, August 1 Meeting

The American Ethical Union will host our 105th Assembly, “Breaking Barriers,” online using Zoom. Our 2020 Assembly Business Meeting will be Saturday, August 1, 2pm ET with discussion sessions in July to review agenda items. In July, we will also share educational programming, similar to our Assembly workshops. See below for schedule of all events, business meeting items, speaker info, and details on using Zoom.

Instead of the World Humanist Congress, Humanists International will hold a General Assembly later in 2020 and American Humanist Association will hold their 2020 conference online (see their conference website for details on WHC refunds and free online registration).

Register for FREE here

  • Sunday, August 2, 12pm PT/ 2pm CT / 3pm ET

    Assembly Platform Cancelled

    The 3:00PM ET AEU platform scheduled for today has been cancelled. There has been a significant breakdown of relationship and we do not feel that we can proceed with the platform with integrity. We will move ahead in an effort to address the breakdown and repair the relationship and the broader roots of the breakdown. We apologize for this sudden change in plans; we found out yesterday that Jé will not be at the program, which informs our decision to cancel.

    Sincerely, Hugh Taft-Morales, James Croft, Greg Bonin, Kate Lovelady, Bart Worden, and Richard Koral

  • We will be using the video conferencing system Zoom to share our Assembly Programs online. If you’re unfamiliar with joining a Zoom Meeting, please watch this video. Make sure you download the latest version – 5.0. All events will use

    You can use the Zoom app or website on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can also use your phone for audio by calling a phone number below with
    Meeting ID: 842 5190 9182
    Password: 1876
    +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
    +1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)
    +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
    +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
    +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
    +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

    If you need Zoom assistance, contact Bart Worden at

  • Below discussions will review the business items to be voted on at Saturday, August 1, 2pm ET Assembly Meeting. See Delegate Materials here.

    Budget and Finance
    Saturday, July 11, 1pm ET —
    Wednesday, July 15, 7pm ET —
    If you are a delegate and unable to attend this session, please contact Tom Castelnuovo,

    Assembly 2021 Proposal
    Saturday, July 11, 5pm ET —
    Thursday, July 16, 7pm ET —
    If you are a delegate and unable to attend this session, please contact John McCormick,

    Saturday, July 18, 1pm ET —
    Thursday, July 23, 7pm ET —
    If you are a delegate and unable to attend this session, please contact Casey Gardonio-Foat,

    Board Candidates
    Wednesday, July 22, 7pm ET —
    Saturday, July 25, 5pm ET —
    If you are a delegate and unable to attend this session, please contact Sue Walton,

    Bylaws Amendments and Policy Changes
    Saturday, July 25, 1pm ET —
    Monday, July 27, 7pm ET —
    If you are a delegate and unable to attend this session, please contact Sonja Kueppers,

  • At this time more than any other before, significant barriers are being broken—some softly, rather comfortably, with our hardly noticing; others loudly, defiantly, and obviously. Barriers of distance and differences are breaking down. The promise is that of the beginnings of a “brave new world” with exciting benefits to all. Click on the programs below to learn more.

    • CONNECTING IN THE ZOOM BOOM - Tuesday, July 28, 2pm & 8:30pm ET


      Louise Jett (St. Louis) & Ed Beck (NYSEC)

      MC: Bart Worden (AEU & Westchester)

      Tuesday, July 28, 2pm & 8:30pm ET

      Being forced to hold virtual meetings while protecting our health and our community during a global pandemic, Ethical Culture Societies are discovering new possibilities for building connections while maintaining social distance. The results of current efforts, as we make do and make it work, have already shown positive results for connections within and between Societies. Remember that when COVID is over, Zoom doesn’t have to be over. The potential for the medium takes us even further-hybrid meetings, social gatherings with reduced cost, expanded services for members who are less mobile. The technical infrastructure needed to make the most of this opportunity is surprisingly minimal and well within the reach of even smaller Societies.



      Christian Hayden (Leader-In-Training) supported by Hugh Taft-Morales (Baltimore & Philadelphia) and Jone Johnson Lewis (RYSEC)

      Wednesday, July 29, 2pm & 8:30pm ET

      Toni Morrison once said the very serious work of racism is to waste time—this is a workshop that will not waste time explaining how and why racism exists. It will start with a foundation of using the workbook approach of My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, and applying Ethical Culture ideas and tools to dealing with addressing racial trauma in relationship and community. Folks will be able to identify their own emotions, roles, and work when it comes to healing and transformation.



      Perry Stein (Bergen), Jim LoPresti (Long Island), Randy Best (NoVES), Janet Rose (NYSEC)

      MC: David Bland (Bergen)

      Thursday, July 30, 2pm & 8:30pm ET

      Speakers each talk about a successful program series at each of their Societies. Attendees will receive an AEU Program Exchange form for each, with full descriptions of the programs so that they can adapt the programs in their own Societies. The Program Exchange forms will be added to the bank of forms already available through the AEU. Links to blank forms will be provided, inviting more Societies to share their successful programs and build this resource for all Societies.

      • The Brew (Bergen) Ethical Brew is a live music venue dedicated to serving up a quality blend of live music and social action in an intimate and welcoming environment. Fifty percent of the proceeds from each show are allocated to funding worthy social action projects, charities, organizations and progressive causes selected by the Artist. The remaining 50% helps to fund initiatives of the Ethical Culture Society.
      • Ethical Friends of Children (Long Island) This outreach program, begun in 1985, assists more than 2,500 children and their families each year by providing them with clothing and infant furniture at no cost. The store is staffed entirely by volunteers. “‘Customers” are referred to by the area’s social service organizations. Families pick out the things they need. Individuals, families, and community groups donate gently used clothing, furniture, and other things children may require. Volunteers help to sort and organize and pick up and deliver larger items. Cash donations go entirely to purchasing needed items for children, such as diapers and formula. The program is supported by religiously affiliated and private agencies funded by Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
      • Philosophy of Mind (NoVES) As part of an outreach program, NoVES partnered with a local coffee shop, Caffe Amouri, which hosts a Penny University in the tradition of educational programs that once took place in London coffee houses and pubs. Most of the offerings relate to cooking, high tech coffee brewing, and outdoor recreation. We added this monthly series close to four years ago. The group discusses such philosophical questions as, “Do We Have Free Will?” and “What Role Does Language Have in Shaping Our Thoughts?”
      • Ethical Dilemmas (NYSEC) This program asks: What do you do when there’s no clear ethical road to take? Speakers from a variety of backgrounds–medicine, law, business, science, education, the arts, social work, and more — share their experience navigating those ethical labyrinths.

    • ROOTING OUT RACISM: ETHICAL MISSION 2020 AND BEYOND - Friday, July 31, 2pm & 8:30pm ET


      Jone Johnson Lewis (RYSEC) supported by Christian Hayden (Leader-In-Training) Hugh Taft-Morales (Baltimore & Philadelphia)

      Friday, July 31, 2pm & 8:30pm ET

      If we are committed to our core values of human worth and human connection, and if we take seriously our 2016 and 2017 resolutions on racism, then 2020 is a time for action. What projects are most effective for an Ethical Society to take on? How do Ethical Societies and the Ethical movement themselves reflect and embody racism and how do we make change? How do we nurture multicultural community, liberation and equity, in our own Societies and in the wider world? What internal and external work can you and your Society do to make a difference?

      “Systems of oppression, inequalities and inequities are by design. Shouldn’t we use design to dismantle them?” – Creative Reaction Labs

  • Click on a speaker for headshot and bio.

    • Ed Beck

      Ed Beck (NYSEC) is the Communications Manager for the Society. Ed previously worked as the Senior Program Associate for the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC, tracking scientific integrity in public policy, separation of church and state, international religious freedom, and the influence of the Religious Right. Prior to that, he served as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense Specialist and instructor in the United States Marine Corps. Ed holds a degree in International Politics and Anthropology from the University at Buffalo. He lives in Brooklyn.

    • Randy Best

      Randy Best (NoVES) is the Leader (Humanist Minister) of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society in Vienna, Virginia. Born in St. Louis, he grew up attending the Ethical Society of St. Louis where his mother is still a member. Randy is a graduate of Grinnell College, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and the Humanist Institute. He is a certified Ethical Culture Leader, Mediator, and pastoral counselor. He currently divides his time between Northern Virginia and Durham, North Carolina, where his wife Sarah Howe is a ceramic artist. Sarah and Randy have four grown children who they homeschooled and two grandsons.

    • David Bland

      David Bland (Bergen) recently retired from working in IT in the financial industry for over 35 years, and is now Administrative Director at the Bergen Society, where he and his family have been members for more than 15 years. His wife, Susan Lesh, is President. David chaired the Family Programming Committee for several years and just finished his sixth and last year as chairman of the Platform Committee. He has hosted a monthly film series at the Society since 2013. David is also very active with the Teaneck International Film Festival, where he is on the film selection committee and for which he has moderated a number of “talk-backs” and discussions with directors, cast members and others.

    • Louise Jett

      Louise Jett (St Louis) is a lifelong learner and an educator at heart. She loves building relationships online and face-to-face. As a Media Specialist, she shares stories and co-hosts Zoom events in order to spread awareness and grow the membership of awesome communities, like the Ethical Society of St. Louis, Secular Student Alliance and Ethical Culture Society of Westchester. A Humanist, Louise is dedicated to helping others live more meaningful and fulfilling lives, and she is currently a Leader in Training with the National Leaders Council, an affiliate of the American Ethical Union. Louise has committed her professional life to supporting and educating students who attend Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois, where she starts the new position of Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of the Graphic and Web Design programs this fall. Her favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut because in teaching her to connect with the flawed characters in his novels, he helped her to love and accept others, including herself. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her supportive husband, Luke Allen, their 17-year-old son, Keenan, and their numerous pets, which include five unexpected guinea pigs, three distinct cats and two affectionate dogs.

    • Christian Hayden

      Christian Hayden (Philadelphia, Leader-In-Training) is a Community Educator with Women Against Abuse. Christian served three years as an AmeriCorps member. Following Christian’s time with AmeriCorps he began work as a Community Liaison in both the Mantua and Southwest communities of Philadelphia. In 2015, Christian left for a year abroad in Ghana working with the Humanist Service Corps. While in Ghana he worked with a women’s rights organizations addressing issues around violence against women. Coupled with his experience, he has interests in art, photography, hip hop, and sociology. Christian brings all of these elements together as he facilitates dialogue around safety in relationships with students. Christian earned a B.A in Urban Studies from the College of Wooster in Ohio. Christian finds grounding and guidance in contributing to and shaking up the Ethical Culture community.

    • Jé Exodus Hooper

      Jé Exodus Hooper is an Ethical Culture clergy-Leader within the American Ethical Union and current PhD candidate. Based in the Mid-Atlantic region, his work as creative-clergy and a performance-scholar is focused in decolonizing Humanism, homiletics, and Black Intellectual Thought. His love for performative rhetoric involves decolonized aesthetic of Black homiletic folk-talk– one of imagination as responsive reasoning. His word-working emphasizes human freedom and interconnectedness through embodiment, intuition, creativity, and improvisation. His folx-talk emerges into a love language that aids congregational practice of culture care for empowering community-life.

    • Jone Johnson Lewis

      Jone Johnson Lewis is the clergy Leader of the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture. She has served as a Leader in three other Societies over 29 years, and she has been involved in racial justice and inclusive community-building for decades.

    • Jim LoPresti

      Jim LoPresti (Long Island) is President of the Long Island Society and has been a member since 1991. He is a retired math teacher, having taught for 34 years at Syosset High School. Jim started a second career as a counselor doing individual, group — especially bereavement groups, and couples counseling. He has a BA in math from St. John’s University, an MS in math from Adelphi University, and a Master of Professional Studies from the NY Institute of Technology. Jim and his wife, Diane, have three adult children and 11 grandchildren.

    • Janet Rose

      Janet Rose (New York) joined Ethical Culture in 2017. She serves on the Ethical Action and Ethics in the Theater committees and chairs the Ethical Enrichment committee, responsible for programming. She is currently running the Reclaim Our Vote campaign at the Society. Janet taught high school English for 26 years in Piscataway and was advisor to the school’s award-winning newspaper for the last 10 of those years. She and her husband, Howard, were both professional potters. They sold their work mainly at fine craft shows and, 38 years ago, started Rose Squared Productions, promoting fine art and fine craft shows in New Jersey. In her town, Janet was co-chair of the synagogue’s membership committee for six years, served on the board of the Hillsborough Township Library for 10 years, and was president of the board for two years. She was also on the board of Homesharing, a New Jersey charity that pairs women and children needing housing with (usually) older women who need someone to stay with them, at a reduced rent in exchange for a work/housecleaning/shopping arrangement.

    • Hugh Taft-Morales

      Hugh Taft-Morales (Philadelphia & Baltimore) is Leader of the Philadelphia Ethical Society and the Baltimore Ethical Society, and is President of the National Leaders Council of the American Ethical Union (AEU). Hugh taught philosophy and history for twenty-five years after which he transitioned into Ethical Culture Leadership. In April of 2009 he graduated from the Humanist Institute and was certified as an Ethical Culture Leader in 2010. He is on the Board of Peace Day Philly, and is a member of the clergy caucus with both Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER) and Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD). Hugh graduated from Yale and earned a Masters in Philosophy from University of Kent at Canterbury. He lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife, Maureen. They have three wonderful adult children – Sean, Maya, and Justin. Hugh’s hobbies include yoga, dancing, singing and playing guitar, and watching sports.

    • Perry Stein

      Perry Stein (Bergen) and his wife, Beth, are long-time members of the Society. They are the co-founders, in 2013, of the Ethical Brew monthly program and are the hosts as well.

    • Bart Worden

      Bart Worden (Westchester, AEU) is the Executive Director for the American Ethical Union and the Clergy Leader for the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester in White Plains, New York. Bart has also worked extensively in the area of community behavioral health as direct care provider, program developer, and administrator. Bart’s recent social justice efforts have focused on addressing bias and discrimination in communities in Westchester County, and he is a member of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform and the 400 Years Project – a countywide coalition.