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HandWiki. Washington Area Secular Humanists. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 25 June 2024).
HandWiki. Washington Area Secular Humanists. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2024.
HandWiki. "Washington Area Secular Humanists" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 25, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 04). Washington Area Secular Humanists. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Washington Area Secular Humanists." Encyclopedia. Web. 04 November, 2022.
Washington Area Secular Humanists

The Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH) is an all volunteer, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in Maryland, USA. It serves the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area and the surrounding areas of Maryland and Virginia. The founders of WASH chartered its purpose to promote scientific literacy and critical thinking, to provide a forum for humanists and like minded individuals to explore humanist principles, to discuss and explore how humanist principles relate to all aspects of the human experience, and to study the significance of humanism throughout history. Most of its members self identify as secular humanists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and freethinkers. WASH was one of the first groups in the Washington D.C. Metro area for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and other secular-minded people. It has since gone on to be the co-founder or a major participant in several historical events at the local and national level.

scientific literacy secular humanist

1. Notable Actions and Events

In 2003 WASH worked with the American Humanist Association (AHA) to create the National Day of Reason and continues to sponsor that event annually. This holiday takes place on the first Thursday in May of every year. The National Day of Reason is in contrast to the National Day of Prayer which occurs on the same day. On April 25, 2013, Congressman Michael Honda of California issued a proclamation in the U.S. House of Representative to recognize as the National Day of Reason.[1] Congresswomen Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia also issued a statement that the National Day of Reason be recognized.[2]

In November 2008 WASH Participated with the AHA for the launch of the first launch of the first Atheist Bus Campaign in the United States.[3][4] This followed closely behind the first Atheist Bus Campaign that was launched in October 2008 in London, England.[5] The success and high amount of press coverage resulting from this media campaign allowed similar ad campaigns to spread throughout the United States.[6]

WASH founded the Robert G. Ingersoll oratory contest in partnership with the AHA and the Washington D.C. Center for Inquiry. The first contest was held on October 9, 2009 at Dupont Circle. Participants select and present essays or speeches from Robert G. Ingersoll known as "The Great Agnostic".[7]

In December 2009 WASH in participation with other groups of the Baltimore Coalition of Reason in Maryland put up a Good without God billboard near the M&T Bank Stadium.[8] This was part of the other Atheist billboard campaigns occurring around the country to reach out to secular individuals who feel isolated and to let them know there is a larger community of non-theists they can join.

WASH was a sponsor of the Reason Rally which took place on March 24, 2012 in Washington D.C. This event was advertised as the world's largest gathering of Secular People with the purpose of empowering secular individuals nationwide and showing the size of the secular demographic to government leaders.[9][10][11] Celebrities such as Adam Savage, co-host of the Discovery Channel's Mythbusters and Oxford professor Richard Dawkins were among the notable speakers.[12] WASH organized the local corps of volunteers for many of the preparations leading up to the event and during the event itself.

In January 2012 The Fredericksburg Virginia Chapter of WASH was able to participate in the Religious Freedom parade in Fredericksburg, Virginia that honors of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. This parade has been organized by the Knights of Columbus since 1974 and did not have any representation by non-theistic groups until then.[13]

The humanist display created and sponsored the SASH chapter of was vandalized on two occurrences during December 2012.[14] This display was located on the lawn of the Warren County Courthouse in Front Royal, Virginia as part of the larger holiday displays for the winter holiday season. This was the first holiday display to be included at this location for secular humanists, atheists, and free-thinkers.

The Lynchburg, VA and Roanoke, VA chapters of WASH working with secular groups in their areas as part of the Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason put of four billboards stating Don't Believe in God? Join the club. This campaign started on December 19, 2012. Two billboards were vandalized before the end of December.[15][16] These billboards were the first billboards calling attention to non-religious people in an predominantly Christian evangelical area.[17][18]

WASH was founded in 1989 as an educational organization. Lois Porter[19] (1919–2018)[20] was its first president and one of the founders, along with George Porter (1919–2015)[21], Howard Caulk, Pete Lins, and Kenneth Marsalek.[22] Its early beginning was assisted by professor Paul Kurtz, founder of the Center for Inquiry, who provided advice on how to organize local humanist groups and who was able to provide a list of subscribers of his magazine Free Inquiry who lived in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. WASH began as one group holding its meetings in Silver Spring, MD and later expanded into several chapters as its membership grew. Early chapters were located in the immediate D.C. Metro area before expanding into locations farther away in central and southern Virginia and western Maryland.[23] WASH presently consists of ten chapters. These are the Baltimore Secular Humanists (BSH) based in Baltimore, Maryland; the Maryland District of Columbia chapter (MDC), based in Rockville, Maryland; the D.C. Region Atheists (DCRA), based in Washington, DC; the Frederick Secular Humanists (FRESH), based in Frederick, Maryland; the Southern Maryland Secular Humanists (SoMdSH), based in Leonardtown, Maryland; the Northern Virginia Chapter (NVC), based in Fairfax, Virginia; the Fredericksburg Secular Humanists (FSH), based in Fredericksburg, Virginia; the Secular Humanists of Roanoke (SHOR), based in Roanoke, Virginia; the Lynchburg Area Secular Humanists (LASH) based in Lynchburg, Virginia; and the Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists (SASH) based in Front Royal, Virginia. A chapter coordinator leads each of the local chapters. The WASH local chapters typically hold regular meetings and plan other events for local members. In 2009 WASH local chapters began participating with other local groups of skeptics, free-thinkers, atheists, and humanists under the United Coalition of Reason. Under this arrangement the various groups remain independent from each other; however, the efforts of those groups are coordinated to better service their local communities.

WASH is governed by an elected Board of Directors which speak for the organization as a whole. On the national level WASH is an affiliate of American Atheists, the AHA, the Atheist Alliance of America, and the Council for Secular Humanism. WASH is also an endorsing organization of the Secular Coalition for America.

2. Publications

WASH publishes a monthly newsletter for its members called WASHLine. WASH also sponsors the blog Secular Perspectives. In 1999 WASH published a work of humanist essays from its members called The Blue Book[24] followed up by another collection of essays called Humanist Perspectives II, "The Green Book"[25]. WASH has also published a tour guide for a walking tour of notable historic sites in Washington D.C. related to the life of Robert G. Ingersoll.[26]


  1. Congressional Records of April 25, 2013 United States Government Printing Office
  2. Congressional Records of May 3, 2013
  3. Reclaiming the Imagination: The Exodus as Paradigmatic Narrative for Preaching by David Fleer and Dave Bland, Publisher: Chalice Press (November 30, 2009), ISBN:0827232594
  4. Christian Today Atheists Bus Ads Reach America
  5. The Guardian Riding the Atheists Bus
  6. Time Magazine Is God Dead? Or Just Not Riding the Bus?,8599,1901301,00.html
  7. Seek Wellness The 2010 Robert G. Ingersoll Oratory Contest
  8. The Baltimore Sun Group organizes to be 'good without God'
  9. Atheism For Dummies (For Dummies (Religion & Spirituality)) by Dale McGowan, Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (March 11, 2013), ISBN:111850920X
  10. USA Today News Secularists counter prayer day with National Day of Reason
  11. Discovery News Thousands of Atheists Rally in D.C.
  12. The Atlantic Richard Dawkins Preaches to Non-Believers at Reason Rally
  13. Fredericksburg Virginia News Group Shares its nonbelief
  14. The Northern Virginia Daily Vandalism of Secular Humanist Display Under Investigation
  15. Associated Press in the Roanoke Times-Dispatch Another atheist billboard in Va. vandalized
  16. The Roanoke Times Second Atheist Billboard defaced in Roanoke Area
  17. American Ethnic Geography, A Cultural Geography of the United States and Canada, Valparaiso University
  18. Religion and Public Life Project: religious Landscape Study, Pew Research Center
  19. Who's Who in Hell: a Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-theists by Warren Allen Smith, Publisher Barricade Books (January 1, 2000) ISBN:1569801584
  20. "Lois Porter Obituary". Washington Post. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  21. "Remembering George Porter, a Secular Humanist Life". Washington Area Secular Humanists, Inc.. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  22. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief by Tom Flynn, Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 30, 2007) ISBN:1591023912
  23. Lins, Pete (1999). "WASH: A Look Back at the Early Years". Humanism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Don Evans. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  24. Evans, Don, Ed. (1999). "Humanism: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives". Washington Area Secular Humanists. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  25. Evans, Don, Ed.. Humanist Perspective II: 'The Green Book'. Washington Area Secular Humanists, Inc.. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  26. Washington Post Robert Ingersoll, the ‘Great Agnostic’
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