Chrissy Helton is the President of the Tri-State Freethinkers.
Here we talk about her background, presidency, views, and more.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start from the top then. How did you become involved in free thought and the free thought community?
Chrissy Helton: I’ve grown up always wondering why people are nice to each other. A lot of family drama and things of that nature. I had taken a little bit of a break from my job and just really wanted to get out into our community and try to make that difference and other issues that needed to be addressed.
My husband Jim said, “We don’t want to do things with organizations that proselytize.” So, that’s where we came up with, “Why don’t we create a group ourselves?” So, that’s what we decided and we formed Tri-State Freethinkers back in 2012 to be able to help our community and try to do it in more of a secular way.
Jacobsen: As the president, what tasks and responsibilities come with the position?
Helton: A lot of hands on, of course, kind of delegating and overseeing these projects, to make sure that I have enough folks who are able to run it and to organize it.
Jacobsen: If we’re looking at some of the community activities now, what are some community activities that are being done in the Tri-State area through Tri-State Freethinkers?
Helton: We do about 55 community service projects a year. They consist of actually going and feeding people at the shelters, cleaning up our highways, we do a lot of work with the local food banks as far as helping them do their power packs for their needy kids. As far as other things that we get involved in, we’re actively involved with anything that has to do with women’s rights, women’s reproductive rights. We work really close with Planned Parenthood. We’re a big supporter of the human rights campaign to advocate for the LGBTQ community.
Jacobsen: If we’re looking at some of the modern context of the threats to women’s rights in the United States, what are some of the ones that are more local to your own situation as an organization?
Helton: Like I said, we work very closely with Planned Parenthood. Obviously, there’s been so much in the news as far as the abortion bans and other restrictive things; that they’re trying to do with birth control and things of that nature. Ohio is one of the last few states that did ban the 6-week ban. We’re trying to work with Planned Parenthood in fighting for these rights to appeal them.
So, that women can continue to have their choices for what they need for their healthcare and personal family life. We attend many things for them and send people to do the day passes to represent Planned Parenthood.
Jacobsen: Have there been any notable victories, even in light of some of the aggression in the last year or half year?
Helton: Last year, the ban didn’t pass by like one vote. Here, recently, I think three months ago when DeWine came into office. Unfortunately, that ban ended up passing. We were able to hold it off for a little while, but when Mike DeWine came in and took over as governor, the bill came back up and it ended up passing.
Jacobsen: What about in the educational realm, in the critical thinking and education realm? What is being done, whether it’s university activism or advancing pro critical thinking and science education in elementary, middle and high schools?
Helton: One thing that we are very passionate about and have made some really good strides with is sex education in some of the public schools. We just got it passed for Cincinnati Public that they will offer comprehensive sex education that is gender neutral for grades K through 12 and that’s going to start in the fall.
That’s one of the things that we’re very passionate about, which is to make sure that kids have proper scientifically and medically accurate sex education and trying to remove the abstinence only out of the school. We’ve had really high success on that. We’ve had a few schools. Again, we work with Planned Parenthood in trying to educate these schools and reforming their curriculum.
Jacobsen: What have been some of the main organizations that have been opposed to your work around women’s rights, around LGBTQ issues, as well as proper evidence-based sex education?
Helton: Your main resistance has been some of the religious organizations of course. They’re the pro-life folks in the legislative. People who have beliefs rather than seeing what the facts are. The main abject through a lot of these obstacles we face are people who are influenced by their faith or their beliefs versus what’s medically or scientifically proven. Groups like us are out there advocating for those folks.
Jacobsen: What can people do to become involved with the Tri-State Freethinkers or at least support them in some way, whether social media outreach, finance, or volunteering their skills?
Helton: You can support us through PayPal. We have a link on our Facebook page, which is Tri-StateFreeThinkers.com. You can find us on Meetup, searching Tri-State Freethinkers where you can become a member. We have different levels of membership if someone wanted to actually join and pay for a membership, but we don’t require it. Our membership helps us to continue to do what we do, but it’s not required.
Jacobsen: Any recommended authors or speakers?
Helton: We do an educational piece each month on the first Wednesday of each month where we try to have speakers obviously talk on the topics that are important to people. Andrew Seidel with Freedom From Religion is someone I would highly recommend. Right now, he’s on tour. He has a book out. I highly recommend Andrew Seidel. Aron Ra is another one who does really good podcasts, to name a couple.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?
Helton: In starting this organization in 2012, we started with less than 10 people. Now we have just under 3,000 members in the 7 years that we’ve been doing this. I think what we try to do is we don’t make the religion issue the biggest thing. Obviously we know that that has a lot to do with some of the conflict in our world but we have a common goal with some organizations. We work with the nuns on the Death Penalty Project. If we have a common goal, you can set aside what your beliefs are to do the right thing.
We’ve been making that a big mission. Just because you are of a faith and we’re not, that doesn’t mean we can’t come together on the issues that are important. And to show that atheists are good people. We have that outreach that it doesn’t matter, as long as you care about this, we don’t care about whatever. But, in the same breath, we do fight the separation of Church and State when it is necessary.
Jacobsen: Thank you very much for the opportunity and your time, Chrissy.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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