Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy

American Humanist Association

aka AHA

Washington, DC


The mission of the American Humanist Association is to advance humanism, an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces. Advocating for equality for nontheists and a society guided by reason, empathy, and our growing knowledge of the world, the American Humanist Association promotes a worldview that encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good.

Ruling Year


Principal Officer

Roy Speckhardt

Main Address

1821 Jefferson Place NW

Washington, DC 20036 USA


Humanism, Humanist, First Amendment, nontheism, nonreligious, atheism, atheist, agnostic, agnosticism, freethought, freethinker, religious liberty, civil rights, reproductive rights, women's rights, GLBT rights, science, skepticism, skeptic, reason, religious freedom





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Civil Liberties Advocacy (R60)

Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups (R20)

Civil Rights, Social Action, and Advocacy N.E.C. (R99)

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Programs + Results

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Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Public Awareness of Humanism

Appignani Humanist Legal Center

Kochhar Humanist Education Center

Humanist Society

Darwin Day Foundation

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Charting Impact

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The American Humanist Association works to achieve a progressive society where living a moral life without a god is an accepted way of life. By defending civil liberties, promoting secular governance, and supporting the growing number of people living without traditional religious faith, we hope to accomplish this mission. The American Humanist Association focuses in on eight core areas of interest: secular governance, scientific integrity, human rights and civil rights, promoting peace, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, and women’s rights.

Our goal for the next five years to to achieve greater acceptance of humanists and other non-religious people in the general public (measured by national polling); significant changes in legislation that protect humanist, civil, LGBTQ, and women's rights; and laws that protect religious liberty and the wall of the separation between church and state.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) advocates for humanism and humanists in the United States in a variety of ways.

The AHA regularly creates and displays bus, billboard, or magazine advertisements promoting the humanist message. These advertisements are seen by millions of people with the purpose of raising awareness of humanism and encouraging humanists to join the AHA. Such advertisements, due to often being labeled as 'controversial', result in a significant increase in awareness of non-religious Americans and organized humanism.

The AHA also is involved in legal cases related to church-state separation or the protection of nonbelievers' rights. The Appignani Humanist Legal Center, a program of the AHA, employs two full-time attorneys and over 60 pro-bono lawyers to defend the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. A continuous effort to increase our presence in the court system in order to change policy and improve awareness will prove to be valuable over the long term.

The AHA is also increasingly involved in lobbying Congress in support of humanist issues or in opposition of anti-progressive legislation. With a full-time lobbyist on staff as part of the AHA's Center for Humanist Activism, we meet regularly with Representatives and Senators to advance humanism and raise awareness of new bills or laws that may affect humanists and the non-religious community.

The AHA proudly works with over 170 local groups throughout the United States to advance humanism at the community level. AHA local chapters and affiliates receive a number of benefits, including free promotion and materials, public relations and grassroots organizing support, and grants to be used for outreach. The AHA also provides activist training annually for local leaders in conjunction with its annual conference.

The American Humanist Association also develops adjunct organizations to address the diversity within humanism and execute the organization’s goals. Such adjuncts include the Feminist Caucus, to advance women's equality; the LGBTQ Humanist Council, to advance LGBTQ equality; the International Darwin Day Foundation, to promote the anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the importance of evolution in science classrooms; the United Coalition of Reason, to advance humanist and atheist advertisements and create local coalitions of humanist, atheist, and other non-religious groups; and the Humanist Society, to certify humanist officiants for non-religious weddings, funerals, and other life ceremonies.

All of these programs and adjuncts work to advance our mission of raising awareness of humanism and increasing the number of self-identified humanists in the United States.

The American Humanist Association was founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington DC since 1999. As a result of our organization's long history, AHA leaders have developed strong networks in order to gain influence in the government, media, and general public.

The AHA employs 18 staff members and 2 volunteers, most of which are located at the organization's national headquarters in Washington DC, and interns throughout the year. Our staff includes experts in management, fundraising, public relations, legislative outreach, and community building. The AHA is governed by 12 members of the Board of Directors and oversees an annual budget of more than $2 million. Many of the AHA's board members are longtime humanist leaders and professionals in law, business, nonprofit, or science.

As a result of our activism and work to build professional relationships in Washington DC, the AHA is a member of a number of legislative coalitions, including the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, the Democracy Initiative Coalition, the National Coalition for Public Education, the Respect for Marriage Coalition, LGBT Lobbyists Group, Stop Torture Now Group, and the International Family Planning Coalition. In addition, thanks to our unique mission of representing the growing non-religious community, AHA leaders have participated in meetings with the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the U.S. State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the Foreign Service Institute.

A 2012 Gallup poll surveyed Americans asking if they would vote for an otherwise qualified atheist candidate for public office; 54% said yes, a significant increase from only 18% in 1958. And according to a 2012 study conducted by the Pew Forum, the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion is growing rapidly. In the past five years, the religiously unaffiliated, also called "nones," increased from 15% to just under 20% of all American adults. That includes more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the general public). As an organization that represents atheists, agnostics and those not seeking to identify with a traditional religion, the American Humanist Association is poised to be a leading organization working on behalf of this growing demographic.

As a result of the 2012 study, interest in humanism and atheism has been growing, as evidenced by an increasing number of media hits that cover the American Humanist Association's work or seek the opinion of a humanist leader on a breaking news story.

An effective way of determining our organization’s success is through monitoring our membership growth, media attention, and measurable changes leading toward a humanistic, progressive society. The American Humanist Association has experienced a significant growth in membership and support over the past decade, indicating that we are effectively reaching a broad audience with our messaging. Our legal activity and organizational events often results in increased attention from the media, which allows the American Humanist Association to reach new audiences---people who may be humanists themselves but unaware of an organized group. As we raise awareness of humanism and our organization, we will start to see major changes toward creating a more progressive society, such as changes in law that defend the wall separating church and state, an increase in the percentage of people who believe you don't have to worship a higher power or God to be a moral person, or more humanists and non-religious people elected to public office.

As we gain a greater understanding of the "nones" demographic and the media's coverage of nonbelievers, the AHA will use this information to create new projects and messaging that speak positively about non-belief.

The American Humanist Association's increasing membership, access to elected leaders, wins in the courtroom, and number of media hits for humanism are a result of our long-term strategy to bring humanism to all aspects of activism and life. It is clear through national polls that our work, particularly in highlighting many of the intolerant beliefs of traditional religion, has resulted in an increase in the number of atheists and agnostics in the United States, and the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans is growing at an even faster pace.

However, we still have a long way to go if we want to see the reduction of fundamentalist religion's influence in public life. Even today, a significant number of Americans would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist to public office, and god-belief is everywhere--from the Pledge of Allegiance to oaths of office to songs like "God Bless America." That's why the American Humanist Association is needed--to be the voice of Americans who happen to not believe in a god and disapprove with the assumption that all Americans are religious.

One of our major obstacles is encouraging humanists and atheists, who are often 'not joiners' due to their natural skepticism, to see the value in joining a national organization working for their interests. In addition, the number of churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious buildings far outweigh the number of humanist buildings or communities in the United States. It's clear that our work must also focus on building humanist and atheist communities that are similar to religious communities that provide weekly social gatherings, children's education, charity work, and other programs---without the rituals and god-belief.

External Reviews


American Humanist Association

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Not Applicable


Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Not Applicable


Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

Not Applicable