Endorsement Guidelines

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The Humanist Society provides endorsement for those intending to be ambassadors, advocates, leaders, and scholars of humanism. Humanism will never be hierarchical or monastic in character, but there is value to deliberate and progressive collective action as humanists to represent and improve humanist thought and action.

By standardizing processes and applying peer review to humanism, we can earn respect as humanists and from non-humanist professionals. Additional certification levels and training programs will require formal organization. The guidelines here will also provide for formal collaboration among humanist organizations.

Humanism is, if nothing else, a progressive life stance. The endorsements listed here are intended to be progressive as well and will grow as the cadre of Celebrants grow the base of knowledge. The Society will work primarily through the Humanist Institute for education and training programs. The Society gives special recognition to other humanist leadership programs such as those of theInternational Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, American Ethical Union, and The Clergy Project. The Society is open to other organizations interested in being afforded special consideration.

There are four Celebrant designations. Most applicants seeking the basic (1) Celebrant designation. There is an (2) Associate Celebrant designation that provides an introductory endorsement. Limited qualifications are required and the endorsement expires in 90 days unless the Associate Celebrant applies for and receives basic Celebrant status. The (3) Lay Leader endorsement meets requirements for certain military chaplain programs.

The other available designation is (4) Chaplain and qualifies for humanist services in a institutional setting (eg, military, prison, school, hospital). Chaplains will be expected to seek professional development as chaplains and to work with non-humanists. A “chaplain” designation is not required or those seeking to provide exclusively humanist services. Those wishing to provide exclusively humanist services in an institutional setting should seek a standard Celebrant designation, and connect to humanists through that institution’s chaplain or administration.

Note on clergy status: The Celebrant and Associate Celebrant designations are legally considered equivalent to clergy/ordination with authority, among other things, to solemnize weddings. The Chaplain status is not clergy, though individuals will normally apply for Celebrant and Chaplain status concurrently. (Lay Leaders seeking clergy credentials would apply for Celebrant status to replace their Lay Leader designation).

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Endorsements Process


All endorsements require a completed application with three references or reference papers, a $40 application fee ($25 for lay leaders), current membership in AHA, professed commitment to humanism, background check if requested. Also required is a $100 annual professional fee ($25 for lay leaders) and re-endorsement applications (two years for the first, and then every five years.) Celebrants of all designations will be held to the standards in the Code of Conduct and may be removed for any violation.

1) Ensure you understand and profess humanism as defined by the Humanist Society. Take all the time you need.

2) Read these Guidelines as well as the Code of Conduct expected of Celebrants (and the Chaplain Covenant expected of Chaplains).

3) Go to the Celebrant application.

4) Select a designation – Celebrant, Associate Celebrant, Lay Leader, and Chaplain as well as Celebrant and Chaplain for chaplains who also want clergy status.

5) Complete application and submit all documents. Questions are the same for initial endorsement and re-endorsement for each designation. However, the endorsement process

6) Pay $100 annual professional fees ($25 for Lay Leaders)

7) Apply for initial re-endorsement after 2 years and later re-endorsements every 5 years using the same application process.

Referrals are required for endorsement applicants but not for re-endorsements. In lieu of referrals, applicants may submit a Humanist Institute completion certificate, certification as an American Ethical Union Leader, as an IISHJ or SHJ Rabbi, or a letter of good standing from The Clergy Project.

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Endorsements Available


Humanist Celebrant: A Humanist Celebrant is the primary endorsement and serves as an ambassador of humanism, serving in the role of congregational leader, ceremony officiant, and scholar of humanism. While Celebrants may display a varying level of commitment and competence in the various areas of celebrancy, the Humanist Celebrant is the first level of involvement. A Humanist Celebrant is legally equivalent to ordained clergy and entitled to all privileges under the law within their state, including solemnization of weddings and “clergy” confidentiality.

Those less familiar with Humanism or unsure about a permanent association should consider an Associate designation (below).

Note: Celebrants retiring after a long career may be considered during re-endorsement, at the sole discretion of the Endorsement Committee, for designation as Humanist Celebrant Emeritus. The Emeritus designation is for life and requires no further application or upkeep. Otherwise the Celebrant retains all privileges and responsibilities of a Humanist Celebrant.

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Associate Humanist Celebrant: Associate Celebrant status is an introductory celebrant credential that confers the rights equivalent to ordained clergy under the law within their state, including wedding solemnization. The Society confers this title with the hope that Associate Celebrants will serve as ambassadors for humanism in the performance of a wedding ceremony. This action affords the opportunity to understand and value an ongoing relationship as a full Humanist Celebrant. The status is non-renewable and Associate Celebrants must re-apply to gain full Celebrant status.

The Associate Celebrant status is valid for 90 days with no renewal except by seeking a full Humanist Celebrant endorsement. Those choosing to upgrade within one year to Humanist Celebrant will have their application fee waived.

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Humanist Lay Leader: For those individuals who do not desire clergy-equivalent recognition or do not qualify for Celebrant status, the title of Lay Leader is available. This status is made available primarily for for military personnel desiring to organize humanist meetings within chaplain services in accordance with various military regulations. Lay leaders are encouraged over time to apply for full Celebrant status as their qualifications and commitment to humanism grow. The Society understands that some applicants may refuse any clergy-related titles and opt instead to remain a lay leader only.

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Humanist Chaplain: A chaplain is empowered to apply for positions outside the humanist community in specialized settings (hospital, military, prison, etc) in order to serve the humanist community as well as individuals with other beliefs. This position is distinguished by a special ethical commitment to serve all and exploit none. Chaplains will generally be Celebrants as well, but this may not be required in certain institutional settings. Those who adopt the chaplain designation are expected to work within the field and to learn and grow as a professional chaplain. See section below on the ethical commitment required for chaplain endorsement. The chaplain designation is intended to be used, and those not working as a chaplain will not be reendorsed.

The Humanist Society is recognized by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc, an affiliate of the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Endorsement by the Humanist Society does not entitle a humanist chaplain to a paid chaplain position at an institution. Any given institution may require volunteers or paid staff to have other professional certifications, whether related to chaplain certifications or counseling certifications. The Society endorsement affirms 1) the individual can authentically represent humanism and 2) the individual is ready to serve according to our professional ethic outside the humanist community.

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Appendix: Ethical Conduct as a Celebrant


Celebrants are ambassadors of humanism and expected to uphold the highest standards of conduct. In addition, those chaplains of humanism who work in institutions with vulnerable and non-humanist populations are expected to maintain an additional standard of non-proselytism in their chaplain duties

Codes of Conduct and Covenant

As ambassadors of the Humanist Society and more generally of humanism, Celebrants are expected to maintain a high standard of personal ethics and conduct, especially in their official duties. Celebrants should stay true to the following Code of Conduct and use it to guide their actions. Violation of the Code of Ethics and Conduct is grounds for immediate removal or endorsement.

Celebrant Code of Conduct

The following is drawn originally from various documents including the Ethics Statement from The Secular Fellowship located in Ayr, Scotland, the prior Humanist Society Code of Ethical Conduct dated March 2005, the Association of Professional Chaplains, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, and others.

  1. Represent Authentic Humanism
    1. A Humanist Celebrant shall uphold and represent the ethical and philosophical principles of humanism as expressed in Humanist Manifesto III: Humanism and Its Aspirations. A Humanist Celebrant shall not willfully distort or misrepresent humanism or the greater humanist community.
    2. The Celebrant may choose or not choose wording referencing divine/supernatural or otherwise non-humanist content. Just as priests may refer to scientific or humanistic ideals, so may we include spiritual ideas in our own ceremonies. However, this should only be to recognize the culture, traditions, or guests of the ceremony. It is unethical for a Humanist Celebrant to present as humanist prayer, scripture readings, or other explicitly supernatural elements or elements of other religions.
    3. A Humanist Celebrant shall adhere to and uphold the purposes, policies, and bylaws of the American Humanist Association and the Humanist Society; a Humanist Celebrant shall not willfully contravene or misrepresent the purposes, policies, and bylaws of the American Humanist Association or the Humanist Society.
    4. Celebrants should be honest in any interaction with the nature of humanism including scientific naturalism and human-based rational ethics. This is particular important for ceremonies or coaching.
  2. Maintain Humanist Values
    1. Celebrants should at all times conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the highest degree of honesty and integrity when dealing with clients.
    2. People and the diversity they represent should be valued. This includes diversity of belief. While Celebrants need not hide their own beliefs or avoid disagreements, Celebrants should reserve arguments for the proper time and place.
    3. A Humanist Celebrant shall be expected to treat others with courtesy, dignity, respect, and tolerance, and without prejudice or bigotry. Celebrants will treat those suffering from stress, trauma, or tragedy with the utmost empathy and care.
  3. Maintain Professional Integrity
    1. Celebrants should treat any information divulged by clients with strict confidence at all times within the extent authorized by law.
    2. Celebrants should not use their position of respect to further any other paid or voluntary work.
    3. For official work, Celebrants should maintain a high standard of dress and reserve informal when for times when such is called. “Vestments”, if used, should be reserved and strictly humanist in nature.
    4. Celebrants shall protect the integrity of their profession by investigating and reporting violations that may occur.
    5. Celebrants should do business primarily as ambassadors of humanism. Financial compensation is appropriate for services provided, but profit-making should never override humanist values.
    6. In performing any service, Celebrants should never exceed their qualifications. This applies to the type and size of ceremonies, events or counseling. It is particularly important Celebrants provide no mental health services of any kind without proper qualifications.
    7. All Celebrants should be willing to act on behalf of those they are working with and provide referrals to more-qualified personnel whenever necessary, including psychologists, religious personnel, or other celebrants, as appropriate.
    8. A Humanist Celebrant shall be expected to work and interact with other Humanist Celebrants and Humanist Leadersin an atmosphere of collegiality, cooperation, and mutual benefit, and without undue enmity or disparagement.
  4. Protect Those In Your Care
    1. Celebrants should not publicize the content of any ceremony or activity that has been completed without first ensuring that sufficient changes have been made to ensure that identification of the subject is impossible or that subjects have authorized, in writing, use of their likeness or ceremonies.
    2. Celebrants shall avoid exploiting those in their care especially for commercial, sexual, political, or other favors.
  5. Harassment Policy
    1. We strictly prohibit and will not tolerate harassment based on an individual’s protected status, including but not limited to sexual or racial harassment.
    2. Humanist Celebrants are prohibited from harassing others.
    3. This conduct includes but is not limited to:
      - Unwanted sexually suggestive statements, questions or jokes;
      - Repeatedly rejected sexual flirtations, advances, or propositions;
      - Pressuring for sexual activity, including offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors or denying employment benefits in response to a refusal to provide sexual favors;
      - Offensive touching or assault, obscene gestures or suggestive sounds;
      - Use of insults, slurs or negative stereotyping;
      - Circulating, individually targeted offensive jokes, pictures, or other similar material;
      - Intimidating acts, such as bullying or threatening based on an individual’s protected status;
      - Falsely denying, lying about, or otherwise covering up or attempting to cover up conduct that is prohibited by this policy; or
      - Any other conduct that shows hostility toward, disrespect for, or degradation of an individual based on an individual’s protected status.
    4. Violation of this harassment policy is grounds for immediate removal of endorsement.

Chaplain Covenant

As a Chaplain, I will uphold the provisions of the Celebrant Code of Conduct, and I further pledge to uphold the following provisions for pluralistic support and non-proselytism in my chaplain duties.

  1. A Humanist Chaplain is expected to support personnel on their own terms, making every effort to respect and provide for the deeply-held beliefs and practices of non-humanists with just as much care and concern as they would humanists.
  2. A Humanist Chaplain is prohibited from coercing or encouraging those professing non-humanist beliefs to adopt humanist beliefs.
  3. Chaplains will not invite others to humanist activities, materials, or discussions unless the chaplain has good reason to believe that the individual wishes to investigate humanism. “Good reason” might be a specific request, a specific profession of nontheistic beliefs or humanistic beliefs.
  4. Any profession of theistic beliefs or non-humanist beliefs, verbal or non-verbal, shall be a reason (though not a requirement) to end any humanist discussion even if the person has previously invited a conversation.

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