In July 1939 a group of Quakers decided to form a nontheistic society based on similar goals and beliefs. In humanism’s tenets, they saw the promise of a genuine union between science and ethics. It was therefore with this union in mind that this small band of former Quakers incorporated, in December 1939, under the state laws of California the Humanist Society of Friends as a religious, educational, charitable nonprofit organization authorized to issue charters anywhere in the world and to train and certify people, who upon endorsement would be accorded the same rights and privileges granted by law to priests, ministers, and rabbis of traditional theistic religions.
This group attracted a range of leadership well beyond their Quaker and humanist roots. Educators, scholars, business and labor professionals, scientists, artists, and others contributed to the Humanist Society’s rich history of conducting meetings, ceremonies, and various rites of passage. Since 1991 the organization has worked as an adjunct to the American Humanist Association to endorse qualified members to serve in this special capacity. And in 2003 the organization’s board voted to remove the “of Friends” portion of the name in line with the expanded constituency. In 2013, the group advanced a bold agenda to reach many more people in increasingly substantive ways with the humanist celebrant model of outreach and leadership. In November 2014, the Humanist Society was endorsed by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc, an affiliate of the Association of Professional Chaplains.