If you are an atheist and interested in keeping religion from interfering with your daily life and from mucking up your government, read this months summation of the good work Secular Coalition of America has been doing for you (and me).
August Break Report on the 111th Congress
Congress has recessed for its August break. Let's reflect on the Secular Coalition for America's efforts in the first eight months of 2009. The Religious Right has been less successful at infusing religion into public policy. The Secular Coalition helped stymie their efforts. We joined with our coalition partners, encouraging lawmakers to refuse to give in to the Religious Right's policy demands. We successfully opposed:
- funding faith-based organizations in the stimulus package,
- forcing taxpayers to pay for the religious education of D.C. students,
- the continuation of the global gag rule that suppresses the provision of critical medical information to patients,
- funding abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, and
- the creation of an annual "Spiritual Heritage Week"
In addition to legislative accomplishments, the Secular Coalition for America had our first individual meeting with White House officials. This meeting gave us the opportunity to tell the White House who nontheists are, and articulate our policy interests. This meeting increased the visibility and improved the perception of nontheists in America. Since our first meeting in May, we've been invited back to the White House to attend events and discuss nontheists and our interests on four separate occasions. Our increased visibility has been covered in the New York Times. The Nation magazine acknowledged that you are increasingly "assertive and credible."
Despite tremendous success, there were disappointments. Our attempt to stop an engraving of the 1950s-era "In God We Trust" motto on the walls of the new Capitol Visitor's Center failed. Eight members of Congress bravely voted against the engraving -- and for our Constitution. It appears the D.C. religious school voucher program will continue in modified form. The administration decided children currently enrolled in the program will be allowed to continue.
This Fall we will advocate that Congress strike language in any and all bills that would allow faith-based organizations to use federal funds to proselytize and discriminate based on religion. We will highlight unjust special rights given to religious groups. For example, religious exemptions from child care and child protective laws can harm the most vulnerable among us. We will continue to oppose the expansion of the D.C. religious school voucher program.
Thank you for taking action based on our Alerts, and for supporting the Secular Coalition for America financially. Your help has brought us from no visibility in Washington four years ago to a legitimate place at the table in 2009. Together we must build on this success. Now is the time to volunteer. Now is the time to help financially. Now is the time to make a difference.
Now ... go ahead and get out your wallet, grab your purse or otherwise do what you would usually do to send in a few donation bucks. Let's keep this outfit at the head of the game for all our sakes.