Thousands of Secular Humanists and Atheists will gather on the National Mall in Washington for Reason Rally on March 24. What do we want? We want to restore the values of our nation’s founders with a specific vision and plan for a Secular America.
In 2012 the Religious Right has veto power over one of two major political parties in the most powerful nation on earth. To win the Republican nomination all candidates must pledge allegiance to One Nation Under a Religious Right God. It’s Theocracy-palooza. Yet Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater, said, “I don’t have any respect for the Religious Right.” Why the change?
Shortly after the Republican convention in 1980, Ronald Reagan, stood before evangelical ministers in Dallas, declaring, “I know that you cannot endorse me” but “I endorse you.” This pivotal declaration, the culmination of effective organizing by the Religious Right, led to our current unprecedented moment in American history.
Often unnoticed by the media, theocratic laws have already been passed in Congress and legislatures throughout America.
In the 1970s the Religious Right got organized, winning seats on school boards, city councils, and in legislatures. The religio-industrial complex has real power. Religious bias in government is now widespread:
— theocratic laws endangering children (religious bias in faith-healing, child care, vaccination, corporal punishment)
— Stem cell research still thwarted by religion
— “Faith based initiatives” discriminating with tax money
— Vouchers funding schools discriminating with tax money
— Government money for Scouts discriminating against gay people and the non-religious. (Girl Scouts don’t discriminate).
— Religious bias in land use planning
— Fundamentalist bias in our military
— Religious bias in schools and textbooks
— Student loans funneling tax money to creationist colleges
— Religious bias impeding end of life autonomy
— Loopholes permitting the teaching of sexism in religious schools.
These laws harm thousands of real people, both religious and non-religious. Due to a federal loophole, there’s a separate legal standard in over 35 states for the misnamed “faith-healing” of children. Hundreds of children every year experience torture worse than Abu Ghraib, largely unnoticed.
While many secular activists shake their fist at a Home Depot manger with a plastic baby Jesus in the town square at Christmas time, there remain ignored many examples of human harm caused by religious bias in government.
Rather than religious bias, government must be guided by evidence and compassion. We must restore Jeffersonian values. We must work toward A Ten Point Vision of a Secular America:
1. Our military shall serve all Americans, religious and nonreligious, with no hint of bias or fundamentalist extremism coloring our military decisions at home or abroad.
2. Healthcare professionals shall fulfill their sworn professional oath to provide service to patients with no religious bias – or they must find another job.
3. Any federal- or state-funded program, whether offering services domestic or foreign, relating to reproductive health shall be based on public health, not religious bias or the denigration of women or sexual minorities.
4. There shall be no religious bias in employment, environmental or land-use law.
5. While marriage can be defined by a religion as that denomination chooses within internal ceremonies, government shall never impose a
religious bias on the definition of marriage.
6. When facing end of life choices, Americans shall be guaranteed control over our own bodies, not thwarted by religious bias.
7. America’s youth shall never be subjected to religious bias in education. If there’s one penny of government funds, there must not be one iota of religious propaganda.
8. There shall be no political bias against secular candidates for public office.
9. There shall be one consistent standard for the health and welfare of children, no matter the religion of a child’s parents, school, or child-care center. Religious extremists can do whatever they choose with their own bodies, but children shall be treated as human beings, not pawns to be sacrificed in the name of religion.
10. Medical, technical, and scientific innovation shall be dedicated to the health and advancement of our fellow citizens and must never be impeded by religious bias.
Is America still the Enlightenment nation, the idealistic forward-thinking nation that brought our species to the moon?
Secular Americans are patriotic Americans who share the values of Jefferson and Madison.
Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state.” Thanks to Rick Santorum’s indigestion, we all are reminded of John Kennedy’s great American values: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute …where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.” But the problem goes far beyond Rick Santorum’s stomach. It pervades our legislatures and Congress.
Americans must no longer timidly avert our eyes from rising theocracy. Secular Americans — people like Brad Pitt, Warren Buffett, Jodie Foster, Bill Gates and George Clooney — know that this greatest of countries will move forward when we proceed based on Jeffersonian ideals. A Secular America is America at its best.
Sean Faircloth is author of Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms Us All- and What We Can Do About It (Pitchstone Publishing, Feb 2012). Faircloth is Director of Strategy & Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, US.
Faircloth will be speaking at the Reason Rally, the largest gathering ever of atheists and secular humanists at the National Mall in Washington on March 24.
He has served for a decade in the Maine State Legislature, is an attorney, and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.