On Friday Salon.com published an article critical of the Secular Coalition for America's Congressional Report Cards, "Liberals are overlooking a major political ally: Yes, there's a religious left!" In the piece, author, Elizabeth Stoker, rightly pointed out the rubric of the report cards' "logic is open to inquiry."
Unfortunately, many of Stoker's points of concern inaccurately portray the basic facts of the report cards via misstatements, inaccuracies, or logical fallacies which beg for clarification or correction.
On Darwin Day
Salon says: "It's even more bizarre to try to work out exactly what [the Darwin Day Resolution] would have to do with the separation of church and state."
The SCA asserts: The text of the resolution, H.Res 41, states "the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems." Using publicly funded schools to promote the religious belief in creationism is a textbook example of the separation of church and state.
Salon says: "...it's absurd and insulting to imagine only non-religious people to be interested in the improvement of human life through scientific progress."
The SCA asserts: The Secular Coalition never stated, nor implied the bills we champion are only open to support from the non-religious, because that's not true. We regularly work with religiously affiliated allied organizations and continue to enthusiastically encourage their support for this bill. The separation of religion and government protects both the church and the state, which is why we work with religious organizations, including three of our own member organizations, The Society for Humanistic Judaism, American Ethical Union and HUUmanists.
On Health Care
Salon says: The Health Care Conscience Right Act, H.R. 940, is described as an attempt to "protect rights of conscience" as it would "signal the government's refusal to act upon individuals who, for reasons of conscience, did not want to perform a particular service. In that sense it's a clear-cut push for neutrality."
The SCA asserts: This bill, and this representation of it, continue the misinterpretation and misuse of religious freedom that has grown in the past few years. The truth is this bill exempts an individual from the requirement to purchase health insurance coverage if something they religiously or morally object to could potentially be covered. To be clear, the action required by the Affordable Care Act is purchasing insurance. The action religiously objected to is receiving various health services. These are distinctly different. There is no action which burdens religion to be exempted from here. The ACA is religiously neutral as written. This bill is not a push for neutrality, but a push away from it towards religious privilege.
On Religious Discrimination
Salon says: "That the SCA willingly aligns itself with symbolic legislation that takes a shot at religion writ large could, however, ultimately damage the prospects of the left as a coalition."
The SCA asserts: The Secular Coalition cannot align with "symbolic legislation that takes a shot at religion" as it does not exist. However, legislation that symbolically endorses religion is much easier to find. For example, the Congressional reaffirmations of "In God We Trust" as our national motto and "one nation under God" in the pledge of allegiance. Or possibly the 20 statements on floor of the House of Representatives honoring various reverends and pastors during the three weeks of March in which the House was in session. Pointing out favoritism is hardly an attack.
Salon says: "The breakdown of the lucky few who managed to score A's was telling: All were Democrats." "But based on the issues that appear meaningful to the SCA and the side they fall out on, it seems there's rather a political agenda tied up in their secularism, and it's a decidedly leftist one."
The SCA asserts: Correlation does not imply causation. The Secular Coalition is a nonpartisan organization. We reject political agendas, conspiracy theories and logical fallacies. The issues that are meaningful to the Secular Coalition are those which privilege religion by claiming a burden which does not exist; justify legislation with religious beliefs, not evidence nor reason; or send taxpayer money to houses of worship, exempt from any oversight or transparency. The political agenda tied up in these issues isn't ours. We will continue to recognize and thank whoever stands up to the monolithic religious-political complex pushing this agenda, no matter the party with which they are affiliated.