Secular Coalition for America 2009 Briefing

Lobbying Activities

2009 has been a banner legislative year for the Secular Coalition for America. We successfully lobbied on behalf of nontheistic Americans to ensure that:

  • D.C. religious school voucher program was not formally reauthorized and expanded to allow significantly more federal tax dollars to be funneled to the religious training of D.C. students
  • Charitable choice was not included in the health care reform bill. (Charitable choice language allows religious institutions that receive federal funds to discriminate on the basis of religion in who they hire to perform federal social services.)
  • President Obama and his administration removed restrictions on stem cell research and overturned the global gag rule that restricts the speech of federally-funded reproductive health care workers overseas.
  • Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs would no longer be funded in federal appropriations bills.

We held 150 direct lobby visits with dozens of U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives and staffers this year. Issues discussed during the visits were:

  • Preventing religion-based medical neglect
  • Preventing proselytizing and religious discrimination in the military
  • Eliminating funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education
  • Removing “charitable choice” provisions from various legislation
  • Removing funding for “spiritual care” in health care reform
  • Thwarting the reauthorization of the D.C. voucher program

In addition to our lobby visits, attendance at hearings and committee mark-ups, and meetings with members of President Obama’s White House Faith Based Council, the Secular Coalition submitted testimony, wrote letters and made calls to dozens of House and Senate offices regarding a host of issues including:

  • Zeroing out abstinence-only-sex-education funding
  • Repealing the global gag rule
  • The nomination of Sonya Sotomayer for the Supreme Court
  • The nomination John McHugh for Secretary of the Army
  • The repeal of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and support for Employment Non-Discrimination Act
  • Charitable choice language in the Senior Navigation Act of 2009
  • Spiritual care and charitable choice  in health care reform

One particularly significant achievement for the organization and for the nontheist movement as a whole was the Secular Coalition’s first public policy meeting with the Obama Administration in May. It was not a coalition meeting with other organizations, but a special meeting between White House staff and representatives of the Secular Coalition for America. We had the opportunity to tell the White House who we represent and what policy interests are of the greatest concern to secular America

Secular Coalition in the Media

  • The Secular Coalition was featured in a cover story for the National Journal entitled “The Rise of the Godless.”
  • The Secular Coalition has been quoted or mention in the American Prospect’s blog “TAPPED” six times
  • The Secular Coalition has been quoted or mentioned in the Los Angeles Times three times
  • The Secular Coalition has been quoted or mentioned in the Chicago Tribune twice
  • Secular Coalition President Herb Silverman is now a regular columnist for a Washington Post/Newsweek’s “On Faith” website and has published dozens of columns
  • The Secular Coalition has been quoted or mentioned in articles by the Religion News Service three times
  • The Secular Coalition has also been mentioned or quoted in the following DC publications: the Washington Post, Politics Daily, Roll Call, and Politico 

Secular Coalition Public Appearances

The Secular Coalition for America had an incredibly busy schedule of outreach in 2009. This year staff traveled to give talks or advocacy trainings in 30 cities in 24 states.

Secular Coalition Looks Forward to New Opportunities

The Secular Coalition will continue to pressure the Obama Administration to end its policy of sending federal dollars directly to religious organizations and institutions. In addition, we will continue to lobby the administration to prohibit discrimination and proselytizing in tax-funded faith-based organizations. We will also lobby Congress to ensure that legislation that would allow direct funding, proselytizing and discrimination does not become law.

The Secular Coalition will also continue to lobby the Attorney General and others at the Department of Justice to withdraw a 2007 Office of Legal Counsel Memo that erroneously interpreted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to exempt religious organizations receiving federal dollars from abiding by federal nondiscrimination provisions.

The Secular Coalition will continue to lobby the Department of Defense and Administration, Congress, and Administration officials to resolve the pervasive climate of intolerance towards nontheists and others who do not follow born-again Christian beliefs in today's military.

The Secular Coalition for America is also working on a new set of issues related to child protection that we hope to focus considerable attention on next year. One issue relates to the religious privileging of sectarian child care centers over secular child care centers with regards to meeting minimum health and safety standards. The other issue concerns the unequal treatment of parents who abuse or neglect their children through faith healing practices but who are unable to be prosecuted or punished due to exemptions in state criminal and civil codes.

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