August Break Report on the 111th Congress
This report outlines the Secular Coalition for America's advocacy efforts in the first eight months of 2009.
The Secular Coalition 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 these legislative accomplishments, the Secular Coalition for America had its first individual meeting with White House officials. This meeting gave the Coalition the opportunity to tell the White House who nontheists are, and articulate their policy interests. This meeting increased the visibility and improved the perception of nontheists in America. Since the Coalition's first meeting in May, they have been invited back to the White House to attend events and discuss nontheists on several other occasions.
Despite tremendous success, there were disappointments. The Secular Coalition's 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. Also, 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 the Secular Coalition 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. The Coalition will highlight unjust special rights given to religious groups and will continue to oppose the expansion of the D.C. religious school voucher program.