U.S. House Flunks ‘Report Card’ on Church-State Issues
Washington, DC – The Secular Coalition for America today released its 2013 Congressional Report Cards for the U.S. House and Senate. A majority of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives earned failing grades, but a majority of U.S. Senators earned a grade of “B” or above.
Members of Congress earned a grade from “A” to “F” based on their votes on important pieces of legislation. Representatives were graded based on their support for 14 bills related to church-state separation issues and discrimination against nontheistic and secular Americans. Senators were graded based on their support for five bills relating to similar issues.
- U.S. House Snapshot: 35 (8 percent) received an “A”, 30 (7 percent) received a “B”, 93 (21 percent) received a “C”, 8 (2 percent) received a “D” and 271 (62 percent) received an “F”.
- U.S. Senate Snapshot: 7 (7 percent) received an “A”, 46 (45 percent) received a “B”, 5 (5 percent) received a “C”, 0 received a “D” and 44 (43 percent) received an “F”.
- Congress in total: 42 (8 percent) Member of Congress received an “A” grade, 76 (14 percent) received a “B”, 98 (18 percent) received a “C”, 8 (1 percent) received a “D” and 315 (58 percent) received an “F”.
In the House, some of the key votes were H.R.592 which would have allowed for FEMA funding for churches, Amdt.169 to H.R.1960 which would have allowed for a humanist chaplain in the military, and H.R.914, the so-called “Military Religious Freedom Protection Act”. Among the Senate bills scored were S.Amdt.2013 to S.815 which would have expanded the religious exemption of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, and S.1279 the so-called “Freedom to Pray Act.”
“In a country where at least one in four Americans doesn’t identify with any religion, these grades underscore the work so many lawmakers still must do in separating their personal religious beliefs from our legislation as a pluralistic nation,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “The only way to protect everyone’s right to religious freedom is to keep all religion out of our secular government.”
The Coalition’s 2013 Congressional Report Cards differ from previous years’ Report Cards in that 2013 is the first to include sponsorships, rather than strictly scoring votes. Including sponsorships increased the number of bills the SCA was able to score in one of the most inactive Congresses in history.
Seven Senators received a perfect score: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Three Representatives received perfect scores: Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Although no Republicans received A’s, three Republican Senators received B’s for the first time since the Secular Coalition began compiling report cards: Murkowski (AK), Kirk (IL) and Collins (ME).
Three Representatives were tied for the lowest score, earning only a 5 percent grade: Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).
“The fact that we are now seeing at least a few Republicans scoring higher grades indicates that we are certainly moving in the right direction,” Rogers said. “However, the 315 total ‘F’ grades shows there’s still a lot of work to be done in encouraging our lawmakers not to support religious privileging in our legislation.”
The Secular Coalition published Congressional Report Cards in 2011 and 2009. The Coalition also publishes Candidate Voter Guides and will score upcoming House, Senate and Gubernatorial races this year. View all Report Cards and Voter Guides.
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