A vision for a secular America

The Reason Rally is necessary because secular Americans want to restore the values of our nation’s founders. As one of … Continued

The Reason Rally is necessary because secular Americans want to restore the values of our nation’s founders. As one of the speakers at the Reason Rally, I offer 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. Yet Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater, said, “I don’t have any respect for the Religious Right.” Why the change?

Shortly after the 1980 Republican convention, 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 history.

Often unnoticed by the media, theocratic laws, as I document in my book, 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. Religious bias in government is widespread:

— theocratic laws endangering children (religious bias in faith-healing, 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

— Religious bias in schools and textbooks

— Student loans funneling tax money to creationist colleges

— Religious bias impeding end of life autonomy

These laws harm thousands of people, 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 horrible suffering in the name of faith.

While 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.

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.

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 nation that brought our species to the moon? Secular Americans are patriotic Americans. Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state.” Thanks to Rick Santorum’s indigestion, we’ve all been reminded of John Kennedy’s clarion call: “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.” The problem goes far beyond Rick Santorum’s stomach — pervading our legislatures and Congress.

Americans must not avert our eyes from rising theocracy. Secular Americans — people like Brad Pitt, Warren Buffett, Gloria Steinem, Bill Gates and George Clooney — know our great nation will move forward when we proceed based on Jeffersonian ideals. This ten point vision is a positive vision. A secular America is America at its best.

Sean Faircloth is author of the new book “Attack of the Theocrats, How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About It.” Faircloth is Director of Strategy & Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science US. An attorney, Faircloth served ten years in the Maine legislature and is one of the invited speakers to the March 24 Reason Rally.

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  • Sara121

    Truthful and passionate. Can’t wait to come out to the Mall today.

  • SeanTrapani

    If we are truly to follow the direction reason takes us, then we must have this conversation in the context of our natural rights, which need no religious doctrine to establish. These points, while interesting and provocative, must be examined one by one. To live in a Jeffersonian constitutional republic, we must be careful to not create a social totalitarianism on par with a theocratic one. We cannot dictate the objectives of individuals, either toward a religious or social end. The minute we discard the liberty of the smallest minority (the individual) in favor of any “greater good'” – religious or secular – we spit into the face of Jefferson and every founding father.

  • holyspiritdenier

    I grew up in “rapture ready” Tulsa in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and I wish I could have joined an atheist group in my teens just to have some sane people to talk to. In fact I envy people who grow up as atheists because to me they seem like characters from an advanced, futuristic civilization out of science fiction.

  • dleinwe

    Your principles to follow would be fine, IF the government also followed the limits of its powers as enumerated in the US Constitution. Of course, this would remove the government from health care, education, hiring laws, etc. — all the flash points of controversy. As long as the government expands its powers into areas not enumerated in the constitution, you will have ongoing controversy about the role of religion in public life, and rightly so. Coupled with a government that knows no boundaries, you view of “Reason” in public life is little more than militant, state-sponsored atheism in drag.

  • mbomb4th

    So tired of this. Everybody wants their own agenda to the exclusion of all others.
    Both the left and the right seem to favor totalitarian government of some sort as long as they have the power.


    Well I think the title of the writer’s book just about says it all.
    Unless we all want to live under a “Christian majority” theocracy we had better start making some noise. Those calling the shots within the GOP party have obviously thrown the whole “separation of church and state” thing right out the window.

  • SeanTrapani

    There are people who seek to concentrate power in their hands and then there are…umm, Ron Paul.

  • 2hop260

    8.There shall be no political bias against secular candidates for public office.

    How exactly do you ensure that?

    Though I do have issues with using Warren Buffet as a vision of secular-America at its best. Between the “virture of thrift” and owing the government a billion in back taxes, he’s a poster-child for all that is wrong with America’s elite. Complains he doesn’t pay enough in taxes, but Christie was right: Shut your hole and donate to the government if you think you aren’t paying enough.

  • Landlockedinkc

    First I want to say that I am a non-believer. Your statement regarding healthcare professionals needing to swear to take care of all without religious basis is offensive to me. As RN for 16 years I don’t always like or agree with my patients various life choices but I treat them all with respect. Over the last year I can think of three incidences of families being offended with me because I would not say God is going to or did to save your family member versus proper medical care/science. Thirdly, vaccinations are not a religious conspiracy but a product of good science.

  • Sara121

    People actually got mad at you for NOT saying god did or was going to do something? They actually made an issue of you having not brought it up? Weird. I would think health care professionals ought to be compassionate in how they present facts to their patients, but to stretch those facts into predictions of what their own god might do is to take respect a bit too far.

    I think Sean Faircloth would absolutely agree that vaccinations are the product of good science and not a conspiracy. He’s saying that the calls of conspiracy about vaccinations are from the religious, a la Michele Bachman.

  • drxym

    I don’t know why it would be offensive to you. Sounds like Mr Faircloth is suggesting that medical practioners should practice medicine to the standards demanded by their profession. If for whatever reason their religion prevents them from practicing to those standards they shouldn’t be in that line of work.

    As for vaccination I think the point is that some states allow parents to exempt their kids from otherwise mandatory vaccination schedules on religious grounds putting their kids (and anyone they come into contact wih) at risk.

  • drxym

    You could ensure that by not making it a big deal to begin with.

    Go look at British elections. The current prime minister downplays his religion sounding more like he is CoE under protest. The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is an avowed atheist. The leader of the opposition Ed Milliband is Jewish by birth but areligious. Tony Blair (former PM) converted to Roman Catholacism during his term but waited until after he left to tell anyone. In Australia Prime Ministier Julia Gillard is an atheist. etc.

    Basically some countries have gotten over caring what their leaders believe in. It shouldn’t really matter. You vote for someone based on their competency for the job, not invisible beings they worship.