The #ChurchState2016 Project
Help restore the wall of church-state separation in the 2016 election cycle ...
Separation of Religion and Government
Actions for candidates, journalists, the media, and concerned individuals
The number of nontheistic Americans is now nearly 30% of the general population (higher among those with college degrees), and is growing rapidly. We are a significant voting bloc. Political candidates ignore us at their electoral peril.
Listed below are public policy issues that have become infused with religious (mostly Christian) ideology, and therefore often determinative of church-state-separation advocates' choices in the voting booth.
While tolerant of religious diversity among individuals, we nontheists are passionate about restoring the wall of church-state separation intended by America's founders. Specifically, we oppose the creeping theocracy being insidiously pursued by bigoted politicians who are dismissive of citizens who do not share their particular Christian beliefs.
What to do?
— Candidates: Declare publicly and unambiguously, on your campaign website and elsewhere, your positions on these issues.
— Journalists: Cite this material in your political reporting. Urge candidates at all levels (federal to local) to define their positions on these issues.
— Media: Bring this query to the attention of the voting public.
— Individuals: Post your related comments on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, referencing the link www.dandana.us/churchstatewall. Forward this link to candidates who seek your vote to be your representatives, asking them to take the requested action above. Read and post a reader review of The Reason Revolution. Take the Atheist Voter Pledge.
Follow Dana on Atheism on Twitter for news and updates on this project.
Politics matters. It is through instruments of government that politics impacts people. If politics were not infused with religious ideology, it would matter little that another individual has a personal theology different from one's own. We could live and let live. You like red, I like blue, mox nix.
But when governments create laws or engage in practices that encode the religious tenets of one segment of the population into enforced policies that apply to all citizens, we have a problem. No longer are your beliefs of no concern to me. Government creates the problem by imposing precepts of your religion on me. American Christians, Iranian Muslims, and other religionists who currently enjoy majority status in their countries would appreciate this concern if their creeds became the minority and a similarly bigoted majority dominated them politically.
Church-state policy issues:
- Property tax exemption for houses of worship, which shifts the cost of subsidizing religion to the tax-paying public.
- Teaching the pseudoscience of creationism and its thinly disguised twin, intelligent design, in public (tax-supported) schools, which undermines legitimate science education and puts students at risk of underachieving their career potential.
- Restricting access to early-term abortion, based on the religious notion that a fertilized egg is the moral equivalent of a sentient person. Advocates can engage in reasoned debate about the rubicon during pregnancy when a healthy fetus's rights overtake those of a host mother, but the idea that it occurs at conception is a purely religious artifact.
- Opposition to birth control by the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, which has influenced public policy, notably by the enactment of spurious laws in some American states that obstruct access to women's health services. In the most religious populations in America and in many developing nations, restricting access to contraceptives and birth control information causes unmanaged population growth and its ensuing poverty, deprivation, and needless suffering.
- Restriction of funding to medical and scientific research involving stem cells and fetal tissue based on religious objections.
- Outlawing physician-assisted dying and other methods of voluntary euthanasia, based on the idea that only god can decide when life should end. Secular humanists consider themselves the owners of their lives, not governments or churches. Therefore, authority for deciding end-of-life issues properly resides with the individual, not with government agencies whose policies are authored by religious policy-makers.
- Legal discrimination (so-called "religious freedom") against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) persons, an unfairness rooted in religion-based notions of sexual morality. No secular basis exists for objecting to sexual activities that occur between or among consenting adults.
- Religious exemption from childhood immunizations, putting at risk of illness and death not only the exempted child but also the broader community.
- Sex education based on religious ideology, such as abstinence-only and anti-masturbation teachings, rather than on medically sound knowledge about physical and psychological health.
- Court-mandated attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous and other "pervasively religious" drug and alcohol recovery programs. Effective secular alternatives exist based on medical and scientific research.
- Prayer in public (tax supported) schools, in the military, and at government meetings (including opening sessions of the U.S. Congress).
- Public funding of parochial schools through voucher programs, which channels tax revenues to religious (primarily Christian) instruction.
- Language such as "under God" and "in God we trust" on currency, in the pledge of allegiance, and in other government documents and artifacts. Such phrases, which might appear harmless to some, imply government endorsement of religion and blur the boundary between church and state.
- Efforts by some radical religionists to base civil and criminal law on the Christian Ten Commandments or Islamic sharia law.
- Failure to protect animal rights, particularly as affected by the meat industry and sport-killing. Religion artificially bifurcates the animal world into human and non-human — humans having souls and being created in the image of god, whereas non-human animals being merely objects whose consciousness and capacity for pain and suffering are largely unrecognized and of little concern. Having surprisingly recent common ancestors (mammals appeared after over 95% of the period of life on earth had passed), we human animals are not-so-distant cousins of the non-human animals whose flesh we eat and who are killed as sport. Common sense aside, biological science has determined that animals experience not only physical pain as we do, but many of the same emotions as ours. With rare exceptions, governments do not regulate the pain and suffering we inflict on our animal cousins. Government protects human rights, but fails to protect animal rights due to religion's false categorization as two distinct forms of living beings. Secular humanists are concerned with the well-being of all sentient creatures, human and non-human. We are not necessarily vegetarian, but we care about the humane treatment of food animals up to the moment of their deaths.
Contact: churchstate (at) dandana (dot) us —
Comments and suggestions welcome.