The Secular Coalition for America (SCA) is an organization whose mission is lobbying the U.S. government on issues involving separation of church and state and for the inclusion of nonbelievers into the public discourse. Its member organizations can be found on its website.
I am newly acquainted with this organization, and with New York City Atheists so this diary, as the title says, is an introduction, not an endorsement.
On Sunday, December 13, 2009, its Executive Director, Sean Faircloth, spoke in Manhattan at a meeting sponsored by New York City Atheists, Inc., not one of SCA’s member organizations.
Rather than railing against the inclusion of the work “God” in pledges, on currencies and buildings, the bulk of Mr. Faircloth’s speech concerned the pitfalls of exempting religious organizations not only from taxes, but broad sets of other laws. For example, several children have died in religious day care centers that are exempt from local regulatory laws for secular day care centers. A much higher percentage of infants of faith healing believers die than in the general population because they are exempt from all the rules about child endangerment and neglect. Mr. Faircloth told a particularly gruesome story of a 15-year-old daughter of believers in faith healing who suffered months of excruciating pain owing to the growth of a tumor on her shoulder, eventually to the size of a basketball, at which point she died. Mr. Faircloth refers to such behavior as faith torture and faith killing. It would never be allowed outside the “religious” context.
Mr. Faircloth is young and enthused about his work. He spent 10 years as a state representative in Maine. He was frequently lobbied by religious interests, but not once in a decade by secularists, humanists, atheists. He points out that legislators respond to the voices they hear.
He also had priceless quotes from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. These Enlightenment era men of learning and vision could never be elected in the 21st Century United States of America.
The U.S. government has become entirely too religious for my tastes. I’m looking for some force on the other side that might start to turn back the religious wave.
I’m hoping the SCA might become that organization. Its budget is tiny, so great things cannot be expected soon, but Mr. Faircloth might be the right person to spearhead the effort.
Check out the website. Click the “sign up” button in the upper right—it’s how Mr. Faircloth’s speaking engagements get rated. Note some of its successes, like having language removed from the health care reform legislation that would have covered the spiritual care of individuals with religious objections to medical care, which had previously been included.
Two loosely related developments. First, NYC Atheists report that their advertising campaign on city buses has brought many new members and is being used as a model in other cities.
Second, NYC Atheists is joining with a Roman Catholic priest to sue a bishop in Brooklyn over his robocalls in support of a political candidate. At issue is the parish’s tax exempt status. The lawsuit will be announced on Thursday, December 17.