The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Paul Fidalgo, 202-299-1091 / paul(at)

Secular Coalition for America to Meet with White House Officials on National Policy

Nontheist Advocacy Group, Administration to Cover Religious Medical Neglect of Children, Proselytizing in Military, Faith-Based Initiatives


Marking the first time in history a presidential
administration has
met for a policy briefing with the American nontheist community, on
February 26 the Secular Coalition for America will engage with White
House officials on issues of great concern to the secular movement.

"We cannot accept religious interference in government - whether it's
loopholes in child abuse laws for 'faith healing,' or preaching to
enlisted members of the military," said U.S. Rep. Pete Stark. "I commend
the Secular Coalition for briefing the Obama Administration about these
matters of religious freedom."

President Obama was the first U.S. president to acknowledge
nonbelievers in an inaugural address, an event which began a
constructive and meaningful relationship between the administration and
American nontheists. When administration officials meet with the
country's national nontheist advocacy organization for this
briefing-joined by a group of other nontheists from every corner of the
nation and all walks of life-it will be the latest indication that the
secular movement is gaining significant momentum, and that secular
Americans, numbering in the tens of millions, are a constituency that
must be included.

"We are very pleased that the Obama administration is affording us
this opportunity to present our positions on issues of high importance,
issues of freedom and fairness that affect every American, regardless of
belief," said Secular Coalition for America Executive Director Sean
Faircloth. "Our Founders knew that there was no place in American
government for the privileging of religion, or of one belief over
another, and that will be a central theme in our interaction with the
White House."

Daniel Dennett, celebrated philosopher, author of the influential
book Breaking the Spell, and member of the SCA Advisory Board,
highlighted the significance of the meeting, noting, "The category 'no
religion' is the fastest growing category in America, and it is high
time political leaders begin to take us seriously as a voting group
whose approval they should hope to deserve."

Issues that the Secular Coalition for America plans to address in
their meeting with administration officials include: Protecting

Children from Neglect and Abuse: Liz Heywood will describe her
harrowing childhood struggle as she was refused medical attention when
stricken with painful, debilitating illness. While there are federal
standards to protect children from medical neglect, there continues to
exist an exemption to these minimum standards when religion becomes the
motivation behind the neglect. Parents whose children are physically
endangered by so called "faith-healing" and "Faith-healing treatment
providers" must be held responsible by law for participating in the
denial of proper medical treatment. Similarly, religious child care
centers, for the sake of the children for whom they are responsible,
must be subject to the same health and safety laws as secular child care
centers that receive federal funding.

Ending Military Proselytizing: Ensuring that the
rights for which our men and women in uniform fight-among them freedom
of conscience-are respected at all levels of the U.S. military, so that
no service-member is ever coerced into religious participation, subject
to proselytizing, or discriminated against because of their beliefs or
lack thereof. Kathleen Johnson, Vice President of American Atheists, and
Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and
Freethinkers will recount their own experiences with religious
discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Fixing Faith-Based Initiatives: Taking all necessary
steps to make certain that religious organizations receiving federal
funding for social welfare programs cannot discriminate in hiring on the
basis of religion, that program beneficiaries are never subject to
proselytizing, and that secular options are made equally available to
those in need.

"There has been a movement toward theocracy in America that is too
often overlooked," said Faircloth. "As a result, good Americans,
including children, have been harmed, and men and women in uniform
denied their rights. This strikes at the very core of American values.
The Secular Coalition for America seeks justice for every citizen,
regardless of creed."

For comment from the Secular Coalition for America or from
scheduled presenters, contact Paul Fidalgo at 202-299-1091 /

The Secular Coalition for America represents nine national coalition partners who share the view that a secular government offers the best guarantee for freedom of thought and belief for all Americans. It works to protect the civil rights of nontheistic Americans, and lobbies the U.S. Congress on issues of concern to its constituents. The Coalition's website