What Secular Issues Would You Want to Discuss with the White House? March 3, 2010

What Secular Issues Would You Want to Discuss with the White House?

When representatives of the Secular Coalition for America met with White House officials last week, we had three items on our agenda:

  • Military religious freedom: Ending religious discrimination, coercion, and proselytizing in the military
  • Fixing faith-based initiatives: Making sure tax dollars are not going directly to houses of worship and that federal funds are not being used to proselytize
  • “Faith-healing” exemptions: Closing loopholes in child medical neglect laws that allow for abuse by so-called “faith healing”

Are those the issues you feel were most important?

The SCA wants to know and they have a poll on their site about it:

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Frank

    The problem with the SCAs poll is that those are radio buttons rather than check boxes. Most of the things there are important, I’m not sure I’d want to pick one over the others.

    The one I wouldn’t have brought up though is the military thing. I have no respect for people who chose to join an organization dedicated to killing, and wouldn’t have spent any time on them.

  • Talynknight

    Personally I would have left Religious refusal off the list. If someone wants to deny an organ transplant for themselves because the don’t want a blood transfusion let the organ go to someone who wants it.

    Someone letting themselves die from their own beliefs is a far cry from imposing disability/death on a child because of their beliefs.

    I think the rest of them all deserve consideration and discussion though. Of course I am by no means an expert on religious refusal so I’m not sure where that could start to affect others beyond the personal other than maybe plague conditions.

  • Frank

    I think we need to clarify what religious refusal means here. I certainly think that adults have a right to refuse any medical treatment for themselves for any reason, religious or secular. Is that really all religious refusal refers to? Or is there something else to it that is worth taking on?

  • Vas

    I could be wrong but I believe religious refusal refers to, for example, a doctor refusing to treat a patient for lets just say AIDS because it was acquired through sexual contact outside of wedlock, or say gay sex. The doctor believes this is immoral and a punishment form God for the afflicted and the doctor does not wish to work against God’s will, (because s/he is superstitious and believes in a magical universe). Or a pharmacist refusing to dispense medication let’s say emergency contraception,(the morning after pill) or even regular contraception, (birth control pills) because it is against their moral beliefs, (imagine what an easy job it would be to be a Christian Science Pharmacist, just sitting around all day in a lab coat doing nothing but saying no). Or a nurse refusing service to a Satanist or even an atheist because s/he happens to be a Christian. Stuff like that. Anyway that is my understanding of the term “religious refusal” as used in a medical context. Correct me if I’m wrong, I could be wrong but that is my understanding of the term.

  • Talynknight

    In that case I remove my objection to that list item. I was thinking more from the patient side not the care provider side.

  • Lars

    I would like to bring up the fact that 6 States still require a Religious test for holding office.

  • Richard Wade

    I was confused about the “religious refusal” item as well. At first I thought it was about the so-called “conscience laws” that protect people from being fired if they refuse to perform duties of their job that conflict with their religious principles. They can apply these decisions arbitrarily and inconsistently, and they can make up the “principles” as they go along. The potential for harm to many people is very high.

    If it means that an adult can refuse a medical treatment or intervention, hey that’s their choice. Hope they don’t die too painfully.

  • British Cat

    Click “other” and type in “all of the above”, for example 🙂 for those who have an issue with the radio buttons…

  • Miko

    Re: faith-based initiatives. I don’t have a problem with money going to churches (beyond the problem I have with the government giving money to anyone) if they really are the best for the job. I just don’t want them getting preference over more qualified organizations and don’t want them misusing the funds.

    Re: child care standards. They’re trying to solve this one in the wrong direction. There’s no evidence that these requirements do anything other than help monopolize the child-care industry, which is bad for everyone except the monopolists. Instead of trying to add restrictions for religious organizations (I can already hear them scream persecution), why not hold them up as an example of why such regulations aren’t necessary for any child-care facility?

    Frank: I have no respect for people who chose to join an organization dedicated to killing, and wouldn’t have spent any time on them.

    I probably have the strongest anti-military views of anyone on this planet, but I’m going to disagree here.

    Studies have shown that to achieve a reasonable degree of success in life, you need to do two things: complete high school, and keep a job for two years. The exact job doesn’t matter; the point is just to show later employers that you’re dependable, so that you can move up to a better job after those two years. Lousy inner-city schools makes the first hard for many people; minimum wage laws and regulations requiring employers to provide health insurance, etc. make the second hard. Combined with rack rents caused by land-use policies designed to benefit current owners and a police force that treats the citizenry like an occupied and subjugated foe, the poor often have few options other than the military. Looking at military recruiting efforts, it’s obvious that they’re aware of this. So, you have people who have been oppressed their entire lives by a government that wants to turn them into cannon fodder in the name of creating some sort of “what’s good for GM is good for America” corporatist hell, and then you ask: what could possibly make this even more miserable? And the answer comes: ah yes, religion.

    Now, as a radical, I’d rather attack the root of the problem (radical, from Latin radix, “going to the root”), but I’m also pragmatic. And it’s obscene to look at the current situation and call any significant number of current recruitments into the military “voluntary.” We need to view this problem the way we (should) view welfare programs: currently, government is breaking your leg and then handing you a crutch. We need to stop both, but we need to stop the leg-breaking before we stop the crutch-distribution. In the case of the military, things are even worse: here, we need to guarantee that crutches are available until we have the strength of numbers to go after the leg-breakers.

  • I think the SCA had a great list of issues. I might have added ta exempt status for churches, but I don’t see a problem with them leaving that out. My issue is with the White House. It is my speculation that they just listened to what SCA said and nothing will actually come of it. This is the main reason why I have been advocating a greater push from the atheistic community to pressure both the White House and the Congress harder on these issues.

  • Hey folks, this is Paul at the Secular Coalition. I wouldn’t sweat the mechanics of the poll too much. The poll is just one fun way to offer your opinion, but we want to hear you in lots of other ways, too.

    If you feel like you need to say more to us than what you can express in one vote, we’re always eager to hear from folks, so go ahead and contact us directly, post on our Facebook page, buzz us on Twitter, etc.

    Thanks for participating, everyone!

  • DangerousTalk hit the nail on the head. I agree that promises were made, which will never be kept, and which, at the time they were made, they never had the slightest intention of even trying to keep.

    Let’s face it, these people are politicos … low-ranking ones … and they work for other politicos, who in turn work for politicians. By definition they aren’t to be trusted … ALL politicians lie all the time, and this is true regardless of party or ideological affiliation.

    Moreover, since the content of the discussions was kept secret … at the instigation of those who ultimately are going to have to fulfill any promises that may have been made there … unfortunately this means they have zero incentive to keep them. Secrecy abolishes accountability.

    It may be that the secrecy was required in order to have the meeting at all, but that it was requested just makes me even more skeptical that anything will ever change or that anyone who attended on Washington’s behalf will even wish to keep their word on anything they said.

    (If this sounds pessimistic, it is. I have learned over the years not to trust anyone in Washington. Ever. From any party. From any ideology.)

  • Thegoodman

    I wish they could somehow touch on the topic of creationism/intelligent design. It is by far the topic that I am most passionate about and the very idea that it would be taught in a public school infuriates me. It is one of the few places where parents rely on the school system to truly educated their children (considering the limited knowledge most adults have concerning evolution) and it is the biggest turning point in the Separation of Church and State situation our country is currently fighting.

    If creationism is taught in high school, separation of church and state will cease to exist.

  • Vas

    Hey I just confirmed the definition of “religious refusal”, here is a website for a view from the “pro life”
    side of the issue.
    This is scary stuff and a wide spread and very real and common problem for many Americans who by cultural geography can and do find themselves locked out of legitimate and indicated medical options. Not just locking patients out but often times actively concealing options from the patient. Many doctors and other medical professionals feel it is their “right of conscience” and often the law is on their side, right now! This needs to change, Americans deserve medical care free of superstition, frankly I would like medical care free of superstition for myself as well. The argument is most often framed around reproductive rights but the real life consequences affect a far wider realm of medical treatment for many Americans.

    I like the idea of this being on the agenda because it does not only affect atheists and/or secular people. For instance anyone no matter their faith or lack thereof can find themselves in need of the services of medical professionals and be denied treatment because of someone’s religious fantasies. A doctor can prescribe emergency contraception to a rape victim and some religious kook pharmacist who runs the only pharmacy in some small isolated town can refuse to dispense and shut down the whole show. This sort of thing actually happens often and even in places like Phoenix AZ, a city of 1.5 million people, or I should say I have read accounts of such things happening in Phoenix.

    I believe a persons’ right to all the medically indicated options, and right to know about those options supersedes a medical professionals’ right to conceal or deny options from a person under their care simply because of that medical professional’s unfounded magical belief system. To be blunt, I think my health is more important than your, (medical professionals) god and if you don’t you should be required to say so and direct me to someone willing to help me. If you can’t do that you need to find a different line of work that when combined with your conscience does require you to abuse the rights of others. Basically you would disqualify yourself from a profession in which you refuse to preform the duties of that profession. Vegetarians don’t get to be judges at BBQ cook offs.
    Anyway The issue gets my vote for the agenda in the future.

  • NewEnglandBob

    I chose “Other” and wrote in “All of the above!”

  • medussa

    I’d pick all of the above, but I’d also want to specify with the religious tax privileges that any organization that campaigns politically, preaches politically or even has an officially endorsed stance on a candidate or proposition, should be paying taxes like the rest of us.

  • Kaluthir

    I voted for the military issue since it’s in my own self-interest (in a couple of years I’ll commission into the Army), but I think that all of the issues are extremely important and should have been addressed many years ago.

  • I voted for “other”.

    My roommate, and two of his friends, consider themselves Christian, Christian enough to mention it at some point in time after meeting you, Christian enough to go to church and pray.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they showed up here at 4am, TRIPPING ON ACID, after driving here on acid. Although all three of them had quit smoking cigarettes, they then proceeded to smoke cigarettes on the balcony, disposing of their cigarette butts in our planters.

    This is what I would want to discuss with the White House. Somebody needs to stop these people.

  • @ Vas, thanks for the link. That’s really scary. I think that one has my vote, too. But a close second is accurate sex-ed, which is sort of related.

  • bigjohn756

    Holy shit, Frank!! Really? You had better think about the ramifications of your remark regarding the military especially as to how it might affect your own life.

  • I’d want to get rid of the FDA loophole that allows worthless “alternative” medicines, herbs, etc., to make unsubstantiated claims of safety and efficacy. Goodbye, homeopathy, acai berry, penis-enlarging pills, etc.

  • @ Frank – What a disgusting thing to say. Absolutely disgusting.

  • Thegoodman

    Why is everyone attacking Frank? The US military is a killing machine and everyone who is a part of it fuels that machine. To say “its just a job” isn’t an excuse.

    I have family and friends in the military, but to act like the military is not in the business of killing non-Americans is naive. That is their business, and as Lt. Aldo Raine said “Business is good.” There are estimates that 100k to 500k Iraqi citizens are now dead thanks to the heroic efforts of our military. I have not seen the numbers on Afghani citizens, but I am sure we are beloved by everyone in their country by now.

  • @Thegoodman – Sir, are implying that the United States military has never and will never do any good? If not, then what is your point? I’ve seen combat. I hate war. We don’t belong in Iraq, we didn’t belong in Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, etc. I didn’t pick and choose where I went! I joined as a BOY because my options were limited and I wanted to protect my country. Was I disappointed? You bet, but I also did some good. I’ve saved lives, not just taken them.
    Does my misfortune mean self-appointed “holier-than-thou’s” such as yourself can judge me and my motives? Walk a mile in my shoes, buddy. I rarely take offense to the degree that I have now. I am truly, deeply offended.
    For you and Frank to paint all of us with a broad brush as you most certainly have is evil. Talk about stereotyping. Absolutely disgusting.

  • Thanks PsiCop. There are things we can do to make sure that we are taken seriously. I talk about it in my blog. Here is the link.

  • Thegoodman

    @The Godless Monster

    I didn’t intend to paint people in the military with any broad brush. My own brother and sister are in the military and I respect them very much.

    That being said, what has the US military done that is good? Ok, now that you have said “WW2!” now what? Anything else?

    What exactly have you found offensive? The US military is a disgusting animal right now and by your own admission was a disappointment. You were not a boy when you signed up. You were a young man and your own naivety lead you down a path that left you disappointed. How is that our fault? Are you honestly proud of the United States right now?

    In the event that the US needs to protect our own lands, I will gladly sign up to protect that which I hold dear. But, while we are still in the business of invasion and tyranny, I’d rather not participate and I think it is shameful for anyone to participate.

    To accept a pay check from the military as an excuse for being a part of something so destructive is disappointing to me.

  • “it is shameful for anyone to participate.”
    “To accept a pay check…for being a part of something so destructive is disappointing
    “My own brother and sister are in the military and I respect them very much.”

  • Ben

    The appalling disregard for the clearly secular intent of the founding fathers (anybody else sick of that term? Smart guys, but they ain’t my kin) and the Constitution, at all levels of government. I hear a lot of talk about “values” from very self-righteous people, but if you pin someone down on that term, you’d be surprised how insubstantial the definition usually is.

  • Frank

    The Godless Monster,
    If we confine our analysis to the last couple of decades, it is clear that the U.S. military has done very little good and a whole lot of harm. Both this country and the world would be better off without it.

    Did someone point a gun at your head and tell you to enlist? Did you have some kind of mental problem that interfered with your decision making abilities? Did you mistake the U.S. military for the Walt Disney company? No, you made a decision and you are responsible for it. Your unwillingness to take responsibility for your decision, to admit that you made a mistake that did more harm than good and for which there is no excuse, simply confirms my view that people who choose to join the military are generally not worthy of respect.

  • cathy

    @Miko, the list item only talks about removing exemptions to current health and safety laws that apply to, presumably, all other childcare centers in those districts. I fail to see anyone trying to ‘monopolize the childcare industry’ and child care regulations are, for the most part, fairly commonsense safety measures. I have worked at a daycare and the safety measures there were no more strict than the standards that many parents keep for themselves. I am far more concerned about unsafe conditions (beatings are the most common complaint in these exemption centers) than I am about childcare corporation monopolies.

    As to the military side issue, while I do think that participation in the military is wrong, I understand the reason that many people do it. Poverty and racial job discrimination are two huge factors in signing up for the military. I know a man who enlisted for health care benefits so that his toddler could receive better treatment for her lifethreatening chronic condition. I can forgive and respect someone who joined the military to feed themselves or their families, just as I can forgive and respect someone who sold hard drugs or stole for the same reasons. I can also forgive the mistakes of those who join the military with idealisic notions and realize the horrors of war. However, I have little respect or forgiveness for unappologetic idealogical military participation. I have sympathy and understanding for the homeless kids who shoplift to survive, but not for wealthy teenagers who do it for kicks. I tend to think of the military the same way. Somtimes people do wrong actions because they don’t have any good alternatives, sometimes people do it because they lack a basic empathy for the people they harm. It is the latter that I have no respect for, not the former.

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