Sen. Chris Coons’ Excellent Speech to Atheists in Washington, D.C. May 10, 2015

Sen. Chris Coons’ Excellent Speech to Atheists in Washington, D.C.

Last week, at the Secular Coalition of America’s Secular Summit, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) gave a wonderful speech about the importance of secular values. Considering he’s a devout Presbyterian, maybe that was unexpected for some, but he emphasized the importance of church/state separation and the freedom of belief (and non-belief):

I am of course aware that for many the Bible, which I consider scripture, has been used as a document, as a foundation to justify discrimination, has been the basis of intolerance based on outdated teachings and moral codes and has been a source of pain and distance and discomfort for many. It is quite a different source for me…

… in the political coalition that works for progressive values, there are truly progressive Christians and Jews, and there are truly progressive nonbelievers or secularists who have found common cause, and getting past some of our misunderstandings of each other, which often means getting passed some of our childhood experiences or youthful experiences that can be very painful and very personal, is absolutely essential to building the bridges to a sustained coalition of action.

whether you pray five times a day, or once a day, or never, I am equally hopeful that we can transcend those differences and be woven together by our advocacy for a more just and equal society.

Of course, that requires people willing to govern using the Constitution, and not the Bible, as our foundation.

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post marveled at the content of the speech last week:

There are few moments of grace in our politics these days, especially where conflicts over religion are concerned. Last week, I witnessed one. Perhaps it was a mere drop in an ocean of suspicion and mistrust, but it was instructive and even encouraging.

It’s to the credit of the Secular Coalition for America crowd that they cheered a speech that was as challenging as it was affirming.

You know, there was a time not too long ago when getting a sitting U.S. Senator to speak at an atheist event would have been unthinkable. So even if you think this is simply lip service, it’s a major shift that’s happened in a remarkably short amount of time. That said, Coons didn’t have much to gain by speaking to a group of atheists and it’s to his credit that he accepted SCA’s invitation anyway.


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