Last week, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) announced the formation of a Congressional Freethought Caucus.
Since that announcement, we’ve learned a few more details. Huffman and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) will co-chair the caucus. Other members include Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who announced her membership on Twitter.
What will the caucus do? We already know their goals:
1) to promote public policy formed on the basis of reason, science, and moral values;
2) to protect the secular character of our government by adhering to the strict Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state;
3) to oppose discrimination against atheists, agnostics, humanists, seekers, religious and nonreligious persons, and to champion the value of freedom of thought and conscience worldwide; and
4) to provide a forum for members of Congress to discuss their moral frameworks, ethical values, and personal religious journeys.
To be clear, you don’t even have to be non-religious to join this caucus. As long as you support church/state separation and evidence-based policymaking, you’re pretty much good to go!
All of that’s important to remember because of how one conservative is reacting to the caucus’ formation. The Conservative Review‘s Steve Deace is apoplectic about this obviously anti-Christian group.
I’ll just quote bits and pieces. They’re not out of context, I assure you.
… there are a few Congressional Democrats yearning to take the total depravity spotlight back.
… [Democrats’] goal is to burn American exceptionalism to the ground.
Hell demands more. Time to think bigger. Time to kill God.
Won’t anybody get full-time busy hating that which we claim not to believe in?
“Freethought” indeed. As in free of any thought altogether…
Total depravity? We ain’t seen nothing yet.
Deace also mocked comedian Michelle Wolf (a “progressive hyena”), former Republican Richard Painter (who’s considering running as a Democrat for Al Franken‘s Senate seat this November), transgender rights, and Planned Parenthood.
The whole piece reads like an angry right-wing Mad Libs. There’s no coherence to it, because there’s nothing to be mad about. Unlike the Congressional Prayer Caucus, I’d bet good money that every member of the Freethought Caucus would proudly defend the rights of Christians, too.
Think about what his rant means. Deace’s mad about some members of Congress using reason as basis for policy. He’s against church/state separation. He’s for discrimination of people whose religious views don’t match his own. He’s opposed to even discussing religion.
What is he so scared of? Who knows. There’s nothing to fear. Like so many conservatives, he’s blinded by hatred of the liberal bogeymen he wrongly believes are out to persecute him. No wonder he’s treating any movement toward normalcy and sanity as an attack on his worldview.
Roy Speckhardt, the Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, offered this reaction to Deace’s article last night:
… nobody connected to this Caucus has said anything attacking religious belief or seeking to thwart particular notions of gods. [Deace’s] closing, where he suggests that the only source of ethics is his God, is just more of the rehashed prejudice against the moral potential of atheists and agnostics. It’s why the American Humanist Association’s “Good Without A God” tagline is still so relevant in terms of challenging such bigotry.
Larry Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, added:
… The Congressional Freethought Caucus is not a partisan organization or some sinister anti-Christian cabal. It is a group of lawmakers committed to protecting the secular foundation of our country and combating discrimination against nontheistic Americans. Republican Members of Congress are free to join the caucus and we sincerely hope that they will.
Let me be clear to Mr. Deace and to others who claim this is a partisan ploy on behalf of the co-chairs of the Congressional Freethought Caucus: The Establishment Clause should not be up for partisan debate. The rights of minority faiths and nontheists should not be up for partisan debate. The importance of having public policy guided by reason and science should not be up for partisan debate. This is the guiding mission of the Congressional Freethought Caucus and Mr. Deace’s framing of it as a partisan attack on religion is disingenuous, deliberately divisive, and deeply telling.
This should come not come as a surprise to anyone, however, because when you’re part of the privileged religious majority, any movement towards equality feels like oppression. To Deace and the religious right, the formation of a Congressional Freethought Caucus is a sign that their outsized and unchallenged grip on political power may be coming to an end — and that clearly scares them.“
(Screenshot via YouTube)