Yesterday, more than 100 religious and non-religious group leaders published a letter urging Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to take certain steps to reverse the damage done by the Trump administration on faith-based matters.
Some of the suggestions are mild: Hire people from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds. Affirm our nation’s religious diversity.
Others are more serious: Repeal the Muslim ban. Prevent and prosecute hate crimes. Protect church/state separation. Stop taxpayer-funded groups from violating anti-discrimination laws and prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding religion at all.
There’s also this request regarding “religious freedom” — the actual kind, not the pro-Christian version advanced by Republicans:
… over the past four years the federal government has overreached in the name of free exercise, ignoring the harms that certain religious exemptions impose on other rights. For example, these exemptions have been used to undermine LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections and deny access to healthcare, particularly sexual and reproductive healthcare, with disproportionate impacts on people of color. These exemptions have even been used to discriminate against religious minorities and the nonreligious, using inconsistent standards to evaluate free exercise claims. These errors must be corrected. One critical way to do so is to restore the original intent of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to protect religious freedom and also clarify the Act so that the statute is not misused.
These are straightforward suggestions that shouldn’t be controversial. There’s a reason the people signing this document represent a variety of religious and non-religious groups. These are also requests that Biden can do on his own without worrying about a possible GOP-led Senate getting in his way.
For the record, the signers of this document who may be familiar to readers of this site include:
- Debbie Allen, Executive Director, Secular Coalition for America
- Kevin Bolling, Executive Director, Secular Student Alliance
- Dr. Sabrina E. Dent, Senior Faith Adviser, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard and MIT
- Nick Fish, President, American Atheists
- Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President, Freedom From Religion Foundation
- Paul Golin, Executive Director, Society for Humanistic Judaism
- Sarah Haider, Executive Director, Ex-Muslims of North America
- Rachel Laser, President and CEO, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- Sarah M. Levin, Program Director, Secular Democrats of America
- Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Minister, United Church of Christ
- Anthony B. Pinn, Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities, Rice University
- Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director, American Humanist Association
- David Tamayo, President, Hispanic American Freethinkers
- Mandisa Thomas, President, Black Nonbelievers
One of the silver linings over the past several years, at least from my perspective, has been the rise in interfaith collaboration. So many of us — atheists, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, progressive Christians, etc. — have watched the government become a mouthpiece for conservative Christians who use their faith to hurt other people. It’s required us to join forces since we all want roughly the same things from the government, including equal treatment and no discrimination.
The fact that atheists — who in the past would’ve been at odds with many of these people — are now eagerly working with them (and getting invited to sign letters like these) is a positive sign. It means we’re willing to set our theological differences aside because there’s a larger goal we all share. That’s no small feat. I look forward to the day when we can go back to debating each other on our ideas, but when the nation’s on fire, it’s vital to collaborate to put it out.
(Image via Shutterstock)