Heretic on the Hill: Humanists on the Hill

By Scott MacConomy, SCA’s Director of Policy and Government Affairs.

Our member organizations are critical partners in the Secular Coalition for America's (SCA) mission to protect and strengthen secularism at the federal level. Our advocacy work is made stronger by connecting and collaborating with those in our movement and coalition. Conferences are a perfect place for this type of collaboration, which is why SCA was proud to be a co-sponsor of American Humanist Association's 80th Annual Conference, which took place last weekend!

We were able to connect (virtually) with humanists from around the world for two days of interactive sessions, including a session on the current fights for the separation of religion and government. SCA staff members who attended interacted with secular Americans through our "virtual booth", paving the way for more effective and organized collaboration.

In conjunction with the conference, SCA's team joined the American Humanist Association for their first virtual lobby day, which turned out to be the largest single-day lobby effort in their organization's history! A total of 67 advocates met with 50 congressional offices from 21 states (including DC).

Below is an account of the day from the SCA's Director of Policy and Government Affairs, Scott MacConomy:

"On Monday I joined AHA’s Hill Day and met with staff members for five Senators and Representatives to advocate for the Do No Harm Act. This bill would clarify several sections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act so that it can no be used in court to erode nondiscrimination laws, employment laws governing wages and collective bargaining, child labor and protection laws, access to health care, services provided through a government contract or grant, and services by government officials. I was joined on these Zoom meetings by two Ohioans for the Ohio meetings, because having constituents there makes a big difference, and by someone on the AHA staff for the three Michigan meetings. Our goal was simply to ask that these Senators and Representatives cosponsor the Do No Harm Act.

As you often find in these meetings, there was a range of awareness on the issue. Two staffers were well informed. (One worked for a House member who had already cosponsored the bill; we were just there to thank her.) Two staffers had not been on the job last year when the Do No Harm Act was first introduced so we took the time to explain everything and they were very receptive. The fifth staffer works for a conservative Republican who is unlikely to ever support us on this issue. We explained it anyway and gave her the opportunity to hear from secular constituents whom she would probably not encounter any other way. One pointed out to her that he is a Quaker and a nonbeliever. According to recent court rulings, if he approached a situation as a Quaker he would be allowed to discriminate, but not as a nonbeliever. She seemed to see the problem there. In all our meetings we promoted the Congressional Freethought Coalition and invited them to join. It was a successful day, one I hope to repeat frequently."

Be sure to sign up to our email list to receive a copy of Heretic on the Hill in your inbox, Scott’s bi-monthly update on our advocacy work on behalf of nontheist Americans and the separation of religion and government.


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