Heretic on the Hill: Secular Advocates Plus Jamie Raskin Mean Lobby Day Success

Since my last report which previewed our annual meeting for the leaders of our 20 coalition organizations and the lobby day on Capitol Hill to follow, we did both! The meeting was the usual rare opportunity for these executive directors and Board leaders to learn what the other groups are working on, to collaborate, and to hear speakers on Christian nationalism, on state government affairs from secular state representatives, and from the humanist chaplain serving a death row inmate.

One of the speakers was Ryan Burge, a sociology professor who studies religion and the nonreligious, and takes a data-driven approach to everything. We learned about how atheists compare to religious groups and to the larger subset to which atheists belong, The Nones, in a number of areas; political involvement (very high), voting patterns (very Democratic), community involvement (high), differences between young and old, and much more. Dr. Burge predicts that by 2028, half of all Democratic voters could very likely be nonreligious. Because I suggested Dr. Burge as a speaker I was hoping I would not be the only one who was interested in his presentation, but it was rated the highest by our attendees in the post-meeting survey. He was also the only speaker who appeared remotely, which means you can watch his presentation here. There is some good discussion at the end, too.

I’m not going to say our lobby day was the apotheosis of lobby days, but it was pretty close. We doubled last year’s attendance, and half of our attendees were there for the first time. Many of them mentioned the importance of November’s election and wanting to get more involved.

Congressman Jamie Raskin came by the breakfast to give us his suggestions on how to pitch his militia bill in our meetings that day. The bill establishes federal guidelines on what is and is not illegal activity by militias in the areas of blocking government proceedings, intimidating people at polling places, participating in demonstrations, and more. As a former constitutional law professor, it did not take him long to get to the section of the Second Amendment that calls for “a well regulated militia,” and to elaborate on how most of the 200 or so militias in the country are far from well regulated.

Our particular take on the need for this bill is the significant number of Christian nationalists in the militias, and their conclusion that they have permission from God to take matters into their own hands if necessary to make this a more “Christian nation.” I just read this quote five days ago: “There are so many militia churches now. I [visited] a church in Yuba City, California. Wednesday night is women’s night, and Monday night is youth night. Tuesday night is militia new recruit night.” That’s from this interview with Jeff Sharlett, a Dartmouth professor who goes to churches and rallies and then reports on what he hears, most recently in a book titled The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War. Militia night at churches shows exactly why we need the Raskin bill.

Our group then fanned out to nearly 100 House and Senate meetings to talk to representatives and staff about the militia bill, many of whom were hearing about it for the first time from us. (Over 7,000 bills have been introduced in the House this Congress. It’s a lot for them to keep up with.) We asked Democrats and Republicans to support the bill and had many productive meetings. You can send your support to your legislators with this Action Alert if you have not already.


The Secular Coalition sent a letter to Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) this week in response to his 4,000 word article on why he thinks this should be a more Christian nation. His article is long on trying to justify that and, thankfully, short on actual steps to take other than school prayer and posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms. He did propose finding ways to improve wages for blue collar men so it would be easier for them to raise Christian families. We said we supported that, but also better wages for blue collar women and for families of all faiths and no faiths. How he would just improve the wages of Christians wasn’t made clear.


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