It’s Secular Awards Season in Washington

Last week the Secular Coalition for America, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the American Humanist Association held the first annual Congressional Reason Reception on Capitol Hill. We had at least 75 people in attendance including many Congressional staff, and over 400 watching on Zoom. Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Greg Casar (D-TX) were there to present the awards.  The keynote speaker was author Kate Cohen. You can read her latest Washington Post column, “A National Day of Prayer? James Madison would be horrified”, here.

The event was the spiritual descendant of the Thomas Paine Breakfast which hasn’t been held in a few years but used to highlight Paine’s insistence on the separation of church and state at the nation’s founding and his promotion of reason in the operations of government. He even wrote a book about that, The Age of Reason. The award winners were determined by members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus.

Representative Casar presented the Age of Reason Award to Texas State Representative James Talarico, saying “I am so proud that our members voted overwhelmingly to give the award to a rising star in Texas Politics,” and that Talarico “is a theologian against theocracy.” 

Representative Huffman presented the Common Sense Award which is dedicated to someone who has stood up for reason, secularism, science and church-state separation. Huffman presented the award to Rev. William Barber who “has been for years an outspoken critic of Christian nationalism. He refers to it as a well funded, coordinated political movement that has co-opted his faith tradition.

Kate Cohen presented the final award, the Uncommon Nonsense Award, to House Speaker Mike Johnson, saying “This year it goes to a man who has said that God put him in the job to which American citizens elected him, that his position on every issue can be found in the Bible, that America is a Christian nation, and that ‘separation of church and state’ is a ‘misnomer’: My Speaker of the House and yours, Mike Johnson.”

I encourage you to watch the event here. The mic didn’t pick up the crowd noise so keep in mind that all the jokes landed and the applause was sustained.


And speaking of Mike Johnson, this week he faced off against one of the other prominent House Christian nationalists, Marjorie Taylor Greene, on whether he should keep his job. She went ahead with a doomed motion to fire him as Speaker and only got ten Republicans to join her. Unfortunately the one who walks the walk on Christian nationalism demolished the one who talks the talk. You can read about the dynamics behind the vote here.

I heard from someone in Colorado who was trying to get a section on Christian nationalism included in the state party platform. The party happened to be the Democrats but there’s no reason any party writing a party platform this election year couldn’t include language condemning Christian nationalism. So the Secular Coalition got together and came up with this, which anyone involved in writing a local, state, or national party platform is welcome to use:

“We recognize that Christian nationalism poses a significant threat to the democratic and social fabric of the United States. This extremist political movement, cloaked in religious rhetoric, aims to exert theocratic control over our nation’s citizens, institutions, and laws and policies. It’s important to clarify that Christian nationalism does not reflect the tenets of the Christian faith. Instead, it is a distortion that merges political power with religious identity in a manner that endangers our pluralistic society and democratic values and the civil liberties of all. We are committed to countering this ideology and upholding the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their religious beliefs or non-belief, can live in a society that respects and protects their rights and freedom.”

Finally, the Pew Research Center released “Voters’ views of Trump and Biden differ sharply by religion.” There are no big surprises in the data but the report does include specific numbers on the view of atheists, agnostics, and Nones on several questions. Eighty-seven percent of atheists say they will vote for Biden or lean towards Biden. Eighty-two percent of agnostics. Fifty-seven percent of those with no religion in particular. SCA cannot endorse any candidate for office but we can endorse the views of atheists.


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