For the first time in history a US administration has met with the American nontheist community for a policy briefing. The Feb. 26 meeting between White House staff and leaders of the Secular Coalition for America focused on the top public policy issues of the nontheist community, including ending proselytizing in the US military, improving the government’s ‘faith-based initiative’, and protecting children from neglect and abuse that can occur due to a lack of government oversight over faith-healing treatment providers.
“We cannot accept religious interference in government — whether it’s loopholes in child abuse laws for ‘faith healing,’ or preaching to enlisted members of the military,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Stark. “I commend the Secular Coalition for briefing the Obama Administration about these matters of religious freedom.”
The Secular Coalition for America is an advocacy group that lobbies the federal government. It brings together ten national nontheistic groups in the US, including IHEU Member Organizations such as the American Ethical Union, the American Humanist Association, and the Council for Secular Humanism.
“We are very pleased to have had this opportunity to talk with the White House about issues that are important to the nontheist community,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, who took part in the meeting. “Too often, nontheists have been disregarded by politicians and the public only because we don’t happen to believe in a god. But by President Obama giving us a seat at the table, he has sent a powerful message that we hope others will also embrace: What unites us is that we are all Americans–not that we all share a belief in the same god or any god. There is no faith prerequisite in wanting what’s best for our country.”
President Obama was the first U.S. president to acknowledge nonbelievers in an inaugural address, an event which began a constructive and meaningful relationship between the administration and American nontheists.