Letter to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels Concerning Atheist Bashing

January 13, 2010

The following letter has been sent to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in response to his interview in which he bashed atheists.  Indianapolis Star  Religion Editor, Bobby King , said in an email to me "... your numbers and influence are still small enough that I don't feel the need to call you everytime I would consult a Catholic source or an evangelical leader or a Jewish rabbi." CFI Indiana Friends of the Center are also writing their own personal letters to the governor concerning this issue.   We are letting the governor know that we do exist, we do have numbers, and we can have influence.   Also, see my blog that was posted on December 31, 2009.   

January 7, 2010

The Honorable Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.
Office of the Governor
Indiana State Capitol Building
200 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Dear Governor Daniels:

In a recent interview with News Channel 15 in Fort Wayne, IN, you made statements that reflect your lack of understanding of the nonreligious point of view.

Based on The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, U.S. Religious Landscape Study, 2008 , persons who are unaffiliated with any religion constitute 16% of the Indiana population (the same as the national percentage). This makes the “unaffiliated” the fourth largest group in Indiana behind Evangelical Protestants (34%), Mainline Protestants(22%), and only two percentage points behind Catholics at 18%.  In a more recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 40% of Hoosiers indicated that religion is not important in their lives. 

In your remarks, you referred to people whose world view is not based on “faith” as atheists.   While some prefer the term atheist, others prefer such terms as agnostic, freethinker, secular humanist, or scientific naturalist.  Some who identify as a “none” on a religious survey consider themselves to be religious or spiritual in their own way but do not identify with any organized religion. 

I respect your referring to yourself as a “Matthew 6 Christian” who keeps his religious expressions private.   A public official is certainly entitled to his/her own personal religious beliefs but should (as you said in your interview) “take very seriously the responsibility to treat my public duties in a way that keeps separate church and state and respects alternative views.”

Respecting alternative views entails refraining from making derogatory remarks about atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and the non-religious. I take strong exception to your statement on WANE-TV on December 24, 2009 that “Atheism leads to brutality.  All horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists—Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth—because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth.”   This statement is simply false and is demeaning to those of us who are not religious. 

Aside from being historically inaccurate—Hitler was a Roman Catholic who wrote in Mein Kampf, and said in various reprehensible speeches, that he was “acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator”—your statement ignores the vast majority of atheists and non-believers who live upstanding, moral lives.

The Center for Inquiry-Indiana is the largest organization in Indiana that provides a community for those who prefer to base their world view on science and reason rather than faith.   We are a branch of the Center for Inquiry, which has NGO status at the United Nations and works on human rights issues there.   We have an Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC and advocate for many causes with which I am sure you would agree.  Our Indiana branch networks with other organizations locally to do the same. 

The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. I am enclosing a copy of Affirmations of Humanism which states the basic principles on which Center for Inquiry is based.   I don’t think you will find any general disagreement with these principles. 

The Center for Inquiry is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and as such cannot take a stand for or against a particular political party or candidate.  We do take a stand on certain issues.  As individuals, some of us have supported you because we agreed particularly with your efforts to attract high tech science oriented businesses to Indiana.

 As “freethinkers” we represent a diversity of opinions on specific issues.  Consequently, some will support your policies on certain issues and some will not.  We are evidence-oriented in our approach to life and base our decisions on which candidate and/or party to support on what we view as the best outcomes and consequences for all concerned.

The Center for Inquiry-Indiana is located at 350 Canal Walk, Suite A, less than 5 blocks from your office.   I invite you to contact me and make an appointment to come and tour our center and learn more about us. 

Sincerely,

Reba Boyd Wooden
Executive Director
Center for Inquiry-Indiana 

[Thanks to Derek Aruajo , CFI Vice President and General Counsel, for his editing and suggestions which made my letter better.] 

Comments:

#1 Keith (Guest) on Thursday January 14, 2010 at 3:29pm

Thanks for writing that letter, Reba. It represents the sort of consciousness-raising action we need to be making at every opportunity.

#2 Chris (Guest) on Thursday January 14, 2010 at 9:05pm

Thank you, Reba, for making an assertive and eloquent response to the Governor’s misrepresentation of the non-religious, and for standing up for the principles that the majority of the 16% hold dear.

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