Civic Days at the Capital, capital success!

March 3, 2008

CFI Office of Public Policy Hosts "Civic Days at the Capital"

By Steven J. Winkelman 

Nearly 50 citizens from 12 states traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Center for Inquiry's Office of Public Policy's legislative training and citizen lobby event, Civic Days at the Capital, over a long weekend, February 22-25. Attendees talked with more than 31 members of Congress or their staff to voice opposition to pending legislation that defies separation of church and state, controversial judicial nominations and to advance civil rights for women.

CFI Civic Days participants  asked members to support changes to the Charitable Choice provision of The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Act. The measure would allow organizations that receive federal funds to administer the program to hire and fire staff based on religious affiliation. Participants also encouraged their members to support The Fair Pay Restoration Act, which would ensure that victims of workplace discrimination  receive effective remedies. Additionally, they asked members of Congress to table  any controversial judicial nominations that  President Bush has put forward until after the election.  

The Civic Days agenda included briefings on global warming; pending legislation in Congress; CFI's legal work; and ongoing Supreme Court decisions that are eroding civil rights protected by the Establishment Clause. Speakers included NASA emeritus staff scientist Dr. Stuart Jordan; CFI-DC Executive Director Elizabeth Daerr; Office of Public Policy Government Affairs Director Toni Van Pelt; CFI Representative to the United Nations Austin Dacey; and CFI Legal Affairs Director Ronald Lindsay.

Civic Days participants  toured prominent D.C. sites including the Jefferson Library of Congress and the U.S. Capitol Building. The weekend also included a specially designed walking tour to learn about Robert Green Ingersoll's life in D.C. and a trip to the Marian Koshland Science Museum's global warming exhibit.  

Members found the event inspirational, energizing, and enlightening, and many expressed a desire to lobby again in the future. Comments from Civic Days participants include: "I found the experience rewarding and fun"; "Now that I have done it once, I would consider doing it again"; " I think the kind and quality of the events was very well-balanced."; ‘Thanks again for providing so much inspiration and enlightenment over the weekend."

Given the success of the event, the Office of Public Policy plans to hold the Second Annual Civic Days at the Capital spring of 2009. "Attendees were attentive and engaged through out the event," said Van Pelt. "We're looking forward to hosting more people and adding different opportunities next year." CFI Founder and Chairman Paul Kurtz remarked, "We should all be proud to see that CFI supporters from all over the country answered the call to demand the use of science and reason in public policy. Their effort to come-some from as far away as California and Texas-proves that there is a national constituency unwilling to accept public policy and law shaped by religious dogma and distorted science."