Council for Secular Humanism Representatives Participate in Historic White House Briefing

February 26, 2010

Washington, D.C.—Representatives from the Council for Secular Humanism have participated in a first-of-its-kind White House briefing for members of America’s secular community. Officials of the Obama Administration met today (February 26, 2010) with a delegation drawn from the nation’s leading secular humanist, humanist, atheist, and freethought organizations to discuss policy in areas of concern to the nonreligious community. These issues included protecting children from religion-related neglect and abuse, ending proselytizing in the military, and fixing the faith-based initiative to conform with accepted secular principles. The briefing was coordinated by the Secular Coalition for America (SCA), a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of national organizations that lobbies on issues of secular concern. The Council for Secular Humanism is a member of SCA.

The Council’s delegation included Tom Flynn (Buffalo, N.Y.), executive director of the Council and editor of its flagship magazine Free Inquiry , and three Washington-based activists: Toni van Pelt, executive director of the Center for Inquiry/Office of Public Policy ; Melody Hensley, executive director of the Center for Inquiry/D.C., and Stuart Jordan, a retired NASA scientist and a science advisor for the Center for Inquiry/Office of Public Policy. The Center for Inquiry, a supporting organization of the Council for Secular Humanism, conducts lobbying and public education in the national capital area.

Speakers on behalf of SCA included:

• SCA executive director Sean Faircloth, addressing the faith-based initiative and policy concerning religious child-care facilities;
• Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and Kathleen Johnson, Military Director for American Atheists, addressing religious discrimination in the military; and
• Liz Heywood, a survivor of a childhood bone disease left untreated by her Christian Science parents, was unable to attend due to weather-related travel difficulties. Her statement was read by Sasha Bartolf, Legislative Director for SCA.

This briefing represents the first time a U.S. administration has engaged in a formal exchange of views with representatives of America’s fast-growing nonreligious community. President Obama was the first U. S. president to acknowledge nonbelievers in an inaugural address. In a press release issued prior to the briefing, the SCA described the briefing as “the latest indication that the secular movement is gaining significant momentum, and that secular Americans, numbering in the tens of millions, are a constituency that must be included.”