Advocacy Update — December 2013: Secular Policy Guide, Freedom of Conscience, LGBT Rights in India
January 1, 2014
Welcome to the Office of Public Policy's monthly Advocacy Update. The Office of Public Policy (OPP) is the Washington, D.C. political arm of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). Our mandate is to advocate for public policy based on reason, science, and secular values. This includes lobbying at all levels of government — Congress, the Administration, and the United Nations — to promote and defend separation of church and state, the role of scientific evidence and secular humanist ethics in policymaking, and basic civil and political rights.
This newsletter will update you on some of our activity over the past month.
- In late November, we joined participants of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable to urge President Barack Obama to appoint a new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom as soon as possible, and to consider specific criteria as he reviews nominees for the position.
- On Dec. 2, we again joined participants of the IRF Roundtable to invite two key United States government officials —Shaun Casey, head of the State Department's new Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and Melissa Rogers, head of the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships — to dialogue on how we can work together on issues of both international and domestic international religious freedom.
- On Dec. 9, OPP Director Michael De Dora represented CFI on Capitol Hill at the formal launch of the Secular Coalition for America's Model Secular Policy Guide. De Dora wrote the section of the policy guide on international religious freedom, and spoke at both the House and Senate briefings on that subject. You can download the policy guide here.
On Dec. 17, we urged leaders of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to ensure an international religious freedom bill before the Committee protects secularists and dissidents, including the non-religious.
- On Dec. 2, CFI-Indiana issued an action alert opposing , which "provides that only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana."
- On Dec. 5, CFI-Michigan issued an action alert opposing a dangerous petition initiative that would prohibit all health insurance companies from including abortion coverage in their policies — even in cases of rape, incest, the mother’s health, and fetal issues.
- On Dec. 17, CFI-Ohio issued an action alert opposing Ohio House Bill 376, which uses deliberately vague and broad wording to allow religious institutions and believers to avoid complying with general laws simply by claiming it "burdens" their religion in some way.
- On Dec. 20, we wrote the Indian Ambassador to the United States, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to share serious concerns over a recent decision by the Indian Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling striking down a law prohibiting "intercourse against the order of nature."
- We have continued to work with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom on behalf of secularists and skeptics who face life-threatening blasphemy and similar charges in their home countries regarding freedom of belief or expression. We will keep you updated if and when anything happens.
- On Dec. 22, Michael De Dora appeared on radio program In the Arena, hosted by Monsignor Kieran Harrington, to discuss secularism and the holidays. You can listen online here.