Many of you have asked what issues and subjects Secular Coalition for Arizona lobbied on while in Washington D.C. last month. Here is a summary of SC Arizona in action on your behalf at the U.S. Capital:
1) We "had them at hello!"
First and foremost, we said "hello." It is likely many elected officials have never met their nontheistic constituents before - at least not in any formal way - so we introduced you to them. We told them all about you. We told them that you are Americans, that you have families, that you are business people, soldiers, educators, grandparents, patriots, and everything else that Arizonans are. They now know who you are - and they know that you vote!
We asked your elected representatives to acknowledge nontheists just as they would any other constituent group. Specifically, we asked them to simply include nontheists in the conversation when listing their diverse constituents in speeches and written releases - much in the way President Obama has taken to acknowledging "Humanists and Nonbelievers" in his speeches.
2) HR 1179, the So-Called "Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act of 2011"
SC Arizona lobbied in opposition to HR 1179, a so-called "rights of conscience" bill. This bill is one of
many being peddled by the Religious Right in state legislatures throughout the country designed to give healthcare workers sanction to refuse to provide legal and safe healthcare agreed upon by patients and their
doctors or in emergency situations. Individuals in the United States of America are indeed free to object as their conscience dictates, however, the state should not empower conscientious objectors to usurp the rights of others; that is tyranny.
Note: Arizona's version, SB 1288, went through the legislature this year, but surprisingly and thankfully, Governor Brewer vetoed it.
3) Military Chaplains and Proselytizing in the Military
We also brought to the attention of your representatives the fact that the U.S. military chaplaincy program badly lacks diversity and is disproportionately stocked with evangelical Christians to the exclusion of chaplains representing other religious groups and nonbelievers. In the military, chaplains provide much more than just spiritual services; they also provide confidential counseling services, access to facilities and advertising, and advocacy to commanders. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), a Secular Coalition for America coalition member organization, has identified nearly 20 potential military group leaders around the world who are seeking out Humanist chaplain support, but currently there is not one Humanist chaplain in the military for nontheistic service members to turn to. SC Arizona made clear that our nontheistic servicemen and women are equally deserving of the support services provided by chaplains and should not be subjected to proselytizing in order to receive these services.