The Secular Coalition for America, which represents non-theists, based in Washington D. C., started setting up chapters in all 50 states to lobby at state level and one chapter prepares to lobby Missouri legislature within two weeks.
According to Lauren Anderson Youngblood, Missouri's legislature not only considers propels based on religion, but also enacts them, which is inappropriate. Missourinet listed five of the bills, which Youngblood mentions in her interview, recently enacted in Missouri, some of which God Discussion covered.
A news release from the coalition describes five measures considered in this year's session:
SB 749: Blocks federal health care law and denies access to birth control for women that work for an employer that has a "religious" or "moral" objection to birth control. (Awaiting Governor's signature)
HR 959: Encouraged all Missourians to take part in the National Day of Prayer in 2012. (Passed)
HB 1278: Would reauthorize the 'pregnancy resource center' tax credit and continues to place the state's imprimatur on "clinics" that employ religiosity, misinformation, and over-blown promises of assistance to persuade women to continue their pregnancy. (Placed on informal calendar 5/18/2012)
SB 749: States that "no employee, self-employed person, or any other person shall be compelled to obtain coverage for, or be discriminated against or penalized for declining or refusing coverage for, abortion, contraception, or sterilization in a health plan if such items or procedures are contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of such employee or person." (Awaiting Governor's signature)
HB 2051: The "Don't Say Gay" Bill would prohibit the teaching of sexual orientation in public schools. (Pending future action)
Youngblood said the chapter in Missouri will give a voice to Secular individuals afraid go public.
"People are… afraid to make it known they are a nontheist… It's equivalent on many levels to coming out gay."
Youngblood's 28-minute audio interview heard on Missourinet.
The interviewer asked Youngblood if she felt the Secular Coalition is fighting an uphill battle and she said, "It's definitely a challenge" and "non-theists have little political clout because we haven't been organized." She also said we are seeing the most outrages legislation from the states and that is why we are starting chapters in the various states.
In the interview, she said 23% of Missouri residences do not express a belief in God and 41% disagree that religion is important in their lives. She adds a great deal of Missourians believe Church and State should be separate.
The interviewer asked how she gets around preventing him from practicing his freedom of religion and she said that Secular Coalition does not question one's freedom of religion as long as it does not infringe on the religious freedom of others. These laws, according to Youngblood, go against our secular laws and we need to put it all in perspective. The Secular Coalition does not believe the religious should get an exemption from United State's laws.
The interviewer stated the faith community is a strong force with a lot of influence in Missouri government and asked how Secular Coalition plans to equalize that. Youngblood stated that we should keep Church and State separate, but they do not plan to infringe upon people to practice their religion, but it should not be in our laws.
These chapters will train people to how to lobby and educate people on what Secularism is, teaching people that atheists do possess morals, probably similar to Christians, but "we do not believe they come from the supernatural. They come from within." They will work with legislatures on both sides of the aisle, both religious and non-religious.
The next question was "Where do Secularists find their moral compass?" She mentioned the American Humanist Association, which focuses on morality, as well as other secular groups, but many Secularists believe learn morality from their parents and are essentially born with knowledge of morality. Atheists do not believe in an afterlife, so this life is all that we have and so we want to make the most of it, which we want to make count.
She stated that Secular Coalition has experienced a lot of positive feedback and appreciation for the information they bring to others. Sometimes they even find legislators who do not believe in God either and some even realize they represent both the religious and non-religious.
Youngblood thinks the biggest task is combating the stereotypes about atheists. The Secular Coalition has identified nearly 30 members of congress who are non-theists, but the only one who came out as a non-theist was Pete Stark.
The Secular Coalition expects to have all chapters up and running in all 50 states by the end of the year. Youngblood stated that their budget consistently grows due to people becoming tired of religion constantly forced upon them and people are passionate about protecting our secular government.
According to the Secular Coalition's website, "the initial organizing call for the Secular Coalition for Missouri will be held on Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 2:00 PM ET (1:00 PM CT). Interested participants are encouraged to call in to the meeting at (530) 881-1400, Participant Access Code: 978895."
"Some of the most egregious violations of church state separation are being promoted and passed at the state level, and we absolutely must act to stop it," said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. "There are 40 million Americans who don't identify with any religion, but our political influence has been limited because we have not been organized. This year, that changes."