On February 26, 2010 was a historic first: the first time any Presidential staffers ever met with members of a secularist lobbying group. It was the Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying group supported by several secularist organizations, from American Atheists to Camp Quest to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers to the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
They had three main concerns:
- Protecting Children from Neglect and Abuse as a result of exempting religious organizations from the standards applied to other organizations. A certain Liz Heywood has suffered from a long-running bone infection that led to a leg amputation, all because her Christian-Scientist parents believed that the physical world is an illusion, that disease is really false beliefs, and that materialist medicine is worthless. She was unable to show up, so a SCA staffer read a statement from her.
- Ending Military Proselytizing, including coercing or pressuring soldiers to attend religious services.
- Fixing Faith-Based Initiatives; ensuring that religious organizations that receive Federal funding for secular activities not discriminate or proselytize, and that secular alternatives to them be available.
The details of the meeting were kept private, but a SCA staffer stated that that meeting went “very, very well”, and that the SCA’s members were “encouraged by the reception we got today” and that they hope to be invited back for follow-up discussions.
Not surprisingly, some religious activists were livid. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was outraged at Obama staffers’ meeting with the “biggest anti-religious zealots in the nation,” and In God We Trust’s Chairman Bishop Council Nedd was equally outraged at those staffers’ meeting with “activists representing some of the most hate-filled, anti-religious groups in the nation.”
As an aside, Christian Scientists often have difficulty in practicing what they preach about treating the physical world as an illusion. Mary Baker Eddy herself wore glasses and she took laudanum. Isaac Asimov once heard a low rumbling noise on Sunday mornings, which he tracked down to the air conditioner of a nearby Christian Science church. He laughed long and loud at how the church’s members were so unwilling to convince themselves that they are not really overheated, thus making that air conditioner unnecessary.
- Obama aides to meet with atheists on White House grounds | McClatchy
- No word on substance of White House meeting with atheists | McClatchy
- Update: The Secular Coalition for America’s Briefing with the Obama Administration – Hemant Mehta’s blog