GOP Rhetoric and Party Platform Defies Humanist Values

This week the Republican National Convention is taking place at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, where yesterday Republican Party delegates nominated Donald Trump to be their candidate for president of the United States and where on Monday they adopted a platform setting the policy agenda for Republican leadership in Congress. Between the political rhetoric and party principles, the Republican Party has taken alarming positions that should concern humanists who value the separation of church and state and equality for all people.

Photo by Fred Watkins/ABC (CC BY-ND 2.0)
In his primetime speech on Monday evening, retired US Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn denounced calls for transgender equality. “War is not about bathrooms. War is not about political correctness or words that are meaningless,” Flynn said. But his comments ignore the reality of the transgender Americans who’ve served and are currently serving our country. According to estimates from the National Center for Transgender Equality, there are more than 134,000 veterans and 15,000 active military members who identify as transgender. At a delegation breakfast on Tuesday morning, former presidential candidate Ben Carson blamed “secular progressives” for making transgender equality a civil rights issue. “Anytime the secular progressives want to get people on their side...they say this is a civil rights issue,” Carson said. "But we have to be willing to stand up, we have to be willing to call out people for this absolutely ridiculous stuff that they're trying to put over on us…and [our] children.” Despite a push by Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest organization for LGBTQ Republicans, party officials rejected efforts to be inclusive of LGBTQ Americans. Rachel Hoff, the first openly gay woman to serve on the party’s platform committee, offered a modest proposal to include a statement acknowledging the LGBTQ victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida. When her proposal was rejected, Hoff asked herself, “When they refused to even do that, I thought, what do we even stand for? Why am I even here?” The party ignored lessons from last year’s widespread boycott of Indiana, prompted by Governor Mike Pence (now Trump’s vice presidential pick) signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that allowed businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples based on religious grounds. The platform endorsed the passage of the federal First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would “bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the [religious] belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” The ACLU aptly described FADA as “Indiana on steroids.” What the platform committee was eager to do was preserve the Christian privilege long established in the Republican Party. Recognizing “[a] good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry,” the platform encourages “state legislatures to offer the Bible as literature curriculum in America’s high schools” and supports “the public display of the Ten Commandments” as “a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.” The platform also urges the repeal of the Johnson Amendment. Introduced by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in 1954, the law amends the US tax code to prohibit nonprofit organizations, such as houses of worship, from engaging in political campaigning as a condition of receiving tax exemption. In an attempt to appeal to Evangelical Christians within the Republican Party, Trump held a private meeting in New York last month with prominent Christian conservatives where he promised to repeal the ban on church politicking if elected president. “I think maybe that will be my greatest contribution to Christianity—and other religions—is to allow you, when you talk religious liberty, to go and speak openly, and if you like somebody or want somebody to represent you, you should have the right to do it,” he reportedly said. While the American Humanist Association doesn’t endorse any particular political party or candidate, humanism holds that everyone—including those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community—deserves a seat at the table where their voices can be heard. The Republican Party’s increasingly extremist political rhetoric and party principles are an affront to humanist values and it must be called out.Tags: