Secular Voices Meet with Congress for Secular Coalition for America’s Lobby Day
This Atheist Day (March 23rd of each year) atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, and more geared up to speak with their Senators and Representatives as constituents concerned about recent ethics scandals and passionate for court reform. The Secular Coalition for America (SCA) orchestrated their 2023 Lobby Day on a cloudy and rainy day in Washington, DC—quite apt for participants who traveled from across the country to clear up a few things and advocate for more light to shine on the inner workings of one of the nation’s highest institutions.
Confidence in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is diminishing. According to Gallup, Americans’ disapproval of (SCOTUS) is in fact the highest ever recorded, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade signaling a significant tipping point for the demise in measured attitude. As much of SCOTUS justices’ activities are not beholden to formal ethic laws or reporting requirements, the revelation of “Operation Higher Court”—a coordinated effort by the religious right to find Christian nationalism a comfortable and welcoming home in SCOTUS—is justifiably alarming considering the court must remain secular and nonpartisan.
The remedy? The Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act (SCERT). Constituents spoke with members’ offices about the provisions of the bill, which include: 1) establishing a code of conduct for SCOTUS justices; 2) instituting minimum gift, travel, and income disclosure requirements, at a minimum in line with standards members of Congress are already beholden to; and 3) enforcing specific circumstances where recusal from a case would be required.
As they have just recently been reintroduced, the bills currently have three cosponsors in the House and thirteen cosponsors in the Senate. Last year, those numbers climbed to sixty-six and fifteen, respectively, after conversations with offices similar to the ones had at SCA’s lobby day this year proved how important this piece of legislation is for democracy in the United States. Member offices indicated support of the provisions of the bill, alongside other similar pieces of legislation aimed at SCOTUS ethics reform. They also considered invitations by SCA participants to proclaim their support for the separation of church and state by joining the Congressional Freethought Caucus (CFC).
SCA’s Executive Director Steven Emmert said, “We were delighted that people came from as far as California to advocate for better government, specifically at the Supreme Court where the lack of transparency has become unacceptable. Advocacy is not a spectator sport and on Lobby Day, everyone got in the game.”
The importance of continually drumming up support for policy goals cannot be dismissed, because steps pointing towards success—no matter how minute—do materialize. While certainly falling short of all the critical reforms detailed in SCERT, new regulations announced just last week would require SCOTUS justices and federal judges to be disclose trips, meals, and gifts.
It is so important for members of Congress to not only just know about the existence of their secular constituents, but of course, also what these constituents care about and where their values lie. If you couldn’t make SCA’s Lobby Day this year, you can still show your support for SCERT and the separation of church and state by visiting our Humanist Action Headquarters. Take just two minutes now to reach out to your elected officials in Congress to tell them to support transparency, accountability, and fairness in our judicial system—and tell your Representative to help protect the separation of church and state by becoming a Congressional Freethought Caucus member.