View photos from this event at the bottom of this post.
Yesterday the American Humanist Association and the Center for Freethought Equality (the AHA’s 501c4 sister organization) held our first ever congressional reception on Capitol Hill where local humanists met with members of Congress and their staffs. The event was the final event of a busy legislative year for the AHA, holding briefings in the House and Senate about the current state of international religious freedom and lobbying on church-state separation, education reform, LGBTQ rights, women’s health, and humanist chaplaincy.
The event was also an opportunity to present members of Congress with awards for their leadership on specific issue areas. Awardees for this year’s reception included Representative James “Jim” Himes (D-CT), who received the Science Advocate Award for his work with the AHA in introducing the Darwin Day Resolution, and Representative Joseph Pitts (R-PA), who received the International Religious Freedom Advocate Award for his work on H. Res. 290, which seeks to overturn blasphemy laws in countries where they exist.
The awardees spoke at length about the importance of civil discourse in American politics and about how working together with people of different religious beliefs or of no belief is the key to legislative success. Rep. Pitts, in a statement released before the event, hit on this theme by stating that “people of every faith and people of no faith at all can and should come together to protect human rights.”
The bipartisan nature of the event signified the growing influence of the humanist movement in all sectors of political society, be they progressive or conservative. With that growing influence comes the power to effect real change on a variety of issues, including but not limited to church-state separation and the role of religion in politics. While Congress may be gridlocked on a number of important issues affecting the American people, the ability of the humanist movement to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle means that we can be part of the effort to help Congress be productive and stop the pointless partisan bickering.
Congress is due to begin the holiday recess within the next few days, but the American Humanist Association will continue working to increase our presence on Capitol Hill and to help ensure that our nation’s public policy and laws reflect humanist values.
Bishop McNeill of the Center for Freethought Equality presents Rep. Joseph Pitts with the International Religious Freedom Advocate Award
Rep. Joseph Pitts’ plaque
Rep. Joseph Pitts delivers remarks
Matthew Bulger presents Rep. Jim Himes with the Science Advocate Award
Rep. Jim Himes’ plaque
Rep. Jim Himes’ delivers remarks
AHA Development & Communications Director Maggie Ardiente & Demos Policy Analyst Juhem Navarro-Rivera
AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt speaks with staffers from Congressional offices
Staffers from Congressional offices attend the reception
Muhammad Syed of Ex-Muslims of North America speaks with reception attendees