Humanism in the Halls of Congress: A Legislative Update

2011 is already shaping up to be one of our most challenging years yet for humanists. With new lawmakers in Congress pushing a religious and anti-progress agenda, the American Humanist Association is stepping up our advocacy efforts to ensure that the humanist voice is heard loud and clear on issues that matter most.

Your AHA staff has been connecting with Senators and Representatives and their legislative staff to raise the profile of the humanist and secular constituency. On February 7, we met with the legislative staff ofDemocratic Representative Colleen Hanabusa of the 1st Congressional District of Hawaii. A Buddhist and former labor attorney. Hanabusa was recently appointed to the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. Her initiatives include strengthening the economy, increasing the equality of public education and creating greater access to higher education, protecting the environment and ensuring accessible healthcare. The meeting began with a brief introduction about the philosophy of humanism, and its role in modern society.  Mention was then made of the concern Rep. Hanabusa’s constituents have over the use of prayer in public meetings and gatherings, and concluded with an open invitation for the American Humanist Association to assist Rep. Hanabusa in any future initiatives..

AHA also met with the offices of Democratic Delaware Representative John Carney on February 22 . Jenny Cane, Carney’s senior legislative assistant, acknowledged Rep. Carney’s budget concerns, and the ways severe budget cuts may affect the social programs supported by Carney’s constituents and humanists alike. Rep. Carney served for over 20 years in Delaware’s public service sector before going on to work towards creating green technologies.  He’s also a wellness advocate, voicing the health concerns of Delaware residents and encouraging the fight against cancer and teen smoking.

AHA director of development Maggie Ardiente has met with Senators Patty Murray (WA), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Udall (CO) and Chris Coons (DE) to represent the humanist constituency and express concern about issues such as the need for protecting women’s choice and funding for science and technology growth.

The AHA continues to work in coalition with interfaith groups to further humanist causes. The AHA is the only active secular group participating in the Washington Interreligious Staff Council (WISC), which brought together faith and nonfaith organizations on February 18 to address the budget crisis. The AHA represents the nontheist perspective as member of WISC and doesn’t sign on to any letters that implies we’re a “faith based” group.

The AHA has also signed on to several coalition statements, including:

  • The DC Voting Rights Coalition, to urge the vote against any bill that would impose Congress’ views on the District of Columbia
  • The International Committee Against Executions and Stoning, on recognizing “Sakine Ashtiani Mohammadi Day,” a woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for having an ‘illicit affair’
  • The Global Health Council, to meet critical health needs in the poorest countries by funding global health accounts
  • The Advancement Project, to endorse the position paper Federal Policy, ESEA Reauthorization, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline, which addresses the need to improve school performance and increase educational opportunities for children, especially students of color and students with disabilities

As 2011 moves forward, the American Humanist Association will continue to represent the humanist worldview and lend support to our most important upcoming battles for freedom and equality.