Monday, November 24, 2008

Secular Platform for the United States of America

By rooting our laws and government actions in universal, rather than religion-specific, values, we show respect for equal protection before the law for all citizens, including those who dissent from current religious orthodoxy.

  • Federal, state, and local government officials, starting with president, should affirm their oath of office without a bible. The Chief Justice should recite the presidential oath exactly as it appears in the constitution without appending any religious comments.

  • Remove the words “so help me God” from civilian government and military oaths of office and from the Oath of Allegiance for Naturalized Citizens. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service should provide full instructions regarding the right to affirm the oath and deleting the phrase “So help me God“ on the U.S. citizenship application form and during the naturalization ceremony.

  • The White House and Congress should refrain from turning religious holiday celebrations into government sponsored events. For example, during the Winter Holiday the White House can either sponsor a “Winter Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony” or no tree lighting ceremony. The White House Easter Egg Roll can become a holiday egg roll or be ended.

  • Require churches require to file tax returns annually on the same terms as other 501(3) non-profit organizations.

  • A clearer definition of how to measure lobbying activity for compliance with the 501(c)(3) organization lobbying restriction is needed. For example, the existing expenditure test can be combined with a time test for lobbying activity and this single standard applied to all 501(c)(3) organizations.

  • Require religious non-profits to create a separate corporate structure to receive government funding under the Faith Based Initiative. Require accounting systems and firewalls that separate government dollars from funds that support religious activities. Require a clear separation in time and location between government funded-social welfare activities and an organization's religious activities.

  • Remove the words “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance law. Replace the national motto “In God We Trust” with a religiously neutral motto.

  • End government subsidies and grants to membership organizations that restrict membership based on religious creed, including monotheism, such as the Boy Scouts of America. Judicially enforce anti-discrimination laws and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibition against such federal support.

  • The Congressional Chaplaincy is a deviation from “the immunity of religion from civil jurisdiction”, which James Madison called “a favorite principle with me” in an 1822 letter to Edward Livingston, and should be eliminated.

  • Add a comparative religion course that covers polytheistic religions and philosophical naturalism to high school curriculums. Require high schools students to study the United States constitution, including the main text, the bill or rights and the subsequent amendments.

  • The teaching of the “evidence against evolution” is incompetent as there is no scientific evidence that evolution has not occurred. Prevent religiously motivated attempts to teach “scientific creationism,” “intelligent design,” and other non-scientific conjectures as valid scientific theories. These beliefs ignore empirical data and fail to provide testable hypothesis.

  • Require that medical prescriptions be filled without delay. If a pharmacist has a personal objection to filling a legal prescription, the law should require that it be filled immediately by another pharmacist. Refusal to fill legal prescriptions should be valid legal justification for firing pharmacists.

  • Congress does not have the right to tell federal courts they cannot hear cases dealing with the freedoms protected in the Bill of Rights. Court stripping bills such as H.R. 699, the so-called "Pledge Protection Act of 2007," threaten the separation of powers and undermine the function of the federal courts to interpret the law.

  • The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) unfairly privilege certain religious sects over the rest of society and imposes federal authority on purely local issues. At a minimum, modify RFRA and RLUIPA so that if a religious practice is deemed safe and appropriate to qualify as an exemption under a law then that exemption is also made available to all Americans in similar situations.

  • U.S. passports, money, and other documents should not be printed with religious statements or quotes.

  • Choose an Attorney General, Solicitor General and, if necessary, Supreme Court Justices who demonstrate a healthy respect for the Establishment Clause.

  • State should prevent and prosecute child sex abuse without any exemptions or exceptions for religious communities and individuals.

  • Laws that unfairly privilege religious groups in local zoning conflicts should be revoked.

  • Ensure that Employers can legally prohibit religious proselytizing in the workplace, prohibit religious condemnations of co-workers, and prohibit inserting religion into secular workplace practices and activities.

  • Workers and volunteers at federally medical and research facilities should serve all patients. Do not allow refusals to serve patients for reasons of personal “conscience” to become legal justification for discriminating against some patients.

  • The Department of Defense should improve chaplain training to make it clearer that chaplains must respect religious diversity and must not defame soldiers for having opposing beliefs. The DOD should ensure that its EEO offices are prepared to defend atheist soldiers against defamation and discrimination. Implement effective internal controls and corrective actions to ensure that all military institutions provide a climate of religious tolerance for all staff and soldiers, including those who profess minority faiths and beliefs or disbeliefs.

  • Revoke the global gag rule requiring all entities that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortion services in other countries.

  • Give same-gender couples the legal contract rights of marriage.

  • Sexuality education for teenagers should be as comprehensive as necessary to be most effective. Abstinence, contraceptives and barrier methods should all be discussed.

  • The Dickey-Wicker Amendment restricts federally-funded stem cell research. President George W. Bush executive order prevents federal funds from being used for research on stem cell lines that have been obtained from embryos after August 9, 2001. Revoke both restrictions. In their place the laws should require informed consent from the egg and sperm donors, guarantees of no financial or other personal incentive to donate, that any health risks associated with the harvesting of the eggs is minimized, and embryos created for research purposes must not be grown further than necessary for obtaining stem cells.

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