- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is ‘torture’
- House GOP ready to move border bill
- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
- HAYDEN: Intelligence, evidence and the case against Russia
- Ohio university quiz implies atheists are naturally smarter than Christians
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
- Activists vow to occupy fast-food restaurants to get higher pay
- Rep. Luis Gutierrez: Senate Dems wary of immigration politics
- Summer camp for 1 percenters: Sushi, limos and shopping at FAO Schwarz
- Colorado gun crackdown law found to be built on faulty data
Congress still failing but improving on church-state issues, advocates say
Question of the Day
Congress has earned a failing grade from a secular advocacy group that, nonetheless, expresses optimism that lawmakers are learning to discern the sometimes blurred line between church and state.
“No, we’re not surprised,” said Kelly Damerow, the coalition’s director of federal affairs. “But we’re also seeing some hopeful things come out of it. Even though there are obviously Fs, we’re seeing more As and Bs than we have in the past.”
The coalition — which advocates for “non-theistic Americans” — awarded points to lawmakers based to their votes on legislation involving church-state issues. The 19 bills and amendments ranged from the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act to the Freedom to Pray Act to expanding the religious exemption of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
“This is mainly a tool to empower supporters, so they can show their representatives and senators a constituency is watching, that it is taking note and will hold them accountable,” Ms. Damerow said.
No one in Congress voted for every bill on the coalition’s slate, but some received perfect scores for the one or two pieces of legislation they voted on in alignment with the coalition’s goals. No Republicans earned straight As, but three Republican senators — Lisa A. Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan M. Collins of Maine — did earn straight Bs.
The next report card in 2011 dealt with the House, Ms. Damerow said, likely because of the mid-term elections and the surge of tea party candidates and “new push from the religious right.”
Congress didn’t pass enough laws in 2012 to warrant a report, Ms. Damerow said. Lawmakers this year also received points for sponsoring legislation because the low number of votes would have prevented grades from being compiled for a second year, she said.
The latest report card has some pieces of legislation to celebrate and others that are cause for concern, according to the coalition.
“One of our most worrisome was on the House side, H.R. 592, FEMA Funding For Churches,” Ms. Damerow said. “That one was very straightforward. It was taxpayer money to physically build the bricks and mortar of a house of worship. It didn’t have any ambiguity, it pretty directly violated the law of separation [of church and state].”
The bill passed the House in February 2013. A similar bill in the Senate was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, and referred to committee in July. Ms. Damerow said the legislation’s “broad support shocked us.”
Bishop McNeill, political coordinator for the Center for Humanist Activism, said the Secular Coalition’s report card mirrors surveys his group has taken to study the record of congressional members and the separation of church and state.
“We’re not where we want to be,” Mr. McNeill said. “But we are seeing growth.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
- No official word yet on Pope Francis visit: Archdiocese of Philadelphia
- Higher Ground: War no deterrent
- Marco Rubio: U.S. at social, moral crossroads
- Humanists hit the Hill to press for 'nontheistic' chaplains
- Humanist services lacking in the military, advocates tell Congress
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- EDITORIAL: Detroit's water 'spigot bigots'
- PRUDEN: The Democratic-wannabe mice under Hillary Clinton's feet
- Let it roll: D.C. Council hits Las Vegas on taxpayer's dime, leaves $14,000 tab
- White House readies for House GOP impeachment push: 'Foolish' to ignore
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame ready for different route to title
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq