- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2018

The U.S. Congress now has a caucus dedicated to promoting the causes of atheists and nonbelievers.

The Congressional Freethought Caucus was established Monday by Democratic Reps. Jared Huffman and Jerry McNerney of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Dan Kildee of Michigan.

The caucus will be co-chaired by Mr. Huffman and Mr. Raskin.

“I’m thrilled to be a co-founder of the new Congressional Freethought Caucus, which will help spark an open dialogue about science and reason-based policy solutions, and the importance of defending the secular character of our government,” Mr. Huffman said in a statement. “There currently is no forum focused on these important issues, and with this administration and certain members of Congress constantly working to erode the separation of church and state, this new caucus is both important and timely.”

Mr. Raskin called the formation of the caucus “historic.”

“Two-and-a-half centuries after the Founders of our country separated church and state and guaranteed the individual freedoms of thought, conscience, speech and worship, it is a high honor to be a co-founder and member of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, which is organizing to defend these principles and values against continuing attack,” he said. “We face a constant undertow in Congress of dangerous efforts to stifle science and promote official religious dogma and orthodoxy.”

Mr. McNerney said his training as an engineer motivated to co-found a caucus that will “bring rational decision-making to Congress for the good of our nation.”

The caucus has four main goals: to promote “public policy formed on the basis of reason, science, and moral values,” to uphold “secular character of our government by adhering to the strict Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state,” to oppose “discrimination against atheists, agnostics, humanists, seekers, and nonreligious persons” and to provide “a forum for members of Congress to discuss their moral frameworks, ethical values, and personal religious journeys.”

The American Humanist Association and the Center for Freethought Equality said they were involved in the establishment of the caucus.

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA, said the formation of the Freethought caucus is a “marker of how far the movement for secular and nontheist equality has come.”

“This significant step is also a new beginning for our country as both religious and non-religious leaders work to better the nation,” Mr. Speckhardt said in a statement.

Ron Millar, political and PAC coordinator at the CFE, said the establishment of the caucus is a step toward “normalizing the participation of atheists and humanists within American politics.”

“Our democracy is impoverished, and the quality of our political candidates is diminished, if a quarter of the population is effectively banned from the electoral arena,” Mr. Millar said in a statement. “This caucus will help end discrimination against nontheist candidates and elected officials, allow candidates and elected officials to be authentic about their religious beliefs, and encourage atheist, agnostic, and humanists to run for political office.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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