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“Nones” get their own caucus in Congress

U.S. CAPITOL

By kropic1 | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 05/08/18

Congressional Freethought Caucus established as Pew notes 23 percent of US population are unbelievers

Aside from Republicans, Democrats, and a couple of Independents, the United States Congress has several caucuses or coalitions, groups that are formed around particular interests and meet regularly to discuss policy goals. Formally, they are known as congressional member organizations (CMOs)

There are CMOs focusing on ideologies, such as the Congressional Progressive Caucus or the Blue Dog Coalition.

There are racial CMOs, such as the Congressional Black Caucus or the Congressional Hispanic Conference.

And there are special interest CMOs, such as the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus or the Climate Solutions Caucus.

Now, with the growth of atheism and agnosticism in America, a few members of Congress have formed a CMO to advance the interest of the so-called “Nones,” people who have no particular religious affiliation. It is called the Congressional Freethought Caucus.

The Pew Research Center has documented a sharp rise in the percentage of “nones”—from about 16 percent of the population in 2007 to nearly 23 percent in 2014. That’s significant enough for Ron Millar, political and PAC coordinator at the Center for Freethought Equality, to feel that Nones should have their own CMO.

“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,” 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 atheists, agnostics, and humanists to consider runs for political office, he said.

The Congressional Freethought Caucus was founded by four representatives, all Democrats: Jared Huffman of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Jerry McNerney of California and Dan Kildee of Michigan. It will be chaired by Huffman and Raskin, who are humanists, believing that people can find morality and meaning without belief in God. McNerney and Kildee are Catholics.

Raskin said in a statement the caucus comes as “we face a constant undertow in Congress of dangerous efforts to stifle science and promote official religious dogma and orthodoxy,” according to Religion News Service.

RNS said the goals of the new caucus include:

  • Promoting public policy based on reason, science and moral values
  • Protecting the secular character of U.S. government and the separation of church and state
  • Opposing discrimination against atheists, agnostics, humanists, seekers, religious and nonreligious persons
  • And providing a forum for members of Congress to discuss their “moral frameworks, ethical values, and personal religious journeys.”

RNS noted that the Center for Freethought Equality and the American Humanist Association were part of the meetings to outline the goals for the caucus.

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