August 2018 Office of Public Policy Update


September 1, 2018

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In August 2018, CFI’s Office of Public Policy engaged policymakers on the following issues:

Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court – Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation would be the biggest blow to church/state separation in decades, so opposing his nomination was front and center for OPP’s efforts during the month of August. We met with numerous Senators, including some potential swing votes, to express our concern, and we sent several action alerts (view the latest here) urging supporters to contact their Senators. CFI’s OPP will continue to oppose him relentlessly, and we need you to do the same.

Pennsylvania Catholic Church’s Child Sex Abuse Scandal – A report by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury exposed the horrific enabling and covering up of hundreds of sex crimes by Catholic priests over seven decades. Sadly, most of the victims are prevented by the statute of limitations from seeking justice for these crimes. CFI sent an action alert urging our Pennsylvania supporters to request that their state representatives amend the relevant laws so that the victims can see justice done.

Religious Discrimination – In yet another effort to allow religious belief to exempt one from the law of the land, the Trump Department of Labor issued a directive that would allow government contractors to religiously discriminate, giving them a free pass on the anti-discrimination laws that apply in all other circumstances. OPP contributed to a CFI press release decrying this egregious weaponization of religious privilege.

Some Good News – Separately, OPP has been meeting with members of Congress to educate them on the harms of an amendment that would give religious foster care and adoption services—you guessed it—a license to discriminate against LGBTQ children and same-sex partners. Our efforts paid off, first in the form of a letter (PDF) from 40 Senators opposing the amendment, then in a final Senate spending bill that does NOT include the amendment! There’s another step in the process before Congress can pass the spending bill into law, so OPP will remain vigilant.

Scientific Integrity at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Borrowing a line from the tobacco industry playbook, the Trump EPA proposed a “transparency” regulation that would ban the types of data that inform many of our environmental protections. The ban would apply retroactively, which means that existing regulations that have been proven to save lives would be invalidated. On behalf of CFI, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, OPP submitted a public comment explaining why the proposed regulation is bunk.

School Vouchers – OPP joined other member organizations of the National Coalition for Public Education in a letter (PDF) urging the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget to close a loophole that allows people in eleven states to turn a tax profit from their donation to private school voucher programs. (78 percent of private school students attend religious schools.) On August 23, Treasury proposed a regulation that would close the loophole. OPP will continue to monitor this issue as the rule is finalized in the coming months.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.