Secular Priorities Front and Center in Meeting with Congressional Freethought Caucus


February 12, 2020

Federal lawmakers and leaders from the reality-based community met on Capitol Hill on Monday, February 10, when the Congressional Freethought Caucus invited secular advocacy organizations to share ideas and discuss priorities. The Center for Inquiry was there, represented by president and CEO Robyn Blumner and Director of Government Affairs Jason Lemieux.

Chaired by Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the Congressional Freethought Caucus was founded in 2018 to promote reason and science in public policy, protect the secular character of government, and defend free expression and inquiry in the United States and around the world. Six out of the 12 members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus attended the meeting. They shared their current slate of issues and efforts, which included work to build a congressional coalition to oppose the Trump administration’s discriminatory “religious freedom” regulations. 

CFI’s Jason Lemieux brought an issue of particular salience to the attention of caucus members, that of secular addiction recovery. Jason explained how support for addiction treatment options beyond religiously-grounded 12-step programs is more than just a church-state issue, but an issue of evidence-based health policy. 

A successful addiction recovery program requires that those seeking treatment feel personally invested in the approach, and Jason pointed out that a nonreligious person is less likely to connect with a program based on supernatural beliefs. Importantly, Jason showed how secular addiction recovery can have bipartisan appeal as an issue, given that it is evidence-based with high success rates and lower costs to taxpayers. 

Robyn Blumner raised the ongoing attacks on secular people by Attorney General William Barr and asked the Congressional Freethought Caucus to consider writing a letter of protest. Caucus members seemed interested in standing up for secularism in this way. They also discussed sending a letter objecting to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s exclusionary faith-based-media-only phone briefing.

A variety of other issues and ideas were raised at the meeting, including support for Illinois Democratic Rep. Sean Casten’s Preserve Science in Policymaking Act, support for a statue of founder Thomas Paine to be situated in a place of prominence in D.C., and ways to encourage more Members of Congress to join the Congressional Freethought Caucus. 

Caucus members asked the secular groups to help them add members of Congress to their ranks. You can help by getting in touch with your representatives in the House and Senate and urging them to support reason and science by joining the Congressional Freethought Caucus. If they already are members of the CFC, this is a great moment to say thank you.

# # #

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.