Iowa Governor’s Outreach to Secular Voters: Preach to Them in Church

For Immediate Release: November 3, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

Iowa governor Terry Branstad said in a video posted to YouTube today that nonreligious Americans should be preached to and pressured by parents to attend church in order to be involved in politics.

In the video, Justin Scott of Eastern Iowa Atheists asks the governor how to bring secular and religiously unaffiliated Americans into the political process. Rather than explaining how best to appeal to the concerns of secular voters, Gov. Branstad said, “I think we need to lead by example. It’s like, you know, taking our children to church and preaching [to] them to get involved.”

When Scott points out that nonreligious Americans don’t attend church, implying that they likely cannot be brought into the process that way, Gov. Branstad responds, “But that’s the reason parents need to try to provide some leadership and encourage [church attendance].”

“Proselytizing and church sermons are not how you engage secular Americans in politics — it’s how you alienate them,” said Cody Hashman, an Iowa native and organizer of the Center for Inquiry’s Openly Secular campaign. “What nones and nonbelievers need is to be recognized and respected by their representatives. Secular Americans deserve an equal voice in our political process, and their values and concerns need to be taken seriously by our leaders and institutions.”

“For a sitting governor to assert that church and religious belief are the way into political involvement is deeply disappointing. As an Iowan, I would hope our governor would look to connect with his secular constituents, not convert them,” said Hashman. “Don’t preach to us, governor. Reach out to us.”

Openly Secular is a campaign by the Center for Inquiry aimed at eliminating discrimination and increasing acceptance of atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and other nonreligious people, by encouraging secular people to be open about their beliefs. Celebrities who have spoken on behalf of the campaign include NFL star Arian Foster, former congressman Barney Frank, comedian Bill Maher, actor John de Lancie, entertainer John Davidson, and Wu-Tang affiliated rapper Killah Priest.

Openly Secular Day will take place on November 15, when secular Americans will be encouraged to “Tell One Person” and foster positive dialogue with friends and neighbors to combat the stigma against nonbelievers.

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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