Political Progress for Nonreligious Americans
By David Niose
Secular Americans, long ignored in the realm of politics, are finally starting to be seen as a group to be reckoned with. In a sign of the nonreligious sector’s growing numbers and political muscle, a resolution validating the group was enthusiastically passed by the influential LGBT Caucus at the Democratic National Convention in July. The resolution recognizes the “value, ethical soundness, and importance of the religiously unaffiliated demographic” and states that the nonreligious “are a group that, as much as any other, advocates for rational public policy based on sound science and universal humanistic values.” The full resolution can be seen here.
No major party or caucus has ever so expressly acknowledged the importance of the nonreligious sector (sometimes referred to as the “Nones,” for answering “none” on surveys asking for religious affiliation). Put forward by Massachusetts Democratic activist Stephen Driscoll, the resolution calls the Nones “important partners with the LGBT community in the fight against religious privilege and religion-based discrimination, which represents the next great civil rights battle.”
Those last words are key. With claims of “religious freedom” increasingly being used by religious conservatives to deny equality to the LGBT community, the value of the nonreligious demographic, which tends to be highly skeptical of religion as a tool for discrimination, becomes apparent. As Larry Decker of the Secular Coalition for America explains, “Now that the same-sex marriage issue is resolved, the next big battle for the gay rights movement is the issue of religious privilege.”
The issue has become a top priority for Decker and the SCA (full disclosure: I sit on the SCA board) and, as the resolution shows, LGBT activists are now starting to see that the growing secular demographic helps to push back against religious conservatives who oppose LGBT equality. A weaker religious right is a natural outcome of an expanding, increasingly visible and engaged nonreligious sector. An America where being openly nonreligious is considered as ethically valid as being deeply religious, where candidates need not claim religious affiliation to impress voters, is the Christian right's worst nightmare.