The Secular Coalition for America is an advocacy group representing atheists, humanists, and freethinkers in American politics. It is currently directed in Washington, D.C. by former Nevada state senator Lori Lipman Brown, who became its first full-time lobbyist in September 2005. Also on staff are associate director Ron Millar, Ph.D. and legislative associate Sasha Bartolf.
The Secular Coalition is the first lobbying organization in the United States that works to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints in the United States and to protect and strengthen the secular character of the U.S. government. The Coalition advocates that American politics espouse the complete separation of church and state, as it believes is established by the U.S. Constitution. The Coalition holds reason and science as its guiding tenets for public policy.
The mission of the Secular Coalition for America is to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints in the United States and to protect and strengthen the secular character of government as the best guarantee of freedom for all.
The Secular Coalition for America was founded in 2002 as a coalition of four U.S. secular organizations: Atheist Alliance International
, the Institute for Humanist Studies
, the Secular Student Alliance
, and the Secular Web
. In 2005 the American Humanist Association
became the Coalition's fifth member organization. The Society for Humanistic Judaism
and the Freedom From Religion Foundation
joined the Coalition in January 2006, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
in February 2007, and the American Ethical Union
in April 2008.
Coalition president Herb Silverman was a leading force behind the founding of the organization, which he viewed as a framework for cooperation among secular groups in the United States. Silverman believed that nontheistic Americans would gradually gain the respect of politicians and society if they collaborated on issues of common ground.
Board of Directors
The Secular Coalition for America Board of Directors is democratically structured. Each sponsoring member organization appoints one individual to serve as its representative director, who casts one vote on any matter considered by the Board. Officers may be associated with member organizations or may come from the wider freethought community. Current officers are Herb Silverman
, president; Bobbie Kirkhart
, vice president, organizations; Mary Ellen Sikes
, vice president, technology; Ron Solomon
, treasurer; August E. Brunsman IV
Advisors to the Secular Coalition for America are Woody Kaplan
, chair; Rob Boston
; Ed Buckner
; Richard Dawkins
; Bruce Flamm
; Sam Harris
; Christopher Hitchens
; Wendy Kaminer
; Michael Newdow
; David Niose
; Massimo Pigliucci
; Steven Pinker
; Salman Rushdie
; Ellery Schempp
; Julia Sweeney
The Secular Coalition for America addresses issues arising out of the inappropriate incursion of religion into public policy, such as government funding of religious ministries (the "Faith Based Initiative
" or "charitable choice
"); tuition vouchers
for religious schools; federally funded abstinence-only sex education
; limits to embryonic stem cell research
; Constitutional marriage protection amendments
; access to birth control
and emergency contraception
; the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
; and the Pledge Protection Act
and other court-stripping
The Coalition is particularly active in challenging discrimination against nontheists by government sponsored organizations like the Boy Scouts of America. Similarly, it works to protect service members from proselytism by military chaplains.
Elected official contest
In 2007 the Secular Coalition for America pledged a $1,000 reward to the person identifying the highest level elected official to openly acknowledge no supernatural
beliefs. The "Find an Atheist, Humanist, Freethinker Elected Official Contest" concluded with the announcement that Rep. Pete Stark
(D-Calif.), a member of the United States Congress
since 1973, held the highest office of four public servants to acknowledge a secular world view
to the Coalition after being nominated by a contestant. Stark is the first Congressional member to publicly self-identify with the freethought community.
The Secular Coalition for America publishes a Web-based Congressional scorecard rating U.S. Representatives and Senators on their roll call votes and legislative sponsorship.