Congressional Freethought Caucus

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Congressional
Freethought Caucus
Co-ChairsJared Huffman and Jamie Raskin
FoundedApril 25, 2018
IdeologySecularism
Progressivism
Modern liberalism
Social democracy
Political positionLeft-wing
National affiliationDemocratic Party
Colors     Blue
Seats in the Senate
0 / 100
Seats in House Democratic Caucus
10 / 193
Seats in the House
10 / 435

The Congressional Freethought Caucus is a membership organization within the United States House of Representatives, which was established in April 2018 to foster science and reason-based solutions and to defend the secular character of government. The caucus was begun by Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), and Dan Kildee (D-MI). Reps. Huffman and Raskin co-chair the caucus.[1] Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) also announced her membership in the caucus.[2]

History[edit]

The CFC was formed in 2018 by 4 members of the United States House of Representatives: US Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), and Dan Kildee (D-MI). House member Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) joined soon after.

The caucus was established in reaction to the influence of religion, especially that of the Christian right, in public policy making in ways that the founders of the caucus deem inappropriate in a secular government. Such influence is seen as hampering effective and appropriate responses to issues ranging from climate change to gun violence. While Huffman has identified as a humanist without a God belief, he has indicated that the caucus is open to religious members as well who support the use of science and reason and who defend a secular government.[3] The American Humanist Association, the Secular Coalition for America, and the Center for Freethought Equality were involved in "helping establish the caucus" by consultation.[4][5]

Former House of Representatives historian Ray Smock and historian of science and religion Stephen Weldon have noted what they see as the unique and historic nature of this caucus. Smock says it hearkens back to the Enlightenment ideas from the founding of the nation, and Weldon points out the political liability of being non-religious.[2] Raskin called the caucus formation "historic", while Huffman stated the Caucus would "help spark an open dialogue about science and reason-based policy".[6]

By September 2018, the caucus had expanded by four more members and had been active in opposing the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States.[7]

List of Chairs[edit]

Term start Term end Chair(s)
2018 Present Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02) & Jamie Raskin (MD-8)

House members[edit]

All members are members of the Democratic Party or caucus with the Democratic Party. In the 115th Congress, there are currently 5 declared Progressives, including 5 voting Representatives.

Goals when established[edit]

  • To promote public policy formed on the basis of reason, science, and moral values
  • To protect the secular character of our government by adhering to the strict Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state
  • To oppose discrimination against atheists, agnostics, humanists, seekers, religious and nonreligious persons, and to champion the value of freedom of thought and conscience worldwide
  • To provide a forum for members of Congress to discuss their moral frameworks, ethical values, and personal religious journeys[8]

The Congressional Freethought Caucus was unveiled by Rep. Jared Huffman during the Secular Coalition for America's annual awards dinner in Washington, DC. The Secular Coalition for America released a statement applauding the founding members of the caucus; "The formation of a Congressional Freethought Caucus is a milestone moment for nonreligious Americans in our continued struggle for inclusion in the political process and recognition as a constituency. We are living in a time when one-quarter of Americans identify as nonreligious and yet, despite these demographic changes, our community is still disparaged, stigmatized, and underrepresented in elected offices at every level of government. By proudly and unapologetically standing up for the nonreligious, these Members of Congress have struck a powerful blow against the de facto religious test that keeps so many secular Americans from seeking public office." [9]

Coordinator of the Freethought Equality Fund Political Action Committee, Ron Millar, who participated in planning the caucus, stated specific aims the aforementioned PAC "wants to see", including "action against climate change"; "access to contraception and abortion"; and "maintaining" the Johnson Amendment (which establishes that tax-exempt non-profits like religious organizations cannot endorse political candidates), among others.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Manchester, Julia. "Dem lawmakers launch 'Freethought' congressional caucus". The Hill. News Communication. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b Diep, Francie. "Is It Just an 'Atheist Club'? Inside the House of Representatives' New Freethought Caucus". Pacific Standard. The Social Justice Foundation. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Representative Jared Huffman on the Congressional Freethought Caucus". C-Span. National Cable Satellite Corporation. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  4. ^ Blankley, Bethany. "New Congressional Freethought Caucus Created to promote Atheistic policies". The Hayride. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Secular Coalition for America on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  6. ^ Richardson, Bedford. "Atheists establish 'Freethought' congressional caucus". The Washington Times. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Congressional Freethought Caucus expands rapidly". Freedom from Religion Foundation. Archived from the original on 26 September 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Reps. Huffman, Raskin, McNerney, & Kildee Launch Congressional Freethought Caucus". Jared Huffman: US Congressman. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Nontheists Applaud The Announcement of a Congressional Freethought Caucus - Secular Coalition for America". Secular Coalition for America. 2018-04-25. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  10. ^ Diep, Francie. "IS IT JUST AN 'ATHEISTS' CLUB'? INSIDE THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES' NEW FREETHOUGHT CAUCUS". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 14 May 2018.