Not Obama himself -- apparently atheists don't rate direct presidential contact -- but unnamed "administration officials" will meet with the Secular Coalition of America.
The coalition's board includes such controversy magnets as authors Salman Rushdie ("The Satanic Verses") and Christopher Hitchens ("God Is Not Great"), as well as Michael Newdow, the Sacramento, Calif., doctor who argued against allowing the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court, but didn't prevail.When I read the headline, I wasn't particularly thrilled. I'm extremely skeptical of any group claiming to represent atheists -- since we are so diverse and only all agree on the no gods proposition. It really irritates me when atheists as a whole are seen or portrayed as just another left-wing lobbying group -- since there are a significant minority such as myself who are definitely not on the left. With that in mind, I was somewhat happier after reading the details -- and when I saw Hitchens name. The agenda for the meeting covers three topics, two of which I can give my whole-hearted support to the Secular Coalition, and partial support on the third. Particularly this one:
Coalition members plan to use Friday's meeting to advocate closing federal loopholes in the law that governs medical neglect. They say that officials in any state should be able to remove sick children who need medical treatment from homes in which parents believe in faith healing as easily as they could intervene on behalf of other children.Although I believe in parental rights,I don't think those rights should extend to letting children die because religious superstition prevents medical treatment. The coalition also opposes "faith-based" government funding, as do I. Finally, the Secular Coalition will raise the issue of proselytizing in the military.
coalition activists have concerns about proselytizing in the military and a rise in the military's evangelical culture. They want the Department of Defense to give protected-class status to nonbelievers, as it does to members of minority religions.That sounds like a bad idea. Non-belief is not a religion and should not be treated as such. What we do need to do is to make it clear and unmistakable that coercion cannot be used to push religion, or favor one religion over another within the military.