Now that super PACs are able to spend unlimited money to influence elections, political activists of all stripes are embracing the ability to support their allies and attack their opponents. Even non-believers.
On Wednesday, the Center for Humanist Activism, which lobbies on behalf of the rights of non-religious Americans, launched a super PAC at the National Press Club in Washington. The Freethought Equality Fund will support candidates “who support the constitutional principal of church-state separation and defend the civil liberties of secular Americans,” the group announced in a press release.
“The increasing numbers of non-religious Americans now have a vibrant PAC that will be directly supporting candidates who champion the principles of secular government now so fervently under attack,” Bishop McNeill, coordinator for the new super PAC, said in a statement Wednesday. “There is a clear need to assist candidates who will challenge those looking to use the power of government to impose religious doctrines on everyone.”
At the local, state and national level, the Center for Humanist Activism, the advocacy arm of the American Humanist Association, pushes back against legislation that would impede the rights of people who are not religious. According to the center’s website, it has a permanent lobbyist on the Capitol Hill. Examples of the group’s activism given on their site include pushing back against the U.S. Naval Academy for not allowing a graduate to hold a humanist wedding in the campus chapel, or fighting the practice of beginning town meetings with prayer in Chico, Calif. The group also has a scorecard to rate how members of Congress vote on issues they say affect secular Americans.
U.S. political candidates routinely invoke their religious beliefs and often campaign in churches. The new super PAC wants to "change the face of American politics," their website says, by “increasing the number of open humanists and atheists in public office at all levels of government.” But whether politicians, even those who support policies for a stricter separation of church and state, will want to be associated with an atheist group remains to be seen.
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Though no candidates have been endorsed yet, the group also intends to back religious politicians who support the goals of the Freethought Equality Fund. “To be able to provide financial assistance to candidates who support secular government will benefit all Americans, including those who value the absence of government entanglement in religious beliefs,” said Roy Speckhardt, the super PAC’s executive director.