Secular groups concerned about Biden religious rhetoric

Secular Biden concerned

Secular groups have praised some of the decisions Joe Biden has made. But, they are concerned the administration’s idea of interfaith outreach may tend to exclude nonbelievers.

Non-religious groups have celebrated several of the new President’s actions. These include rescinding a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military; rejoining the Paris climate accords; and reversing the “Mexico City policy,” (this bars federal funds to foreign aid groups that provide abortion counselling to their clients.)

But it is Biden’s words that have rankled many in the secularist community, particularly his habit of infusing many important decisions and ceremonies with faith.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), said her inbox was “flooded with complaints” from her group’s 30,000 members the day before the Presidential inauguration. Biden had included Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, in a ceremony commemorating the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died due to the pandemic caused by the coronavirus.

She noted that at the ceremony, held at the Lincoln Memorial, a nurse from Michigan offered the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace.”

“For our membership, for nonreligious and non-Christian individuals, it was utterly spoiled,” Gaylor said of the service.

Sarah Levin, program director for Secular Democrats of America, said that if prayer or invocation must be part of public celebrations secular voices should be included. “I worry that this administration’s idea of interfaith outreach may tend to exclude nonbelievers,” she said.

According to Pew Research, around 26% of Americans claim no religious affiliation.

Levin and other groups also criticized Biden’s involvement in the National Prayer Breakfast. The annual event brings politicians together with religious leaders.

Levin said she preferred that the prayer breakfast not exist at all. Still, she suggested that if Biden continues to attend, he should push organizers to invite nonreligious voices. She hoped that the nonreligious would get a mention this year.

Sen. Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat who co-chairs the breakfast, did in fact nod to the nonreligious while introducing the President.

“(Biden) is president for all Americans — Americans of faith, and Americans who practice no particular faith,” he said.

Rachel Laser who heads Americans United for Separation of Church and State said if Biden must attend the prayer breakfast, he could take the opportunity to speak out against Christian nationalist insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol last month.

“There has never been a more important moment for a president to call out white Christian nationalists who so recently tried to overturn our government, and desecrated the most sacred part of our democracy, than now,” she said.


Religion News Service

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