Why is FFRF announcing this campaign now?
We think the timing is perfect with the presidential primaries heading South and candidates pandering to Bible Belt voters. While the media focuses relentlessly on religious and minority voting groups, we need to inform them that secular voters are actually the largest-growing minority group in America.
Do you see secular voters lining up behind any particular candidate? And would they ever support a Republican?
Our recent survey of 8,000 secular voters shows that they are highly independent and would be open to any candidate who acknowledges them as a group and commits to keeping religion out of government. Seventy percent decline to affiliate themselves with one of the major political parties and more than 20 percent identify as independents.
While it's true that the largest group of seculars (36 percent) call themselves progressives or liberals, candidates from all sides of the political spectrum should be reaching out to this growing group of potential voters.
How do you reach secular voters since they aren't in churches or other easy-to-find places?
In today's digitally connected world, you don't need to go to a church to reach voters. Millions of secular voters are engaging on social media and we are reaching out to them through our campaign. We are also involving our 23,500 members and 20 chapters across the country and connecting with secular student groups on college campuses.
What do you recommend candidates do to reach these voters?
Secular voters are now the largest untapped voting demographic and candidates shouldn't be afraid to openly ask for our vote. The first thing would be to acknowledge our importance as a group, which no candidate has done yet.
Visiting college campuses provides a great opportunity for candidates to connect with thousands of young Millennial voters who are leading the drive away from religion in America. Candidates should regularly acknowledge that the nonreligious (who are a quarter of the adult U.S. population and a third of Millennials) are valued citizens and a part of the American fabric. They should be clear about their commitment to the separation of church and state. They should also talk about solutions to issues that these voters are concerned about, such as women's rights, contraceptive and abortion rights, marriage equality and climate change.
Some say secular voters and organizations are too fractured in their efforts to have a big impact. What are you doing to get others to join you in these efforts?
Ninety-seven percent of the members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation are registered voters. They are politically engaged and should not be taken for granted. However, our movement certainly needs to do more to define the common issues of secular voters and to encourage secular candidates to run for political office.
But we also need to remind the mainstream media to cover our concerns. The message of our campaign is very positive and fits in with the goals that other secular groups are trying to accomplish leading up to and during the June 4, 2016 Reason Rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This is all about voter engagement and education, and we will certainly be aligning our messages and efforts with the other groups as part of these efforts.
What is your position on candidates who profess that belief in a higher deity is relevant or necessary to running for public office?
While FFRF is nonpartisan and doesn't endorse or oppose individual candidates, we can point out that statements like those could be very damaging to a candidate in the general election. The number of religiously unaffiliated adults in America has grown by nearly 20 million since the last time we had an open presidential seat. Secular voters now outnumber most traditional religious demographics and we could swing the election if we vote in big enough numbers.
Where will your ads run and how much are you planning on spending on the campaign?
We don't release our ad budgets. However, we can tell you that we have TV ads starting to run on MSNBC, some billboard messages going up this spring and around the time of the political conventions, and a paid digital media campaign to help make our "I'm Secular and I Vote" message go viral.