Biden’s early executive orders are a breath of fresh secular air

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to welcome many of President Biden’s early actions to reverse course on measures taken by the previous administration, which FFRF had roundly opposed.

Biden’s laudable executive orders to date include:

Repealing Muslim Ban:

FFRF long argued, including before the Supreme Court, that banning individuals from entry to the United States based on religion is an egregious religious test and violation of the Establishment Clause. The orders being overturned favored Christians from those countries, exempting them from the ban and allowing them to immigrate. FFRF pointed out that if the United States can exclude Muslims, atheists and other freethinkers would be next on the list.

To make this change permanent, FFRF strongly urges Congress to pass the No BAN Act, which had more than 200 co-sponsors last year.

Rejoining the climate change accord:

FFRF’s position is that the climate crisis is a state/church issue. “It's not just the casual denial of reality that impacts views on climate change, but also the influence of apocalyptic religiosity. The virulent strain of evangelicalism that tends to infect our current government welcomes the end of this world as a fulfillment of prophecy and ‘the second coming,’” we noted in 2017. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor has been fond of saying: “The only afterlife we ought to care about is leaving our descendants and our planet a secure and pleasant future.” Ideology that denies facts and reality must not dictate public policy crucial to the survival and future of our planet.

Ordering mask-wearing on federal property: 

Speaking of formulating public policy based on facts and reality, the new administration is already living up to its promise to be guided by science, with executive orders that protect federal employees and citizens by mandating masks on federal property and in interstate travel. FFRF has been advocating for a science-based approach to the pandemic since the beginning, including no exemptions for churches.

Science-minded response to COVID pandemic: 

Several executive orders have been aimed at combating the COVID pandemic that has been handled ineptly up until this point, with religious leaders and the prior president assuring the country that the virus will “magically” disappear while they themselves actively spread the contagion, denying the advice of doctors and scientists. The new administration has organized a government-wide response and ordered that the response must be driven by data and science.

Ending the transgender military ban:

FFRF has long supported LGBTQ rights and defended them against religious bigotry and attacks. And make no mistake, the transgender military ban was directly motivated by religious bigotry. FFRF noted this when it was enacted via Tweet after it was recommended by Tony Perkins, a Christian Nationalist and president of the Family Research Council, and without first consulting military leaders. There is of course no secular justification for discriminating against service members based on their gender identity, and this order corrects a cruel and totally unnecessary harm.

Banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation:

In another instance of correcting religion-based bigotry, the new administration also set out a policy to vigorously enforce anti-discrimination provisions with respect to LGBTQ individuals. Christian Nationalists who had the ear of the prior administration have been consistently obsessed with stopping LGBTQ people from receiving equal treatment under the law. Biden has signed an executive order repealing the ban on transgendered individuals serving in the military. 

Promoting racial equality:

“Diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths,” reads the order — and FFRF agrees. The order also explains: “Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our government,” which is all true, but not the end of the story. FFRF has been working to implement equity, diversity and inclusion into our organization at all levels, from membership to staff to the alliances we forge, such as joining the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Stopping construction of the wall:

Finally, the prior administration’s most iconic project, a failed and pointless wall along the border with our southern neighbor, has been stopped, thankfully nowhere near completion (though still at great cost to American taxpayers, endangered species and the environment). The order comports with FFRF's slogan: “The only wall we need is the one between state and church."

Humanistic executive orders
Other executive orders just signed by Biden, with more to come, embody the humanism shared by many of our freethinking members, including over immigration reform and expanded food assistance programs food assistance programs. The pandemic’s blight, both in health and economics, has disproportionately landed on people of color, low-wage workers, indigent Americans and women.

Notably absent from executive orders to date are attempts to repeal the (bogus) revoking of rules prohibiting nonprofits, including churches, from wading into partisan politics, undoing the Christian Nationalist agenda allowing religion-based discrimination by federal contractors and similar acts by the prior administration. FFRF is committed to defending the wall of separation and will hold all administrations accountable for breaching that wall or for excluding nonbelievers from the American tapestry. But we also want to recognize progress and give credit where it is due.

While the Freedom From Religion Foundation has voiced reservations about the new president’s public piety and is even more concerned about the long-term damage done to the federal judiciary by the prior administration, these early executive orders are a cause for hope and celebration for those who value our secular democracy.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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