FFRF, other secular groups host first congressional Reason Reception with wit and humor 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Secular Coalition for America and the American Humanist Association were proud to host the inaugural congressional Reason Reception at Capitol Hill on May 1. A video recording of the event may be accessed here.

Coinciding with the National Day of Reason (annually on May 4) and the Secular Week of Action, the reception celebrated the invaluable role of reason in public policy and honored the enduring legacy of our nation’s Founder Thomas Paine, who wrote “The Age of Reason” and strongly supported the concept of separation of church and state during the country’s establishment. The event featured the wit and wisdom of secular advocates and members of Congress and served as a strong contrast to the doom and gloom and victimization that is pervasive in Christian nationalist circles.

The reception was attended by the co-chairs of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, Reps. Jamie Raskin and Jared Huffman, Congressional Freethought Caucus member Rep. Greg Casar and numerous congressional staffers, community members and secular and religious activists.

Huffman, who addressed the standing-room only event, called the reception a “counterweight to the National Prayer Breakfast.” Casar, who also spoke, said he was “sent here from my constituents in Texas because we badly need help back home here at the federal level fighting to make sure we are working on inclusion and kindness and helping people and not relying on old theocratic ideas in order to bully people.”

Raskin later added his words of wisdom.

“Our people have had it with conspiracy theories, disinformation, fake news and propaganda. It’s time to stand up strong for reason, science and Enlightenment values,” he remarked. “I was delighted to attend the inaugural congressional Reason Reception with my friend, the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, Congressman Jared Huffman, as well as the Secular Coalition for America, Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association. With democracy under siege, we’re putting truth, critical thinking and common sense back on the public agenda.”

Attendees enjoyed the program, preceded and ending with socializing and refreshments and packed with insightful discourse, wit and humor. Doug Lindner, a democracy advocate for a major environmental rights group, kicked off the event. “When I was asked to speak here tonight, I hesitated. I thought about it and I prayed. And something miraculous happened. It was a rainy day and the gray skies parted over H Street, and from betwixt the clouds a mighty pillar of fire descended from the heavens, and touched down outside my window. And from the pillar of fire, I heard the deafening ethereal voice of the Almighty himself. The Lord spoke to me and he said, ‘Thou shall go forth and join your friends in the mockery of Mike Johnson.’”

Attendees had the pleasure of hearing speaker Kate Cohen, Washington Post contributing columnist and author of “We Of Little Faith,” deliver a keynote address, where she warned about the “elevation of religious belief above other kinds of belief” and the “increasing willingness to ignore our country’s foundational dividing line between government and religion.”

Three awards channeling Thomas Paine’s writings were bestowed.

“We are proud to present tonight three annual Freethought awards in Thomas Paine’s honor,” Huffman announced. “The awards will recognize the brightest luminaries of Paine’s legacy, and we’ll also call out one individual who exemplifies everything Thomas Paine opposed.”

Casar from Texas’ 35th District presented the Age of Reason Award to Texas state Rep. James Talarico. “I am so proud that our members voted overwhelmingly to give the award to a rising star in Texas Politics,” Casar stated, adding that Talarico “is a theologian against theocracy.” As award recipient Talarico has put it in fighting theocratic Texas bills: “There is nothing Christian about Christian nationalism. From the schoolhouse to the statehouse, Christian nationalists are gaining power and pushing legislation to take away our freedoms — perverting Christianity and subverting democracy.”

Huffman from California’s 2nd District introduced the Common Sense Award, which is dedicated to someone who has stood up for reason, secularism, science and state/church separation. Huffman announced that Rev. William Barber who, “has been for years an outspoken critic of Christian nationalism,” would receive the honor. “He refers to it as a well-funded, coordinated political movement that has co-opted his faith tradition and exploits so-called traditional values to undermine democracy and divide people across the land,” Huffman said.

Kate Cohen in announcing the Uncommon Nonsense Award prefaced her remarks by noting it was a “crowded field that includes Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker, with an opinion citing God 40 times.” But, Cohen added, “There’s still a clear winner. This year it goes to a man who has said that God put him in the job to which American citizens elected him, that his position on every issue can be found in the bible, that America is a Christian nation, and that ‘separation of church and state’ is a ‘misnomer’: My speaker of the House and yours, Mike Johnson.”

FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor were in attendance. In brief welcoming remarks, Gaylor praised Raskin and Huffman for annually introducing a resolution declaring May 4 the National Day of Reason, countering the official National Day of Prayer taking place the first Thursday of May. Gaylor recounted FFRF’s court battle to overturn the congressional law, which it won at the district level, but was thrown out on standing. “Nevertheless the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional,” she concluded.

Given the success of this year’s event, the secular community plans to return the following year on Wednesday, April 30, to celebrate the next congressional Reason Reception.

About the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wis., with members from all 50 states. The organization promotes the constitutional principle of separation of state and church and educates the public on matters relating to nontheism.

About the Secular Coalition for America:
The Secular Coalition for America is an advocacy organization representing secular Americans. Its mission is to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints in the United States and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government.

About the American Humanist Association:
The American Humanist Association works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which — without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces — encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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