Freethought NOW!

When will Congress invite an atheist to address joint session?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Ticket give-away underlines state/church entanglement

When can we expect Speaker of the House John Boehner to invite a prominent atheist to give a joint address before Congress?

Last year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Roman Catholics, asking them to withdraw their unprecedented invitation to the head of their own religion to address a joint session of Congress. We’ve just written Boehner another letter requesting that he invite Richard Dawkins (talk about a draw!) to provide some balance.

There’s probably no person in the world who gets more media hype than the pope, who commands more unearned respect, whose every utterance — not to mention head cold — rates front-page coverage. Why does the pope deserve the ear of our members of Congress, men and women who took an oath to uphold our secular Constitution?

FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker Photo by Brent Nicastro

The accepted invitation is creating a cascading series of other state/church entanglements. In Congress, it’s creating a cozy opportunity for outright pandering to Catholic constituents. A decision was made (apparently by Boehner) to let each member of Congress invite one guest to attend the address. According to the Miami Herald, representatives were then given an additional 52 tickets (and senators 200) for outdoor venues.

Naturally, many elected officials are choosing to give their tickets to Catholic constituents or officials. Sen. Joni Ernest, R-Iowa, gave her ticket to Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines.

“We reached out to local religious leaders and members from our community who have been calling or emailing,” said a spokeswoman Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. Slaughter gave her guest ticket to Bishop Matthew Clark, retired bishop of Rochester.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., gave her ticket, she said, to the first person to ask, a young staffer in her D.C. office who “is a proud graduate of Christopher Columbus High School in my district and is a devout Catholic.” She called the ticket “cherished and much sought after.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said his guest will be Elyria Catholic High School President Andrew Krakowiak. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, is giving a share of his tickets to each of the Catholic high schools that serve students who live in his congressional district.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Va., reportedly gave his ticket to his sister, a nun. Even Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., gave her ticket to a nun: Sister Simone (who at least was among the social justice “Nuns on the Bus”). Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will give his ticket to another nun, Sister Margarita Brewer.

You get the picture.

Naturally, the Supreme Court, with six Catholic members, will also be in attendance. This is the same court that will decide whether to take a number of cases of interest to the ceaselessly lobbying Catholic Church, such as challenges of the contraceptive mandate, the cut-off of abortions at 20 weeks and other curtailments of Roe v. Wade by state legislators, etc.

Pope Francis may be a “kinder, gentler” version of Pope Benedict, but he’s made no substantive reforms to official theocratic Catholic dogma that seeks the worldwide overthrow of legal contraception, abortion, gay rights and marriage equality. It’s unseemly that the pope will be addressing Congress as calls are escalating to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest providers of contraceptives and basic health care to women.

Boehner and Pelosi’s invitation to the pope to address Congress is an insult. It’s an affront to all nonbelievers and all non-Catholic citizens. It’s an indignity to the thousands and thousands of survivors and victims of priestly predation, who should be the guests invited to address Congress instead of the pope.

It’s a slap in the face to women, who deserve equality and the right to make their own decisions about contraception and birth control without clergy interference.

It’s a colossal putdown to gay Americans, who are told by the pope’s church that the expression of their sexuality is a sin, and that they should be denied the right to love and marry. Pelosi of all people should recognize that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is archenemy No. 1 of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, behind dozens of lawsuits challenging the law.

Most of all, the invitation is, of course, a slur on our secular Constitution.

It’s also shocking that the pope will canonize the controversial Father Junipero Serra shortly after his address to Congress. (At least this event, conferring sainthood on Serra, will take place privately.) Serra inaugurated the mission system that enabled the brutal Spanish conquest that enslaved native Americans and decimated their population in what is now California.

Imagine the reaction if  the pope’s address had occurred during Catholic John Kennedy’s presidency, when state/church separation was taken seriously? Few then made the claim that America was a Christian nation.

The revolutionaries who created the United States of America threw out the popes and “divine rule” monarchs when they adopted our godless Constitution. Our secular government and nation needs to stop demeaning itself by genuflecting to the Roman Catholic Church.

Please share this article:

30 Responses

  1. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have ruled that both Secular Humanism and Atheism are “religions”. As is the Darwinism of Richard Dawkins. Which members of Congress know is founded on unobserved metaphysical religious to what supposedly happened in the unobserved distant past. So, maybe Dawkins has not been invited to address congress because of separation of “church and State” iisue.

  2. When will Congress invite an atheist to address joint session?
    When Atheist stop bickering and unite on one thing, take religion down. Until then not going to happen.

    1. What’s wrong with Richard Dawkins? He is the world’s foremost atheist. I thought that’s what this site is about.

      1. you may want to look at some of the weird and outrageous statements he’s made, for example on twitter. He seems to have no filter to what he says, as if he thinks his reputation make it okay to comment on issues he knows nothing about. Theists would get ahold of them and use them to discredit atheism.

        1. Richard Dawkins would rip any theist to shreds! What has he said that he knows nothing about? He’s quite familiar withe what the bible says and can quote chapter and verse. If it is because of his atheism that you hate him, you hate a whole lot of us atheists.

          Clinton Richard Dawkins /ˈdɔːkɨnz/, FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist,[4] and writer. He is an emeritus fellowof New College, Oxford,[5] and was the University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.[6]

          Dawkins came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme. In 1982, he introduced into evolutionary biology the influential concept that thephenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism’s body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms. This concept is presented in his book The Extended Phenotype.[7]

          Dawkins is an atheist, a patron of the British Humanist Association, and a supporter of the Brights movement.[8] He is well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design. In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, he argues against the watchmaker analogy, an argument for the existence of a supernatural creator based upon the complexity of living organisms. Instead, he describes evolutionary processes as analogous to a blind watchmaker.

          He has since written several popular science books, and makes regular television and radio appearances, predominantly discussing these topics. In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion—”a fixed false belief”.[9]:5 As of January 2010, the English-language version had sold more than two million copies and had been translated into 31 languages.[10]Dawkins founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science to promote the teaching of evolution and to counteract those who advocate classroom programs against evolution. In 2014 he joined the global awareness movement Asteroid Day as a “100x Signatory”

          1. you are obviously not aware of the comments he has made. Please educate yourself before you get so shirty.
            I am fully an atheist activist and aware of his stature and role as one of the Four Horsemen.

          2. Yeah, you probably hate Sam Harris also. I’ve read The God Delusion, The Ancestors Tail and many of Dawson’s smaller works, I’ve read Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation and The End of Faith. I rate Harris and Dawkins as the two outstanding atheist authors. Chris Hitchens was superb but he is no longer with us. Great Britain’s Ricky Gervais is another noted atheist but I don’t know of anything he has written. Maybe Madalyn Murray O’Hair was your favorite. I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the word shirty. I think I need you to educate me on that one

          3. why would you respond by attacking and misrepresenting what I say? Why would you say O’Hair was my ‘favorite’? (I don’t even like her character or her abrasive manner, though she did put her life on the line–and lost it). And I like most of what Sam Harris does.

            I note that you don’t suggest any women speakers, which I did. Nor did you bother to look up any of of Dawkin’s recent comments which made many of us cringe.

            No, you need to educate yourself. It’s not my job to do that. You automatically go into defensive male mode, which serves no one well. I’m a reasonable person. Are you?

            Shirty definition, bad-tempered; irritable; cranky.

          4. I am an old man and often easily offended. When you criticized my favorite atheistic activist it struck a discordant note within me. I like the works of Richard Dawkins very much and am disposed to believe that he is right and that you are wrong. I should not be so disposed. You have as much right to criticize Dawkins as you do to criticize someone like Mike Huckabee. I have the right to disagree with you but not the right to attack you. I did just that and I apologize. You mentioned that I didn’t quote any women atheists. There’s a simple answer for that. I don’t know of any. Give me the names of your favorite women non-believers and I will research them. The only female atheist I know is my daughter and even she doesn’t yet say she’s atheistic. She claims to be agnostic. In truth, she is correct. Agnostics doubt, atheists know. Actually it is impossible to “know” whether there is or is not a God. (Richard Dawkins taught me that.)
            You also increased my vocabulary! When you accused me of being “Shirty” I assumed that you had misspelled a vulgar term. Again I was mistaken!

          5. Peace, my friend. I appreciate your graceful and generous response.
            I did not post any of Dawkins’ disastrous quotes; I was so busy last week.

            I would start with Susan Jacoby: Doubt.
            There are many who have done yeoman’s work in service of secularism.

        2. Hilarious. Atheists should really start worrying now! The theists might get us! Atheism could be “discredited”. Roflol.

  3. When i think about it, it makes me very angry.
    Illegal immigrants who work in dangerous, disagreeable jobs pay the social security tax, or they are told by their employers that they pay the tax.
    Their deductions may not even reach the social security fund, and if it does, as illegal aliens they are not eligible to collect social security payments at “retirement”.
    The same for atheists — We are not eligible to hold elective offices in almost every position.
    We are half-citizens — Pay and pay with no benefits or rights.

      1. Taxation without representation…
        And we are not allowed to represent ourselves.
        We are not eligible because we are atheists.
        That is wrong.

    1. I strongly suspect we have several atheists in Congress, maybe even in the Republican party. Of course, self-preservation prohibits them from saying so.

    2. I know several states have laws against atheists, but that will someday get challenged, since Article VI of the U.S. constitution specifically forbids any religious tests to hold public office.

      1. Yes, and i heard a rumor that hell is having an environmental crisis and the fires are going out slowly.
        In a thousand years or so it will cool down enough so the inmates will be able to go ice skating.

  4. We are quickly becoming a Catholic nation. It is a shame there is not more of an outcry from other non-Catholic constituents, including evangelical and liberal Protestants, both of which have little in common his Francis’s view of theology.