Santa Barbara Secularists Speak

Call for Uniform Education Standards and End to Preferential Treatment of Religious Institutions

To celebrate 15 years of existence, the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara on May 15 hosted Sean Faircloth, a lobbying advocate for the Secular Coalition for America, and Dan Barker, a musical activist for the separation of church and state. The Humanist Society was originally called the Rationalists, but they considered the name too old-fashioned. According to their Web site, they “share the conviction that rational inquiry can provide the best foundation for human progress.”

The Secular Coalition for America is a non-partisan lobbying group for the “nones,” a term many Humanists have affectionately taken on to describe their non-theistic philosophy. Though it is difficult to measure, it is estimated that 20 percent of the population considers itself non-theistic. The Secular Coalition stands against “politicians who succumb to pressure” and fight the “special rights” for religion that, they argue, are unconstitutional.

Faircloth spoke of current issues the group is taking on, including more uniform educational standards and less unfair privileges for religious institutions. Core standards are only required for math and English courses, they said, which leaves history and science to be interpreted. Faircloth said that in some areas of the country, this ambiguity is allowing creationism to be taught as fact and evolution to be misrepresented.

Faircloth said that religious institutions receive preferential treatment from the government. Religion-based childcare centers do not have to meet the same standards of health and safety, he asserted, and ordained members of the clergy can escape paying taxes on property and income.

In between singing songs, Dan Barker spoke of recently protesting National Prayer Day. He said, “America wasn’t birthed in prayer, it was born in protest,” and said that he considers National Prayer Day to be “divisive.”

In the next decade, the group wants to reframe how it is perceived, increase lobbying and membership, and get people active. It wants to broaden its base, reaching to the LGBT community, libertarians, the scientific and technical communities, as well as ordinary people. The group also said it wants to teach “the poor, the dispossessed, and the vulnerable” about morality and “improve how human beings interact with each other.”

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