Policy Positions on Religion-Based Laws
Atheist Alliance International
Policy Positions on Religion-Based Laws
• Your Money AND Your Life •
Thomas Jefferson said,“. . . it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” True enough if religious belief were only a personal matter. This has never been so. Religions have always been agencies to control people. This is done through laws and public policies that put the coercive power of government into service to the dominant religion. Most people are unaware of the harm religion-based laws do in almost every area of life. This introduction to the Atheist Alliance International policy statement summarizes that harm. Some of us may escape some of it, but none of us can escape all of it.
Tax Laws and Public Policies
Religious institutions are exempt from both income and property taxes. They don't have to file a 990 form that shows their income and expenses, so are unaccountable for how they use money they receive. The IRS cannot ask for verification of a taxpayer's claimed deduction of donations to a church. There are also housing deductions for clergy whose housing expenses are already covered by their church. Faith-based initiatives, grants, subsidies, historic preservation laws, pork barrel giveaways, use of parkland for proselytizing, and many more policies providing government support for religion have been enacted.
Sexuality and Reproductive Issues
If you think your sex life and reproductive decisions are your business, check the statutes. All states apply unjustifiable restrictions on consensual sex, sex education, contraception and abortion. These are based on religious beliefs, serving only to validate them while harming their victims. Whether you are heterosexual, homosexual, need accurate sex information or are trapped in an unwanted pregnancy, there is a law to force you to conform to the politically dominant religious beliefs.
Marriage is defined in American law as under the control of religious institutions. Therefore, same-sex marriages are out (though increasingly permitted in some states). Clergy are automatically authorized to perform marriages but nonbelievers have to find a judge or get "ordained" by an internet 'church' that atheists are forced to hide behind to preserve religious marriage prerogatives. And it’s not easy getting custody of your children when it’s a devout church-going parent against a “morally suspect” atheist parent.
Health Issues and Medical Research
Stem cell research still faces irrational restrictions because of religious beliefs that an embryo is a real human being, and that destroying these nearly invisible specks is murder. Then there are hospital mergers where one is controlled by the Catholic Church. Staff in the merged institution must agree to the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” dictated by the Catholic bishops of America. They apply to everyone, Catholic or not. Even though all hospitals get federal funding, where the Catholic Church is in control, there are no contraceptives, no abortion even if your life depends on it, no prenatal diagnosis if the purpose is to determine the need for abortion, no sterilization, no morning-after pill, no in vitro fertilization or other fertility technology, and no aggressive end-of-life pain remission. (From the Directives: “Patients experiencing pain that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering.”) There are “pharmacists for life” who won’t fill prescriptions for the "morning-after" pill.
Many public schools or individual teachers downplay teaching evolution in science classes because of pressure from fundamentalists who believe the Bible is a divinely inspired science textbook. If you graduate from a school system that sold you out educationally to avoid controversy, you will have a lot of catching up to do in college science classes. As a citizen, you will be surrounded by people who are scientifically illiterate. They will vote for politicians who also have no understanding of the physical world and will most likely make destructive decisions. Don’t forget sex education, or the lack of it, in our schools. In northern Europe, where religion is not in control, comprehensive sex education is part of the curriculum. If we had that here, we’d get the same results they do. We’d have few unplanned pregnancies, few abortions, and far fewer teenagers and their babies on welfare requiring our support, who have diminished chances for a fulfilling, productive life. Finally, if proponents of vouchers prevail, you will suffer the financial harm of having your taxes going to support religious schools, plus the social and political harm religion-indoctrinated citizens will inflict as they pursue the religious agenda of making this a "Christian nation."
Although AAI can act on these policies only in the United States, we stand opposed to laws everywhere that allow the denial of human rights and civil liberties. We support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and oppose any efforts to define speaking out against repressive religion-based laws as defamation of religion and making it an international crime.
Liberty is indivisible and repression of any group is a threat to all.
Specific Policy Positions
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"
A significant, organized and consistent threat to secular government in the United States is posed by politically intrusive religious groups, exemplified by the conservative Christian movement. This intrusion has resulted in a culture war to enact a religion-based social agenda into law. AAI is committed to challenging such laws by implementing the following policy positions to the extent possible.