Hnn | HNN Articles

AHA Attends White House Meeting on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

 

By Matthew Bulger

I recently had the privilege of attending a  meeting of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House, specifically in the Old Executive Office Building, the historic building where the State and War departments were located and where the office of the Vice President is based. The Council, which advises the President on the relationship between the federal government and religious and non-governmental organizations, held this specific meeting to discuss modern slavery and how it impacts our country and the world abroad.

The meeting itself was very informative and interesting; no doubt that the compassion and concern of the Council members towards determining a solution to modern slavery was evident throughout. But I couldn’t help but notice a few strange things, particularly the religious composition of the council, considering that it was supposed to represent all faiths, or at least the vast majority of those that the government acknowledges to exist in America. While there were two representatives from the Jewish faith and six representatives of the Christian faith, including a representative from the often-controversial Church of Latter-day Saints, there weren’t any representatives from the Muslim, Hindu or Sikh faiths, nor were there any humanists, atheists, or any other type of explicitly non-religious American on the Council. This represents a missed opportunity for the administration, because the advice they will get from this body isn’t representative of the religious tapestry that exists in America. I was forced to ask myself how the Council and the Administration can possibly take into account the experiences and desires of the Americans that aren’t present on this council, or if they even wanted to include those faiths and philosophies in the public policy process.

Furthermore, while the Council is tasked with advising the White House about the federal government’s relationship with the faith-based community and non-governmental organizations, almost all of the meeting focused on how faith groups could work with the government on this or that particular issue. Rarely did I hear a mention of what the “neighborhood” organizations could do. In fact, there were only four representatives from the non-governmental community on the fifteen-member Council, which made more sense to me as the meeting went on. That’s because the Council appears to be more of a faith-based advisory committee on the relationship between the federal government and the faith community rather than a true advisory council that is representative of the community of faith based, secular, and non-religious aid organizations that exist within America.

The issue of the Council’s composition doesn’t exist with the Council members themselves, but with the Administration and government in general. Right now, government officials and their staff are just starting to realize that there is a large non-religious community in America, but they haven’t taken the necessary step of including that community in policy discussions.

That’s why the American Humanist Association will continue to contact and meet with lawmakers, administration officials, and governmental figures of all types in 2013—especially to discuss the severe problem of the Obama Administration and the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships continuing to fund organizations that religiously discriminate in hiring practices. We can’t just hope that the government will reach out to us like it does with other communities in America. Instead, we have to be proactive in our relationship with the government and let them know how we feel about the issues that affect us all equally as Americans.

Humanists and non-religious Americans only want to help make this country better, but we are tired of being overlooked or purposely excluded by government officials who are tasked with trying to fix our nation’s problems. Thankfully, the Obama administration and many offices in Congress have been much more receptive to our community than politicians in previous decades, and many government institutions appear more willing to listen to our opinions if we remain unrelenting in airing them. Hopefully, this trend continues and we aren’t prevented by our own government from helping our nation and the international community.

Matthew Bulger is the legislative associate for the American Humanist Association.

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday!! Here is a wonderful poem from Dan Moran. Check It Out!

4 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Well, I am not so sure how common this dilemma is, but it is interesting anyway!

6 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Hooray! Florida's same-sex marriage ban struck down! Check it out! http://hmn.s...

8 hours ago

American Humanist Association

New evidence supporting the theory of evolution has been found in parasite ants...

9 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Here is the newest episode of The Cartoon History of Humanism. Enjoy! Get TheH...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

An easy to follow video illustrating the separation of church and state and the...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Words are commonly used improperly. Here is one example of why you should actual...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

To some, Humanism and Hedonism are one in the same. Is that really all there is...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

This week's Humanist Hour Podcast features Bob Ready and Sarah Henry as they tal...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Update to the football prayer controversy happening at a Gainesville, GA High Sc...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Fred Edwords reports from this year's Colorado Secular Conference! Get TheHuman...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Two weeks ago, AHA's Maggie Ardiente and Roy Speckhardt traveled to Oxford, Engl...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The United Coalition of Reason is a national non-profit organization that helps...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Is it really that "tragic and bizarre" to remove bibles from hotels rooms in ord...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Throwing some separation of church and state history at you!

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Why does the media usually portray atheists as pretentious, white men? Time to c...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Fields Medal has been awarded to up to four mathematicians every four years...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

The nature of the backlash to our recent legal case concerning pray in public sc...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday!

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Religious differences within the family unit can be difficult. How do you feel a...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Here is an update to our on-going Carroll County, Maryland case involving prayer...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Back to school time! Let's take a look at the most and least religious colleges...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Anyone need a laugh? I sure do! Warning: Language!

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Should someone's religious belief allow them to do whatever they want? No! Get...

8 days ago