Adopted by the Board of Directors
These issues were developed by staff and ratified by the AHA Board in 2012 and continue to evolve as AHA Key Issues.
American Humanist Association’s Key Issues
The American Humanist Association (AHA) strives to bring about a progressive society where being “good without god” is an accepted way to live life. We accomplish this through our defense of civil liberties and secular governance, by our outreach to the growing number of people without religious belief or preference, and through a continued refinement and advancement of the humanist worldview.
The AHA treats the support for government policies that bolster the secular foundations of law and culture in the United States as a continuous struggle. Accordingly it works to defeat proposed laws and eliminate existing laws that infringe upon this heritage. A secular, open, and pluralistic society where the government does not ascribe to one worldview over others is a right to which every American is entitled.
Supporting the constitutional standard of separation of church and state is a key priority of the AHA. Government endorsement of any particular religion is a direct violation of the Jeffersonian wall between church and state and the First Amendment, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” otherwise known as the Establishment Clause. The AHA’s legal organization, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, submits amicus briefs and participates in litigation to defend the constitutional right of all citizens to a secular and unbiased government. Those actions target religious or sectarian imagery and text in government buildings and public spaces, religious ceremonies or prayer in government events and proceedings, and the expenditure of tax dollars to support religious programs, organizations, monuments, or other displays that inherently discriminate against millions of Americans who do not believe in the represented religion.
The AHA considers the integrity of scientific knowledge to be essential to a humanist society. For that reason, the AHA insists that scientific studies that have been peer-reviewed and reproduced in accordance with the highest standards be the sole basis for public policy and education. Religious or sectarian doctrine is irrelevant and immaterial to discerning the best policy. Recently, the AHA has forcefully argued these principles in opposition to attempts to revive creationism, “intelligent design” theories, and other religious teachings in schools, public organizations, and policymaking. The AHA has fought to allow research on treatments for debilitating diseases using embryonic stem cells and against the bar on federal funding based on the assumption that the small cluster of cells has the potential to be a person. Abstinence-only sex education in schools has been consistently unsuccessful in reducing unwanted pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, whereas teaching responsible sex practices such as condom use have resulted in a reduction in rates of teenage pregnancy and STIs. Superstition and unwavering belief in the unverifiable should never be an excuse for promoting broad religious beliefs in the public sphere in a pluralistic and secular society.
Human Rights for All
Regardless of ethnicity, gender, economic status, political affiliation, creed, religious beliefs or nonbelief, citizenship, or sexual orientation, all individuals have universal human rights that must be respected and protected. Global standards for human rights are the ultimate guarantors of these rights, and adherence to international institutions such as the International Criminal Court, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other frameworks is essential to the enforcement of individuals’ rights the world over. It is imperative to recognize the commonalities of humanity such as compassion, dignity, and reason, rather than creating divisions among people.
The AHA strongly affirms the inherent right of all individuals to freely make choices that affect themselves and their person. Human rights ensuring justice, including the right to a fair and speedy trial by an independent judiciary, to habeas corpus, and to proportionate punishment, must be guaranteed to all. Capital punishment, prisoner abuse, extraordinary rendition, and interrogative and penal torture reflect an explicit disregard for standards of humane treatment.
Despite their societal, ethical, philosophical, and geographical differences, the AHA recognizes the freedom, value, and respect to which all of the world’s individuals are entitled. The pursuit of peaceful and non-violent strategies for resolving the world’s most dire conflicts, which to often result in genocide, war, and autocracy, is paramount for human coexistence and progress. Preemptive war, unilateral conflict, arms proliferation, terrorism, and indiscriminate use of force all threaten the common bonds of humanity that we all share.
The AHA believes that cultural exchange, cooperation, peaceful conflict resolution,and diplomacy through multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations, are the most appropriate ways to respect human rights and make the world a safer place for all of its inhabitants. Accordingly, the United States should sign on to the International Criminal Court, and abide by and help enforce international law[are you referring here to international law or to the rule of law internationally—and by extension in other countries?], and push other countries to strengthen the rule of law in their own societies. Furthermore, peace–not war—and respect for international law are the best forces in international and national policy that positively impacts humanity.
The AHA supports every woman’s unequivocal moral and legal right to autonomy over her own body and reproductive choices. Women’s access to family planning, contraception, birth control, emergency contraception, and healthcare services and resources should be unrestricted by the government or religious preferences of private third parties. Local, state, or federal initiatives designed to undermine the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade violate the individual’s human right to pursue all reproductive options.
The AHA will continue to advocate for every woman’s full exercise of her right to decide if and when to safely become a mother. Broader access to sex education (not limited to abstinence-only programs), all safe forms of contraception, and full-service healthcare options are essential policies to realizing that right. Government funding must not be used to compromise this right or to impose a specific ethical or religious standpoint on the public, nor should it be distributed to healthcare providers that do not offer the full extent of women’s health care services due to faith-based refusal to do so. Scientific advances provide significant choices for reproductive health, including abortion, and religious pressure must never impede full access to those resources.
The global gap between women’s rights and men’s rights is one that the AHA strives to eliminate. In the United States, discrimination against women is found in the workplace, in areas of religious fundamentalism, and even in the annals of the law. While great progress has been made domestically, inequality is still prevalent in many sectors. We strongly support global efforts to temper violence against women both in the household and in public, especially in patriarchal societies rife with religious zealotry. Women continue to be treated as second class citizens in some countries, and are often subject to pain, humiliation, mutilation, and even death for reasons like adultery, childbirth out of wedlock, or driving a car, while men are rarely punished for the same “offenses.”
The AHA promotes equality for women and men in all sectors, at all times, in all countries. We condemn all forms of gender-based violence, restrictions on women’s reproductive choices, legal, religious, and societal discrimination, and any attempts to reduce women to second-class citizen status. We continue to act in favor of eliminating the gender gap, including support for girls’ education, individual rights, compensation and benefits, and access to economic and social resources both domestically and worldwide. Religion, tradition, and culture can no longer be excuses for the systemic oppression of half of humanity.
The AHA actively supports the pursuit of equal rights for individuals identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and/or Transgendered. While many Americans discriminate against these groups on the basis of religious ideology or so-called “family values,” a growing majority rejects the idea that LGBT individuals and families are second-class citizens, and encourages tolerance and public sector reform of their rights to marry, adopt children, and live free from intimidation, hate speech, and violence.
State and federal laws that prohibit LGBT Americans from seeking civil marriage licenses, adopting children, participating in publicly funded organizations, and being protected from hate speech and crimes, endanger the freedom of expression of personal sexual identity. The AHA commends legislation and litigation that furthers equality on issues of marriage and family rights for the LGBT community.
Civil Rights in America
The AHA will continue to work tirelessly in cases where civil rights have been compromised by the government. All Americans are entitled to the inalienable rights laid out in the U.S. Constitution, not to be diminished by the government under any circumstances. Although national security risks have frequently threatened the well-being of individual Americans, and have led our leaders to weaken civil right protections, erosion of our guaranteed civil rights is the greatest danger to individual American citizens. Instances when the government has diminished the rights of ordinary citizens, detainees, prisoners, defendants, and suspected terrorists have been frequent, especially in the wake of September 11, 2001. Yet even the attack on American soil does not legitimize the rampant abuses against the civil jury trial system that is central to justice. Accountability of government officials is a bullwark against future abuses. Membership in the International Criminal Court would ensure that when the entire American system of justice fails, American political interests will not prevent rogue American leaders from being brought to justice.
Official government discrimination based on race, heritage, class, or religion undermines the universality of these rights. Likewise, private use of hate-based words or acts of violence are dangerous to the liberty of self-expression, and discrimination based on religious predilection or other prejudice has no place in the discussion of civic rights for all. Racial profiling, official discrimination against minorities, government sponsorship and favor to religious groups, and unwarranted detentions threaten the tenets of our free, open, and pluralistic society. The government must be held accountable when it trespasses on the rights of its citizens. Respect for civil rights of all people is necessary for preserving the dignity of individuals and of humanity.