Will President Obama Endorse Discrimination Against Atheists? Humanists Ask
(Washington, D.C., March 03, 2009) Humanists are reacting to a comment today from a Boy Scouts of America spokesperson stating that President Barack Obama has indicated he will accept the title of honorary president of the BSA.
“If President Obama does this, it will send an implicit message to nontheists that discrimination against them is permissible,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
In a White House meeting this afternoon, Obama officially received the Boy Scouts’ 2008 Report to the Nation. Every U.S. president since William Howard Taft has served as honorary head of the Boy Scouts.
Boy Scout policy is to deny the participation of nontheistic members and employees and expel those already involved, a policy to which the American Humanist Association has publicly objected. Hence the American Humanist Association, in conjunction with 18 other nontheistic (atheist and agnostic) organizations, sent a letter to then-President-Elect Obama in January urging him to decline the title and role of honorary president of the Boy Scouts. In addition, the American Humanist Association had participated in a grass-roots effort to educate and persuade President Obama on this matter.
“We’re disappointed that it seems Obama won’t do the right thing and break with tradition by declining the honorary presidency of the Boy Scouts,” Speckhardt added. “Discrimination against nontheists should never be condoned in a society that values pluralism–and it’s especially important that our leaders send that message by living through example. Obama will send the wrong message today if he tacitly endorses such discrimination.”
“We’re particularly disappointed because President Obama understands that secular Americans can be model citizens,” said AHA President David Niose. “In fact, he was raised without theistic belief by a secular humanist mother. How can he endorse a group that stands for policies that discriminate against the same values with which he was raised?”
Niose continued: “We had high hopes that America’s new president would courageously stand up for what is right, but it looks like he’s going to let us down. By accepting the BSA honorary presidency he will have turned his back not only on the secular community but on his own upbringing.”
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.