For Immediate Release
(Washington, DC, March 1, 2010) Today the American Humanist Association (AHA) responded to a segment on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show in which the host implied that the Obama White House is hostile towards religion because administration officials met with a group of nontheists. On the Friday, February 26 show, Hannity stated, “The Obama administration earlier today rolled out the red carpet for a coalition of atheist groups…Religious groups, however, have not received this kind of treatment from the Obama White House. Now, last year, the President distanced himself from the National Day of Prayer, cancelling the formal service traditionally held in honor of the day and refusing to attend a Catholic prayer breakfast. So what’s going on? Has the administration demonstrated a pattern of hostility towards religion, or is this merely a coincidence?”
“We just want to set the record straight,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Hannity’s assertion that nontheists have received preferential treatment by the White House is simply not true. We are pleased that Obama has been unprecedentedly open to the nontheist community. However, our access is eclipsed, no matter the measure, by that of faith leaders and organizations. Moreover, the idea that simply hearing out our opinions indicates a bias against religion is one that serves to drive a wedge between the faith and nonfaith communities and shut nontheist groups out of public debate.”
President Obama has personally met with multiple religious leaders, such as the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and several high-level rabbis. Obama also spoke, twice, at the National Prayer Breakfast, an event held by the “Family,” a fundamentalist religious network that has fueled controversy for its secrecy and its ties to Congress.
The AHA, as a member of the Secular Coalition for America, participated in a briefing with the Obama Administration Friday, February 26, to discuss issues of concern to the nontheist movement, including improving the Faith-Based Initiative, ending military proselytizing and protecting children from neglect and abuse that can occur due to a lack of government oversight over faith-healing treatment providers. The President was not in attendance at the meeting. The Secular Coalition for America’s Briefing with the Obama Administration marked the first time in history a presidential administration has held a national policy briefing with the nontheist community.
Hannity also stated that Michael Newdow, who is notable for suing to have the words “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, attended the meeting—a statement that Speckhardt said was also false. “Michael Newdow was not able to make it to Washington, DC because he was wrapping up his shift as an emergency room physician at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto, California,” said Speckhardt. “It’s deplorable that Hannity is so quick to form judgments and also cavalier about checking his facts.”
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 the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.