The following article was first published on the day after the US Presidential Election at The Huffington Post and then on TheHumanist.com. It was written by Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist.
The time is past due for progressive America to rethink its strategies. As the number of secular freethinkers has risen, they, along with people of colour, supporters of the LGBTQ community, and other progressive people declared victory far in advance of realizing it. As we projected the “end of white Christian America,” there was a sense that the final waves of backwards thinking were crashing once and for all. But those who went to sleep last night hoping for the best awakened to a very different reality.
No matter how thin Trump’s veneer of religiosity may be, make no mistake that the religious right has just assumed a mantle of power that exceeds their fondest hopes and humanists’ worst nightmares. With imminent control of all three branches of government, unthinkable things are on the table. James Carville offered that “Obamacare is done,” but that is sure to be just the beginning. The basic rights of immigrants, Natives, and many others cannot be taken for granted. Reproductive freedom itself is on the table as Roe v. Wade may be overturned; Trump specifically said, “That will happen automatically in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.”
Would a court that could overturn Roe v. Wade grasp the difference between religious liberty and religious bigotry? No. Justices who would put faith-based concepts of personhood over the lives of women and will not support church-state separation, nor will they prioritize the rights of the rising number of atheists and agnostics in this country. In fact, Trump himself suggests support for blasphemy laws, saying, “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”
Those who are optimistic that this will be a temporary struggle, a four-year test of our will, better start bracing themselves for the long haul, because one of Trump’s more specific proposals has the power to derail progress for many years to come. Trump plans to make churches into a secret funnel for future conservative campaigning that can keep the far right stranglehold on power in place. As you may be aware, churches and other religious organizations don’t have to reveal their annual finances to the government, and donations to them are tax free. But in return, they are not allowed to influence political elections. Trump wants to change that. He said, “I am going to work like hell to get rid of that prohibition and we’re going to have the strongest Christian lobby and it’s going to happen.” This would open a dangerous loophole in campaign finance reform efforts and allow millions of dollars to secretly fund political candidates through churches.
Trump has even gone on to suggest that Christianity should be the state religion. He’s said, “I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current president.” And he added, “We’re going to protect Christianity, and I can say that. I don’t have to be politically correct. We’re going to protect it.”
We truly need to dig deep and redouble our efforts to bring reason back to America. As we’ve seen, popular pomposity and shallow appeals to fear and ignorance overrode all else in this election.
So now we must find a way to reach out and convince every American of the humanity within all of us, no matter what we believe, no matter the gender with which we identify or the colour of our skin. We must demonstrate the value of science, rather than ancient books or divine revelation, as the best method for finding answers. Our message must resonate, not just to metropolitans, but also to rural Americans. We must invest more in educating our neighbours and reversing the trend toward anti-intellectualism that we see all around us. We must come out as humanists, atheists, and liberals, never passing up the opportunity to put a human face on what’s being demonized. And most of all, we must realize that this isn’t going to be fixed soon, so we need to steel ourselves for a long and uncertain journey that will give us our best chance of arriving at a better future.
Roy Speckhardt has served as executive director of the American Humanist Association since 2005. He also serves on the boards of The Institute for Humanist Studies, the United Coalition of Reason, The Humanist Institute, and the Secular Coalition for America Education Fund. He served as deputy director of The Interfaith Alliance from 1995 to 2001. Speckhardt holds an M.B.A. from George Mason University and B.A. in sociology from Mary Washington College. He is the author of Creating Change Through Humanism, available here through Humanist Press. He currently lives in Washington, DC.