Monday, January 23, 2023

American Atheists on The State of the Secular States

As many of you know I feel that democracy itself is at risk in this country. January 6, 2020 was but one tiny but very threatening example of that risk. I think that democracy has a decent chance at the national level, but at the state level not so much. Some states are turning into right wing Hell holes of theocratic repression. The nuts and bolts of the American theocratic assault on democracy needs to be analyzed in detail across all states.

The American Atheists do precisely this both in their day-to-day operations and in their annual State of the Secular States reports. The second sentence of the introduction to that document cites “…a network of extreme, well-funded, and well-organized groups aligned with the white Christian nationalist ideology.” Project Blitz was also cited as a prime example of these groups. Blitz focused on creating very innovative model legislation making sure that fundamentalist Christians have a radically greater share of the political and cultural power throughout many of our social and governmental institutions.

Obviously special privileges for religion, limitations on health care and reproductive rights, LGBTQ issues and control of schools have been areas of primary focus for theocrats. AA does not include many issues that I see to be central to the assault of the Christian far right on democracy and simple human decency. This includes opposition to immigration, gun control, mask-wearing, vaccine requirements or support for punitive policing, mass incarceration, capital punishment, gerrymandering and other opportunities for voter suppression. Any vote by anyone not supporting their extremist agenda must be avoided if they can find any way for law to select only voters supporting white Christian supremacy. The war on drugs was conceived by Nixon as a mechanism to minimize minority and liberal votes. Christian theocrats love their very incoherent notion of ‘guilt.’ There is the regrettable fact that selective gerrymandering can give a minority of a state’s voters a super majority in a state legislature. And do not forget the lowering of taxes, cutting of spending, and deregulating the economy. A public social safety net would obviously limit the theocrats desire for the church to be seen as central in the fulfilling of social needs. These last issues are not tracked by AA.

They do track all laws that either specifically undermine or protect religious equality. Last year they tracked 557 such bills undermining religious liberty and 141 that supported it. Of those undermining, 78 passed and positive legislation had 24 passed. This is roughly three to one in favor of bad legislation. The report has a complete profile of existing legislation for each state. They separated have an on-line list of proposed and possibly pending legislation for each state. I highly recommend that people download the report for last year and consider supporting this superb work by the American Atheists.

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