Representatives of six major atheist and secular organizations met for the first time last week with Biden administration officials as part of a discussion that one participant called “historic.”
The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, including executive director Melissa Rogers and deputy director Josh Dickson, held a virtual meeting with representatives of six groups: American Atheists, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association, Center for Inquiry, Ex-Muslims of North America and the Secular Coalition for America.
“We highlighted priorities from our coalition’s Secular Agenda for the Biden-Harris administration and discussed what the administration can do to better uphold the rights of secular Americans,” said a press release from the Secular Coalition for America.
President Biden in February re-established the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, saying it would “promote partnerships with religious and secular organizations to better serve people in need.”
American Atheists president Nick Fish said in a statement he was “pleased” that the administration “takes seriously its obligation to meet the needs of atheists, humanists, and other nonreligious Americans.”
“It is reassuring to know that the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships shares our commitment to government neutrality, church-state separation, and religious pluralism – and that means including atheists,” Fish said.
Rogers, in a statement to Religion News Service, said the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships “continues to meet with a wide range of faith and community leaders.”
“We are grateful to hear from diverse Americans and to explore opportunities to work together to serve people in need,” Rogers said.
Fish said American Atheists will “continue to advocate for more robust protections for Americans seeking services from religious providers to ensure that no one is turned away from a shelter, an adoption or foster agency, or denied access to any other basic service due to religiously motivated discrimination.”
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the organizations’ “Secular Agenda” will have a devastating impact on faith-based organizations.
“They're talking here about, say, a Christian adoption agency … should not be able to operate on Christian convictions,” Mohler said on his The Briefing podcast. “... In other words, everybody has to operate on a secular basis.”
The Obama administration also held a meeting with the Secular Coalition for America.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.