Atheists are not a monolith. However, American Atheists supports public policy that protects the absolute separation of religion from government. We support evidenced-based public policy that uses science, reason, and our shared humanity as its guiding principles rather than religious dogma.
Religious beliefs should not be used as the primary justification for any policy. Just as religion can be used to justify good things (such as serving the hungry with a soup kitchen or building homes for those in need), it can be used to justify terrible acts of discrimination (denying LGBT couples the right to marry or taking away a woman’s right to control her own body). For that reason, all public policies should be based on the best scientific evidence available to policymakers and humanistic principles which cross lines of religious beliefs.
Religious beliefs do not entitle people to special treatment under the law. Laws which carve out exemptions on the basis of religion can be overly broad and give preferential treatment to certain religions or religious beliefs over others. Exempting people and businesses from non-discrimination laws on the basis of their religious beliefs allows people who wish to discriminate a legal excuse for their bigotry and run counter to decades of precedent dating back to the Civil Rights Era.
Government agencies and officials must remain neutral on religious matters. Promoting the religious views one particular group over the beliefs of another group, including atheists, is a violation of the Constitution and excludes countless millions from our nation’s political system. Elected officials must take care to separate their personal views from their duty to represent all of their constituents.
American Atheists is committed to helping our local affiliates and activists on the ground affect real policy change at every level of government. In order to accomplish that change, we must work in coalition with partner organizations to build consensus around issues that matter to our community.
Fighting Abstinence-Only Until Marriage Sex Education
Abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) sex education and medically inaccurate materials are still the norm in far too many of America’s public schools. According to the reproductive health policy group the Guttmacher Institute, despite evidence indicating that “adolescents who intend to practice abstinence fail to actually do so, and they often fail to use condoms or other forms of contraception when they do have intercourse” and that AOUM is “not effective at preventing pregnancy or STIs, nor do they have a positive impact on age at first sexual intercourse, number of sexual partners or other behavior,” the United States has spent more than $2 billion on AOUM programs in the last 20 years.
Religious Healthcare Providers
Current law allows religious providers to opt out of providing medical services such as abortions, birth control, tubal ligation, hormone replacement therapy, and nearly any other treatment that conflicts with the provider’s religious beliefs or the religious doctrine of the affiliated religious group. There are no state or federal laws or regulations that require health care providers to inform patients of services or treatments a provider will not provide because of the provider’s religious beliefs.
The Patient’s Right to Know Act, a proposed piece of legislation drafted by American Atheists, seeks to ensure that patients are able to make completely informed medical decisions about their health by requiring health care providers to disclose to patients and prospective patients exactly which types of medical care they do not provide because of their religious beliefs.