On Thursday, June 13, the SCA held an Advocacy Day to give humanists in the Greater D.C. area an opportunity to bring our concerns to Congressional staff. Members of ethical societies were coming to D.C. for the annual conference of the American Ethical Union (AEU), and this event was timed to build on their participation. The SCA invited AEU, WASH, and D.C.-area humanists to participate. We had good turnout with 24 participants. That was about all we could fit into the SCA conference room. The event listing is here:
The first lobby session I joined was to meet staffers of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). We focused on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. We asked that the religious exemption in the law be narrowed to apply only to employees performing ministerial functions. As drafted, the exemption applied to any institution owned by a church, even a hospital, university, or relief agency, where few if any employees performed ministerial functions. After introductions by Kelly Damerow, constituent Stephen Julstrom spoke. Stephen was then President of the Chicago Ethical Society. Next was Lucas McCahill, officially speaking for the LGBTQ Humanist Council of Baltimore and (unofficially) for the LGBT Humanist Council Project of the American Humanist Association. Then Hugh Taft-Morale and I spoke representing the Baltimore Ethical Society. The meeting went well. The staffers explained that the Senator was not likely to open up that section for redrafting, but I think they really listened to what we had to say.
The next lobby session I attended was with a staffer of Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). We spoke about promoting science education that includes evolution and opposing vouchers for religious schools. Sen. Cardin is fully supportive of these SCA positions.
The feedback I heard from participants was positive. I think this is something that could be done again, possibly with a focus on Maryland. We encouraged participants to donate to the SCA, and together we raised $425.