Key Issues – Secular Coalition for NY

Like the Secular Coalition for America, the mission of the Secular Coalition for New York (SCNY) is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all.

To ensure that freedom of and from religion are upheld, the Secular Coalition for New York stands for the following principals, and we have identified specific issues that should be addressed in the State of New York when the opportunity arises:

1. Health and Safety: The health and safety of an individual should not be compromised by the religious beliefs of another person or group.

  • SCNY opposes any legislation that would permit parents or guardians to withhold medical treatment on the basis of religious beliefs or offer religious beliefs as an affirmative defense for such acts. More on this issue, including a white paper »
  • SCNY does not support granting vaccine exemptions for religious reasons. We are enthusiastic participants in the campagn to PUT KIDS FIRST! Find out more about PKF right here, and click here to read the white paper.
  • The SCNY believes that hospitals should not restrict health services on the basis of religious laws or customs, but should offer all legal services to patients, including birth control, sterilization, and termination of pregnancy.
  • Recognizing that many New Yorkers suffer unnecessarily at the end of their lives, the SCNY supports the adoption of the End of Life Options Act, which has been modeled after the successful law in Oregon and the recently-passed California law. This law provides adequate safeguards for patients, their families, and health care providers.  Specifically, we support the passage of S3685, sponsored by Senator Savino and the corresponding bill A2129a, sponsored by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal.
  • The SCNY supports the Senate bill S7296 and Assembly Bill A9877, which would eliminate the statute of limitations in cases where adults were sexually abused as children.  The Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers); and a corresponding bill was introduced in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey.  The SCNY agrees with Senator Hoylman that, "No issue has greater urgency than providing justice to survivors of child sexual abuse and exposing the perpetrators of these crimes."
  • SCNY supports the revision of the State law to transfer regulations governing abortion from the criminal to the civil code and to make regulations consistent with Roe v. Wade. We support all aspects of the "Women’s Equality Agenda" that are related to our secular goals.
  • SCNY believes that both State and City heath codes should be modified to regulate circumcision practices in ways that will ensure the health and safety of all children. More on this issue, including a white paper »
  • SCNY supports Senate Bill 5880, the “boss law” (part of the Women’s Equality Agenda), which would require that employers perform reasonable accommodation for employees with pregnancy-related conditions, protecting New York women from discrimination during pregnancy. 

2. Education: Children should not be subjected to religious education or exercises in our public schools.

  • SCNY opposes, A1826-B, an "Education Investment Tax Credit Act." We believe this bill provides a tax credit/tax expenditure, that will divert government funds from the support of public education to the support of religious education. ( )

  • Because it is a violation of separation of church and state, SCNY seek to develop guidelines that prevent churches from using schools for religious purposes.

  • SCNY supports the rights of students to organize organizations based on secular, freethought, or other non-religious themes.

  • SCNY supports school bussing for religious students that is equivalent to, but does not exceed, that provided to public schools.
  • SCNY believes that public schools are adequately funded in areas where voting is strongly influenced by religious voting blocks that seek to minimize public expenditures while simultaneously provide a sectarian education to their children.

3. Tax Policy: Religious organizations and individuals should not be exempt from the requirements and restrictions of tax policy.

  • SCNY believes that the antiquated parsonage exemption should be eliminated.
  • SCNY believes that churches and religious institutions shoud pay water and sewer taxes at the same rate as other institutions.

4. Discrimination: Personal religious beliefs do not justify prejudicial actions that violate discrimination laws.

  • SCNY support passage of GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act), a bill that would make transgender individuals a protected class in the state of New York, providing protection similar to that already guaranteed to homosexuals and other protected groups.

5. Government Actions: The government and officials acting in their government capacity, should not endorse religious beliefs, one religion over another or religion over non-religion.

  • SCNY believes that religious blessings, prayers and invocations have no place in governmental meetings, and that in recognition of our diverse communities, governmental bodies should refrain from such observances.  However, in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Greece v. Galloway, should an invocation be employed, all members of the community, including non-religious, must be eligible to offer the invocation.
  • SCNY supports science-based climate change policy.
  • SCNY believes that state regulation or banning of ‘fracking’ should be based on scientific studies of the procedure.
  • SCNY opposes Governor Cuomo’s creation of a New York Office of Faith-Based Services, (1) because a clear need for the new agency has not been clearly demonstrated and (2) because of the danger that it may discriminate against non-religious individuals or groups. In accordance with a position from the Center for Inquiry, we believe that minimum safeguards should be implemented and enforced to minimize this danger. We intend to monitor this office to assure that it evenly promotes the agenda of secular and religions non-profits.  

SCNY seeks to partner with both secular and religious groups within New York or the US to promote these values and goals.  Groups that want to promote either all or part of our agenda can endorse us at three levels