As we've all seen, the Republicans are currently attempting (unsuccessfully) to orchestrate a (doomed) re-branding effort. However, there's at least one group about whom the Republicans still don't care and don't pretend to care: secular humanists.
Over the past few days, I've highlighted some of the good, the bad, and the ugly among the amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act on which the House has voted. This diary will continue with another good amendment and bad vote.
Jared Polis (CO-02) put forth an amendment that would have allowed non-theistic organizations to appoint military chaplains to serve non-religious soldiers. Polis explained, "What my amendment would simply do is allow chaplains who are certified or ordained, secular humanists and ethical culturalists or atheists, to also be able to support the brave men and women who serve in our military." Currently, a number of universities have Humanist chaplains. For instance, I can think of Greg Epstein and Chris Stedman at Harvard and Anne Klaesyen (the Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture) at Columbia. A quick online search reveals that Stanford, Rutgers, and American have Humanist chaplains as well.
According to the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, more members of the military self-identify as atheist than 88 different religious preferences, including 73 Christian denominations, but they have endorsed chaplains.
The amendment was rejected by the House on a vote of of 274 to 150. Every single Republican voted against the bill, and 44 Democrats joined them. The 150 supporters were all Democrats, the majority of the caucus.
Who are the 44 Democrats who don't believe that humanists, ethical culturalists, atheists, and freethinkers don't deserve the same respect as the traditionally religious?
John Barrow (GA-12) –Blue Dog
Sanford Bishop (GA-02) – Blue Dog
Timothy Bishop (NY-01)
Mike Capuano (MA-07) – Progressive Caucus
Tony Cárdenas (CA-29)
Kathy Castor (FL-20)
Joaquin Castro (TX-20)
Jim Cooper (TN-05) – Blue Dog
Jim Costa (CA-16) – Blue Dog
Henry Cuellar (TX-28) – Blue Dog
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
Pete Gallego (TX-23) – Blue Dog
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Alan Grayson (FL-09) – Progressive Caucus
Gene Green (TX-29)
Denny Heck (WA-10)
Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15)
Hank Johnson (GA-04) – Progressive Caucus
Marcy Kaptur (OH-09) – Progressive Caucus
Bill Keating (MA-09)
Derek Kilmer (WA-06)
Daniel Lipinski (IL-03)
Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Jim Matheson (UT-02) – Blue Dog
Mike McIntyre (NC-07) –Blue Dog
Jerry McNerney (CA-09)
Mike Michaud (ME-02) – Blue Dog
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07)
Gary Peters (MI-14) – Michigan Senate candidate
Collin Peterson (MN-07) – Blue Dog
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Terri Sewell (AL-07)
Juan Vargas (CA-51)
Marc Veasey (TX-33)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Maxine Waters (CA-43) –Progressive Caucus
I was not surprised at all to see so many Blue Dogs on the list, but I was particularly surprised to see progressives like Mike Capuano, Alan Grayson, and Maxine Waters. I can see no legitimate rationale for voting against this amendment. Claims of extraneous costs prove risible when the NDAA is always the most pork-filled bill of the year, and the costs of additional chaplains would be far less than the cost of additional weapons programs that the Pentagon doesn't even want.
Reading this reminded me of a Gallup poll from last year on the ethnic, racial, gender, and religious identities of presidential candidates. Survey respondents were asked, "Between now and the 2012 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates--their education, race, religion, and so on. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be ___, would you vote for that person?"
Out of all of the groups included, atheists fared the worst. Only 54% would vote for a well-qualified atheist candidate of their party whereas 43% would not. Atheists fared worse than Muslims (58% - 40%) and gays/lesbians (68% - 30%). Since the 2007 poll, however, both atheists and gays/lesbians gained in potential support. In the 2007 poll, only 45% of survey respondents would have voted for a qualified atheist candidate, and only 55% would have voted for a qualified homosexual candidate. (Note: The wording differed. The 2007 poll used "homosexual" whereas the 2012 poll used "gay or lesbian." I don't know to what extent such changes in wording have any actual effect.)