On Saturday, Feb 9th SAIU President and Outreach Director attended Civic Day at the Indiana State House, put on by CFI Indiana. You can see an itinerary for the day here. We learned a lot throughout the day but I have three main takeaways.
1) The religious are our allies.
When we are fighting for the separation of church and state, it may not seem this way at first, but the religious really are our allies. Many American Christians have a very skewed idea of what religious liberty is. They seem to think it means that Christianity gets to be number one. However, many religious folks do understand what religious liberty really is, and are willing to fight for it. It is in the believers interest to keep church and state separate, lest a school teacher tell their students about a differing faith (oh my!).
I was please at the variety in religious belief or unbelief of the speakers. In the panels, there were individuals who said they were religious but still believe in a secular government and will fight for it to remain that way. By making religious folks understand that religious liberty is in their best interest as well, we grow in the number of supporters for the separation of church and state. We must utilize these allies to succeed.
2) You have a voice. Use it.
We hear it over and over again; “call your senator”, “email your representatives”, “sign this petition”, and so on. And guess what, doing these things actually works. Rob Boston, Michael De Dora, and some of the panelists involved in the legislature in Indiana said it, and it’s still true. Your elected officials work for you. You actually do make a difference when you call them or visit them and say “Look, as a secular American I can’t support this bill and here’s why. I don’t think you should support it either”. If you don’t tell them this, they don’t know you exist! One phone call actually does make a difference.
From personal experience, I have emailed and called representatives and received genuine responses. I also took a class with a state representative last semester. She told stories about how she would talk to other reps about a bill she was trying to push and they would say something like “Well, I don’t know Peggy, I had 3 constituents call in this week about it and I don’t think I can vote for it right now”. They listen, they care.
3) As young people, we need to step it up.
Much of the secular movement is made of up old, white men. This is addressed frequently but it has never been so apparent to me until Civic Day. Orion and I were likely the only people under 30, and there were only a few more who were under 60. I had trouble seeing due to the glare from all the bald, white heads (not really, but you get the idea). Of course everyone involved in the secular movement plays a party in its success, but why aren’t many young people getting involved in politics? We are the future, what will happen when these 60 year olds aren’t here any more, will we wait until then to step up and make our voices heard?
This is unacceptable as far as I’m concered. Sure, it’s hard to be immersed in government affairs, especially when you are busy with loads of homework, but the amount of effort it takes to occasionally look into these issues and contact your representative to tell them what you think really does not take much time at all. You can sign up for action alerts from the CFI Office of Public Policy and when an alert is put out simply fill in your zip code and send a pre-written letter right to your reps door! Even those pre-written letters make a difference.
So let’s stand up and be responsible for this country that we will probably be living in for a long time to come.