On July 17th – 22nd, Reed Secular Alliance President, Leslie Zukor, attended the Center For Inquiry’s Civic Days in Washington, DC. The following are Zukor’s reflections about the experience. We hope that you will enjoy what she has to say.
Although I had been to Washington, DC before, I never had the chance to lobby my representatives. In high school, I had been part of the Close-Up and Presidential Classroom Foundation’s trips to the nation’s capital. While I had enjoyed the experience, going to Washington, DC was more about meeting legislators, rather than influencing them. However, the Center For Inquiry’s Civic Days changed all that.
Directed by the CFI Office of Public Policy’s Toni Van Pelt, the conference’s 20 attendees were treated to a crash course in lobbying for secular principles. Van Pelt explained the problems with Charitable Choice, namely, Congress’s efforts to allow religious organizations to provide social services, when they discriminate in hiring and employment. She also expressed concerns about the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, regarding homosexuals in the armed forces.
In addition to discussing Charitable Choice and “don’t ask, don’t tell”, on Friday, June 17th, CFI unveiled its “Credibility Project”. The Credibility Project is an analysis of nearly 700 global warming deniers, who were named in James Inhofe’s Senate Minority Report. While many of those cited are indeed scientists, only 10 – 15% are actually scientists with original, peer reviewed research. In short, there are more meteorologists than scientific experts named in Inhofe’s list.
While it was great lobbying Congressional offices, I was a little disappointed with the lack of access to our elected officials. During the whole conference, we only had the opportunity to hear one Congressperson speak, and that was Brian Baird of Washington State. Although I do understand that our legislators are busy, I attended a US Capitol Historical Society event later in the week, and there were three to four Congresspeople at a single event. Despite the lack of distinguished speakers, I did enjoy my stay in Washington, DC.