As you know by now, Barack Obama declined to participate in the Science Debate, and both Hillary Clinton and John McCain just sort of ignored it until it went away. The Democratic candidates, however, have agreed to attend the so-called “Compassion Forum” — originally billed as the “Religious Compassion Forum,” so don’t be hornswoggled — which takes place this coming Sunday at Messiah College.
According to the college’s press release, to which I've added only some emphases, the event will be:
an unprecedented bipartisan presidential candidate forum dedicated to discussing pressing moral issues that bridge ideological divides within our nation.There then follows a series of quotes from various pulpit bullies: Mike Huckabee, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Frank Page (President of the Southern Baptist Convention), William J. Shaw (President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.). The text ends with a long list of pious godpushers who make up the Forum’s board.
The Church Communication Network (CCN) will broadcast the event to tens of thousands of people of faith in at least 1,000 congregations nationwide on April 20, the Sunday evening before the Pennsylvania primary.
Now more than ever, Americans motivated by faith are bridging ideological divides to address domestic and international poverty, global AIDS, climate change, genocide in Darfur, and human rights and torture. The Compassion Forum will provide the opportunity for candidates to discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on these important issues....
The Compassion Forum is supported by diverse religious leaders and Democrats and Republicans alike.
For many years, the Republican party has been the main governmental arm of the religious zealots in this country. Therefore, many atheists, freethinkers, and secularists have increasingly identified themselves with the Democrats.
Of course, voting for a political candidate is usually not just about one issue. If you’re an informed voter, you weigh dozens of factors before deciding who best represents your views.
However, the way to achieve any political clout is to refuse to stand for repeated “Screw You”s from the powers-that-be. Most African-Americans would never dream of voting for a candidate who attended a White Supremacy Forum. Gays would rightfully shun a political contender who spoke at a Defense-of-Marriage Forum. Women — at least those who haven't been religiously indoctrinated to be submissive — would refuse to support a vote-seeker who attends a Male-Domination Forum. Jews wouldn’t vote for anyone who participates in a Hitler-Had-Some-Good-Ideas Forum, and Muslims would surely steer clear of contributing to the campaign of a person who took part in a Crusades-Forever! Forum.
But we atheists — we oh-so-rational skeptics — will watch and shrug as both Democrats cozy up to the nation's ignorant and superstitious masses, make who-knows-how-many implied promises to them, actively inject more and more woo into the nation's discourse, while simultaneously telling us that our ideas and values are irrelevant.
There’s no other group in this country that would allow itself to be kicked in the teeth like that. They’d be organizing from now until Election Day and beyond.
That’s why I urge every person who values the Constitution, who believes in the Separation of Church and State, who knows that Religious Freedom means the right not to have someone else’s beliefs rammed down his or her throat day after day after day ... that’s why I urge all of us to loudly start making it clear on our blogs and in our personal lives that we will not vote for the Republican OR the Democratic candidate unless our priorities get some small degree of respect.
We are a potentially viable political force, but we all need to publicize our concerns. And make political threats. The Christian Right used just such tactics, and they continue to flourish.
In November, unless one of the candidates has spoken about issues that are the most profoundly important to me — namely, the value of critical and rational thought in governing the country and relating to the rest of the world — I’ll march into my polling place and write “The Exterminator” and “The Chaplain” proudly on my ballot. Perhaps you’d like to do that, too, or write in your own name. Or vote for a third party candidate, or a cartoon character, or your dog.
But please don’t furnish anyone with the boots to kick us again.