You can see the full list of signatories here, I was surprised that some heavy hitters are on the list. For example, the presidents of Calvin College, Wheaton College and Whitworth College. This isn’t selection biased from the liberal wing of the evangelical movement (though some of those are there). Calvin is American’s premier Reformed liberal arts institution, and produced Alvin Platinga, the Protestant philosopher in the United States. Wheaton has been called the “Harvard of Evangelical America” (Billy Graham’s alma mater), while Whitworth is notable because Stephen C. Meyer of The Discovery Institute received his undergraduate degrees and taught there. This move doesn’t surprise me, evangelicals often follow the trends of the culture as a whole.
Today we tend to see evangelicals as foot-soldiers in the right-wing of the cultures wars, but this is an ahistorical perception. In fact, the contention is falsified in strong form by the fact that black Americans avow an orthodox Christianity, but nevertheless produce an elite political class aligned with the Left. It is well known that progressive politicians of the past, like William Jennings Bryan, were propelled by the “Old Time Religion,” but even more recently you find peculiar factual nuggets that might surprise. Many readers might know that the association of the evangelicals with the pro-life movement was a phenomenon that took root several years after Roe vs. Wade, but in Catholicism and Freedom historian John T. McGreevy states that in the late 1960s Christianity Today published pieces cautiously optimistic of the trend of abortion laws (this was a time when men like Ronald Reagan were signing legislation liberalizing access to abortion).
Taking a step back from specific policy implications, I think this goes back to my contention that for secularists we should ultimately adhere to a nominalist conception of religion. By nominalism, I simply mean that religion and religious beliefs are names and associations of behaviors with those names, but they aren’t fundamentally separate real and distinct entities. This means that religion can take many faces, and cognitive science tells us that people are masterful fabulizers, lying to our heart’s content. Religious people obviously can not take a nominalist stance toward their beliefs, because they imbue them with ontological significance. Seculars on the other hand view religion as a man-made phenomenon, and we should be aware that “religion” can inhabit a vast interpretative sample space. In the attached statement by evangelical leaders they quote passages from the Bible to support their positon, but who could doubt that others could spin other passages in a reverse direction? The possibilities of interpretation are endless, and the text imposes few constraints. As rational actors we need to be aware of the nature of the landscape, and religion is as flexibile as the human mind.