From a press release (via e-mail):
Washington, D.C. - The Secular Coalition for America (SCA) today released its House and Senate Scorecards of the 109th Congress. The SCA, an advocacy group for atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheists, provides roll-call votes to demonstrate the members' commitment to the separation of church and state and their willingness to protect the interests of the nontheistic community.
The scorecards cover votes taken from January 2005 until August 2006. The SCA used ten key votes in both the House and Senate. Votes include: allowing organizations that receive federal funds to discriminate based on religion; promoting narrow religious beliefs over secular needs in science, marriage contracts, and the military; the confirmation of judicial appointees who seek to weaken the protections provided by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; and, stripping federal courts of their ability to decide constitutional issues.
In the House, only seven members of Congress earned a perfect score of 100 percent: Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). From their records these Representatives demonstrate their strong support for the separation of church and state and the protection of minority rights.
"With the political strength of the religious right and the irrational demonizing of the nontheist community, I am very proud of these members of Congress," SCA Director Lori Lipman Brown said. "Our republican form of government was designed to protect the rights of individuals and minorities over the whims of the majority. It is very sad that so few members of Congress fully live up to the ideals embodied in our Constitution."
I have to disagree with three of the votes they were using in this score card (two in the house one in the senate). I think it's a bit of a stretch to lump stem cell research in with separation of church and state. I fail to see how this issue "demonstrate the members' commitment to the separation of church and state and their willingness to protect the interests of the nontheistic community". Just because a majority of the support for an issue derives from religious motivations does not make the issue, in and of itself, religious.
And, like most score cards from single issue groups, it faults any vote for a judicial nomine that they feel won't be on their side on this one issue. While this is fine, It doesn't tell you much about the other issues that may have motivated a vote for a nominee who will deal with a multitude of other issues. This makes it a less than precise guage of how well the congresscritter casting the vote supports a single issue.
I don't care that I'm using my real name and real email address here: life is too short for me not to make my mark on the world as all others before me have.
I appreciate the concerns of TonyL, in particular about grouping stem-cell research in with other secular humanist values. But, the SCA has to start somewhere. This means their first polls will never be perfect.
I was raised in a very mild form of Methodist.
I am atheist now. But I also believe that non-terrestrial aliens routinely visit earth. And I believe strongly in fighting, using force if necessary, to protect the right to speech of those who believe in aliens and non-human technologies. They are severely ridiculed and persecuted just as much as atheists are.
Ralph Nader is my hero, I've donated money to his presidential campaign and voted for him, but I disagree with his general acceptance of only non-violence and anti-war to settle disputes. Law itself is violence, for one thing. What is a person to do, but to add up in some sort of scorecard the + and - of the laws that person would pass or repeal?
No one believes in defending free speech unless they defend it for those with whom they disagree and who also need it most.
There is absolutely no need for an atheist to run to defend the speech of a Christian or Muslim, since Christians and Muslims have billions of their own type to help them. But, if they claim to defend free speech or any other freedom, then they are obligated to defend atheists.