Donald Trump, a Threat to Secularization?

Donald Trump

Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is an American businessman, reality television personality, politician, and the President-elect of the United States. Trump's campaign received unprecedented media coverage and international attention. On September 26, 2016, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off in the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. This was the most watched presidential debate in United States history.

For the last decade, atheists, humanists and others secularists have worked hard to organize a “secular vote” that would counter the political clout of the religious right. Hillary Clinton was generally seen as the more secular-friendly candidate in the campaign. Trump said he would appoint religiously conservative Supreme Court justices, ban Muslim immigrants, favor Christianity and repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits certain tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates — issues antithetical to organized atheism and humanism.

The Secular Coalition for America is particularly concerned about Trump’s policies. It is an advocacy group located in Washington D.C. It describes itself as "representing the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, agnostics, and other nontheistic Americans." Sarah Levin, senior legislative representative for the Secular Coalition for America said the coalition will act as a sort of watchdog to the Trump administration, alerting members when the coalition believes administration policies trample on separation of church and state. The group will keep a sharp eye on his promise to repeal the Johnson Amendment.

However, when we consider results on the state level, the news isn’t all bad for secularists. In the Arizona Legislature two self-declared atheists won seats, an atheist and agnostic recaptured their seats in Nebraska and Wisconsin and a humanist won in Maryland.

Other non-believing candidates lost in Texas, Arizona and Pennsylvania. And in Oklahoma, a measure that would have stripped the state constitution of its wall between church and state was defeated, actually Oklahomans vote against the “Ten commandments” State Question.

Paul Fidalgo, director of communications for the Center for Inquiry (CFI), a nonprofit educational organization, thinks that the election of Trump will send the organization back to its roots and challenge the basic tenets of secularism.

Fidalgo, on the other side, hopes that the secular movement in the United States, generally opposed to the Christian right and promoting liberal positions on social issues such as gay rights, reproductive rights, and separation of church and state, is now stronger and better-organized than ever. He said: “We are going to fight the battle of religion’s incursion into government and we are ready for that.”

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said: “We didn’t take the religious right seriously and we got complacent with a friendly president, so we redouble our get out the vote effort and this time, we have to realize we have a fight on our hands.”

That has left atheist, humanist and secular organizations re-examining their political strategies and thinking about how to interact with a Trump administration. The future will show if the Trump administration, on the one side, and secular organizations, on the other, can find common language.

Photo Credits: British Broadcasting Corporation

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