April 26, 2008

American Ethical Union to Join Secular Coalition

The Secular Coalition for America is growing to nine member organizations now that the American Ethical Union has voted to join. This means more staff, donors, and activists being added to the Secular Coalition. For more, read the complete press release below.

Washington, DC – The Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying organization which protects and advances the rights of nontheistic Americans, has just welcomed a new member organization. This expansion of the Coalition follows other growth milestones: the hiring in March of its second full-time lobbyist; the doubling of its e-activist base in the last year; and unprecedented annual contributions from across the country.

On Sunday, April 20, 2008, the American Ethical Union (AEU) voted to become the ninth member organization of the Secular Coalition for America.
The AEU is the umbrella organization for ethical culture societies across the United States.

The vote was held at the AEU’s 93rd Annual Assembly in Austin, TX. Both the Coalition and AEU believe that every individual has the right to worship – or not worship – according to conscience, and that a secular government provides the best protection for all Americans to practice – or forego – religion and faith. The Coalition’s dual mission of increasing the visibility and status of nontheistic viewpoints in the U.S. and protecting the secular character of government are goals which are shared by its member organizations. “By joining this coalition,” said Ron Solomon, Treasurer of AEU and also Treasurer of the Coalition, “the American Ethical Union enhances the already impressive voice that the Secular Coalition for America has developed in Washington and enables the American Ethical Union to be part of an important effort by nontheists of all persuasions to help maintain the constitutionally prescribed separation of church and state in America. There is a real need in the nontheistic community for building bridges between our organizations and we are proud to be a part of that effort.”

Coalition member organizations are established 501(c)3 nonprofits that represent humanists, freethinkers, atheists and other nontheistic Americans, including those serving in the military. According to Lori Lipman Brown, Director of the Coalition, “the American Ethical Union is a wonderful and welcome addition to our coalition. Their commitment to ethical action and programs brings reason-based ethics to families and the general public. I am confident that the American Ethical Union will be an equally powerful and positive force within our coalition. We are honored to count them as a partner.”

The Coalition is enjoying other kinds of expansion as well. The Coalition’s main function is to lobby Congress and make the voices of its diverse constituency heard. To that end, it alerts interested citizens via e-mail and asks them to contact their elected representatives concerning votes and legislation. In the last year, the number of subscribers to the Coalition’s e-alerts system has doubled, and response rates are climbing:
for example, the Coalition’s recent call for action on House Resolution
888 (which promotes an American Religious History Week, among other things), saw a response rate 500 percent higher than some previous alerts.
More than 100,000 Americans have referred friends, family and colleagues to the Coalition’s lobbying report for 2007.

Regardless of which political party holds the majority in Congress, there remains outreach to be done on Capitol Hill and the Coalition recently hired a second full-time lobbyist to support that work. On March 31, 2008, the Coalition was pleased to welcome Ms. Sasha Bartolf to its staff as a legislative associate. Ms. Bartolf comes to the Coalition from Congressional Quarterly, where she contributed to CQPolitics.com, Politifact.com, CQ Weekly, and CQ Healthbeat as a writer and researcher.
Previously, she was a lobbyist and public policy writer at the government affairs firm, Impact NJ. At the Secular Coalition for America, her responsibilities are Congressional lobbying, grassroots advocacy and research.

The hiring of Ms. Bartolf was made possible due to the growing number of donations the Coalition has received. For each of the last three years, the Coalition has exceeded its own fundraising goals, allowing it to hire a new staff member each year since 2005. The 2008 budget is twice that of
2006 as a result of the support of individual donors and the growing proportion who are monthly contributors.

*****

The purposes of the American Ethical Union are to promote the knowledge, the love and practice of right living in all the relations of life; to join its members into a religious and educational fellowship in an effort to advance the moral growth of humanity through study, social action and spiritual consecration; to bring into close fellowship of thought and action all existing ethical culture societies and such other ethical societies, ethical humanist societies, and other organizations as may be established and admitted to the AEU; and to facilitate the growth of the ethical movement. Ethical societies are nontheistic, neutral and humanist in emphasis. www.aeu.org

The mission of the Secular Coalition for America is to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints in the United States and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition for America was founded in 2002 as a 501(c)4 advocacy organization whose purpose is to amplify the diverse and growing voice of the nontheistic community in the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., the staff lobbies the U.S. Congress on issues of special concern to its constituency. www.secular.org

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