September 8, 2012

Democratic Party Inserts God Language Despite Votes

dnc platform god jerusalemI did end up watching a bit of the Democratic convention in Charlotte. I hadn't planned on doing so, but I figured that since I watched a bit of the Republican convention, I might as well see how they compared. I've posted some general thoughts at Red State Progressive, but I want to address something with direct relevance to atheists here.

You have probably heard that American Atheists was not particularly happy with the Democratic Party's decision to insert language about some sort of god and about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel into their national platform. If you watched this vote at the convention, you'll know that the following description of what happened is technically accurate but does not begin to convey the outrage some of us felt while watching it:
The measure, led by Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, brought a vote before the convention delegates, requesting the official platform include the term god, and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The motion was not unanimous and was protested by some delegates, but was adopted after three voice votes by the official delegates.
Setting aside the question of whether any sort of gods should be part of the platform of any major party in the U.S., the process by which these voice votes occurred was truly appalling. In the first vote, there were clearly more people saying "no" than "aye," and that should have been the end of it right there. The delegates clearly rejected the amendment. However, because the passage of the amendment had been scripted (so much for meaningful democracy), a second voice vote was held. This time, the "ayes" and "noes" sounded like they were roughly equal. And so a third vote was taken, with the same result. In fact, the "noes" seemed even louder the third time. The convention chair, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, then announced that the amendment had passed with the required two-thirds majority needed. Um…no it hadn't. Watch it for yourself.

I have seen some atheists making the "who cares" argument, and they do have a point. The fact that god language has been inserted into the Democratic Party platform does not change our lives in any appreciable way. But the thing is, it really shouldn't be there. The U.S. is a secular democracy. And worse, I think that by including god language in the party platform, the Democratic Party is communicating something to atheists. Many atheists are now asking themselves whether we really have a home in this party. I think that is a fair question.