The Magazine

Notes on Nanny Bloomberg

From the Scrapbook

Jun 11, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 37 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Barely a week later, the atheists shot back: The Secular Coalition for America aims to have a chapter of its own up and running in every state by the end of this year, with a similar purpose of developing awareness, expertise, and readiness to lobby legislators. Both groups are backed by powerful advisory boards: Big guns behind American Religious Freedom include Harvard jurist Mary Ann Glendon, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, and theologian and rabbi David Novak, while the dream team advising the Secular Coalition for America includes evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, and novelist Salman Rushdie. Each board has a celebrity member in memoriam—prison evangelist Chuck Colson for the former, journalist and crusading atheist Christopher Hitchens for the latter.

The deliberate focus on state legislation is interesting in a presidential year. At the national level, the choice is relatively clear. Few would argue with the Secular Coalition’s presidential scorecard, which gives Obama an average grade of B+ on its top issues, to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s C. But meanwhile, up and down the land, seemingly small controversies over hitherto settled liberties are simmering (may an adoption agency prefer husband-and-wife couples to same-sex couples?), as the effects of changes with national implications begin to be felt—like President Obama’s and some appeals courts’ rejection of DOMA, the federal law enshrining the until-recently unquestioned definition of marriage. State legislatures have work to do as citizens start to grasp the implications for them of the creeping establishment of secularism. One way of putting the question coming into focus is: Can American pluralism continue to make room for the free exercise of orthodox Bible-based religion, including its teaching about marriage and sex? Can we live and let live in this area, or must government-
imposed neutrality sweep the field? The Scrapbook’s headache just got considerably worse.

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