Secular voters will protest outside the Republican presidential debate to be hosted at the Iowa Events Center on January 28.
The Central Iowa Coalition of Reason and the Eastern Iowa Coalition of Reason will be leading a demonstration from 5-8pm on Thursday. A public statement from AtheistVoter promotes the rally as “a demonstration to promote free speech and to raise the visibility of the voice of non-theistic voters and the issues that they care about.”
Participants will meet at the west side of the Events building on 5th Avenue between Crocker Street and Center Street in downtown Des Moines.
AtheistVoter describes itself as a non-profit group that seeks to ensure that “elected officials know that atheists, agnostics, and other nonreligious constituents vote–and vote in huge numbers–so they can no longer simply ignore us or take our votes for granted.”
For the last couple of years secular organizations such as Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers and Iowa Skeptics have been working with AtheistVoter, American Atheists, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and SecularityUSA to help spread the message of secularism in American politics.
Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers member Jason Benell told Iowa Free Press that IAF has grown since it was founded. “IAF went from a small group of less than 100 to a relatively active group numbering in the hundreds (plus many more that may not wish to be identified).”
With this, the organization is planning more functions and grow their membership as more people feel comfortable “coming out” as an atheist, agnostic, or non-religious person.
“Despite the overwhelming political and economic power of religious institutions, secular membership is increasing in the United States and IAF is no exception,” Benell said.
With atheists numbering more than 15 million in the US, the number of religiously unaffiliated voters continues to grow, with more than a third of younger Millennials reporting no religious preference, AtheistVoter reports.
“This has led to more reaction at the [voting] polls as well as questions being asked directly of candidates-and they feel compelled to answer now,” Benell said.
In April 2014, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins was joined by former Maine legislator Sean Faircloth for fundraiser at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines for SecularityUSA, a non-profit organization that wants to “return America to a secular government.”
They were there to discuss building a multi-faceted coalition as part of a grassroots effort to “rebuild the wall” between religious organizations and the federal government, an effort that has been gaining momentum, supporters say.
Their plan is to implement a strategy “that will be instrumental in springboarding secularism to prominence and credibility in 2016, substantially diminishing the power of those who want to impose a religious bias in government.”
“Iowa can serve as a megaphone for secularism,” Dawkins said.
According to SecularityUSA, “The 2016 Presidential Iowa caucuses will be used as a springboard to achieve these goals— to engage a coalition of activists and to effect change throughout America, both in 2016 and beyond.”
Congressman Steve King of Iowa’s 4th District has been listed by Faircloth in his 2012 book Attack of the Theocrats as one of “the Fundamentalist Fifty” in Congress who are trying to push legislation based on the Bible instead of the Constitution.
Fairthcloth notes that King also opposed a commemorative plaque honoring the slaves that helped build the US Capitol by claiming that it was initiated by “liberals in Congress to scrub references of America’s Christian heritage from our nation’s Capitol.”
“The Constitution of the United States of America is a secular one,” Dawkins said while speaking to the Hoyt Sherman audience, “And it is this reason why it is admired and envied throughout the world.”
The Iowa Events Center is a multi-venue convention center comprised of Hy-Vee Hall, Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center and Wells Fargo Arena. Participants are encouraged to bring their own signs as long as they keep the message on track, meaning that of separation of church and state. #AtheistVoter pins will be made available for attendees, according to organizers.
The Central Iowa Coalition for Reason encourages people who cannot attend the demonstration to follow it live on Twitter with the following hashtags:
#IAGov (for all things Iowa government)
#IA01 (for all things related to the 1st Iowa district, probably something similar with other districts around the state)
Photo Credit: By freddthompson (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons