Atheist activists are planning a demonstration outside of the Republican presidential debate in Iowa on Thursday evening, where they will publicly demand “a separation of religion from government,” according to a press release announcing secularists’ intentions.
The protest, which will be held outside of the Iowa Events Center — the site of the final GOP debate before the caucuses — is intended to help bring about awareness of the issues that atheist, agnostic and “non-theist” voters care about, while also touting free speech.
The tagline for the event is, “Keep Your Theocracy Out of Our Democracy.”
Rory Moe of the Central Iowa Coalition of Reason said that demonstrators hope to shed light on a growing, secularist voting bloc.
“The point of our demonstration is that we represent the fastest growing minority yet we are ignored by the candidates,” he explained. “According to the Pew Research Center’s May 12, 2015 study, adults that identify with no religion has grown to 23 percent over the past seven years. This number rises to more than a third of those 33 years old and younger.”
Moe went on to say that there are more of these individuals — also known as the “nones” — than there are Catholics or mainline Protestants, and that the cohort comes second only to evangelicals. It should be noted, though, that the “nones” are an umbrella group that accounts for atheists, agnostics and those unaffiliated with a faith. This latter group is not necessarily non-theistic.
“We will be silent no longer and deserve to be appropriately recognized in the democratic process, rather than being relegated to the fringe of campaign targeting,” Moe said in the press release.
Rocky Gissler, coordinator of the Eastern Iowa Coalition of Reason, said that the event is also intended to defend the “wall of separation” between religion and government.
“An elected government official takes an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution that applies to all citizens, and their ‘sincerely-held beliefs’ should not supersede the supreme law of this country,” he said.
The rally comes as atheists are attempting to consolidate political power among the “nones,” thus turning the group into a cohesive political force that holds a viable level of power during various electoral cycles.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the Secular Coalition for America, an atheist advocacy group, announced in a recent statement that the organization, under the leadership of its new executive director Larry T. Decker, will work to “unite the ‘nones’” in the coming months.
“Decker seeks to employ his nearly 20 years of policy experience to unify the ‘nones,’ the segment of Americans who do not identify with any particular religion, and their allies into a recognized voting bloc ahead of the 2016 elections,” the statement read.
The proportion of “nones” in America has surely grown in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, this proportion moved from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent in 2014.
But while the umbrella group most certainly includes non-believers, the latest Pew data shows that 61 percent of “nones” still believe in “God or [a] universal spirit,” though that proportion is down from the 70 percent that was observed in 2007.
Still, the Secular Coalition for America sees an opportunity to harness the political power of this growing cohort, with Decker, who himself identifies as an unaffiliated Christian, looking to connect political candidates with atheist, agnostic and humanist Americans.
“Our nation takes pride in our commitment to civil rights and civil liberties,” he said in the press release. “In 2016, everyone should feel comfortable being open about who they are and unafraid to reject the imposition of other people’s beliefs in their own lives.”
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