Atheists were likely elated by the Democrats' initial decision to remove "God" from the party's 2012 platform. But, their joy was quickly diminished when liberal political leaders, realizing the political fallout from its decision, quickly moved to reinsert the language. Now, secularists are responding with disappointment and frustration, claiming offense, discrimination and poor manners on the behalf of Democrats.
The platform's new language reads (emphasis added), "We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential."
The Secular Coalition for America, an atheist group that lobbies for non-belief, responded strongly to the Democratic Party's decision. Executive Director Edwina Rogers put out a statement, alleging that religion already plays too massive of a role in the political system and that the decision to add "God" back in wasn't warranted. While America's founders purportedly understood the need for separation of church and state, Rogers believes that contemporary politicians simply do not.
"The co-mingling of God and politics that we are increasingly seeing from our politicians at both the state and federal levels is precisely what our founders aimed to avoid," she said in the statement. "The separation of religion and government is one of our nation's core founding principles and it should be embraced by both parties, because it really is the best guarantee of freedom for all Americans-including the religious."
Before the Democrats' latest controversy, Rogers and her group took issue with the presence of the word "faith" in the platform (while "God" wasn't originally mentioned, the benefits of a faith community in America were). The Secular Coalition isn't alone in voicing its frustrations. American Atheists, the non-theist group that is currently suing to prevent the presence of a cross at the 9/11 Museum, also condemned the re-insertion of a deity in the platform.
The group's president, David Silverman, called the decision "divisive" and claimed that it "unnecessarily alienates about 16 percent of the American voting population. This proportion he's referring to accounts for the subset of the nation that does not believe in a higher power.
"I am shocked that the Democratic Party caved in to the pressure they were receiving because of their choice to use inclusive language in their platform," Silverman announced in a statement.
On Thursday, Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization known for its litigious activity against people and institutions of faith, also wrote a scathing article on the group's web site addressing the "God" issue.
"Yes, it’s wrong and frustrating that in a nation predicated on a godless Constitution, a political party must inject 'god' into its platform to avoid a 'gotcha' moment," Gaylor wrote. "But I’m hopeful someday soon that gratuitous political piety will once again be seen as tasteless pandering, and that public dissing of freethinkers and atheists will be seen as just plain bad manners."
While non-believers maintained that the Democrats had overstepped a boundary by re-inserting the language, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the opposite. According to Romney, the initial removal "suggests a party which is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of American people."
The Democrats also reinserted the notion that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, a factor that didn't seem to rile the atheist activist community. In fact, most of the activists seemed to ignore it in their responses.