Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Biden’s early executive orders a breath of fresh secular air

Vol. 38 No. 02 March 2021
President Biden                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

FFRF is pleased to welcome many of President Biden’s early actions to reverse course on measures taken by the previous administration, which FFRF had roundly opposed.

Biden’s laudable executive orders include:

Repealing Muslim ban: FFRF long argued, including before the Supreme Court, that banning individuals from entry to the United States based on religion is an egregious religious test and violation of the Establishment Clause. The orders being overturned favored Christians from those countries, exempting them from the ban and allowing them to immigrate. FFRF pointed out that if the United States can exclude Muslims, atheists and other freethinkers would be next on the list.

Rejoining the climate change accord: FFRF’s position is that the climate crisis is a state/church issue. “It’s not just the casual denial of reality that impacts views on climate change, but also the influence of apocalyptic religiosity. The virulent strain of evangelicalism that tends to infect our current government welcomes the end of this world as a fulfillment of prophecy and ‘the second coming,’” we noted in 2017.

Ordering mask-wearing on federal property: Speaking of formulating public policy based on facts and reality, the new administration is already living up to its promise to be guided by science, with executive orders that protect federal employees and citizens by mandating masks on federal property and in interstate travel. FFRF has been advocating for a science-based approach to the pandemic since the beginning, including no exemptions for churches.

Science-minded response to COVID pandemic: Several executive orders have been aimed at combating the COVID pandemic that has been handled ineptly up until this point, with religious leaders and the prior president assuring the country that the virus will “magically” disappear while they themselves actively spread the contagion, denying the advice of doctors and scientists. The new administration has organized a government-wide response and ordered that the response must be driven by data and science.

Ending the transgender military ban: FFRF has long supported LGBTQ rights and defended them against religious bigotry and attacks. And make no mistake, the transgender military ban was directly motivated by religious bigotry.

Banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation: In another instance of correcting religion-based bigotry, the new administration also set out a policy to vigorously enforce anti-discrimination provisions with respect to LGBTQ individuals. Christian Nationalists who had the ear of the prior administration have been consistently obsessed with stopping LGBTQ people from receiving equal treatment under the law.

Promoting racial equality: “Diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths,” reads the order — and FFRF agrees. The order also explains: “Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our government,” which is all true, but not the end of the story. FFRF has been working to implement equity, diversity and inclusion into our organization at all levels, from membership to staff to the alliances we forge, such as joining the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Humanistic executive orders: Other executive orders just signed by Biden, with more to come, embody the humanism shared by many of our freethinking members, including over immigration reform and expanded food assistance programs food assistance programs. The pandemic’s blight, both in health and economics, has disproportionately landed on people of color, low-wage workers, indigent Americans and women.

Notably absent from executive orders to date are attempts to repeal the (bogus) revoking of rules prohibiting nonprofits, including churches, from wading into partisan politics, undoing the Christian Nationalist agenda allowing religion-based discrimination by federal contractors and similar acts by the prior administration. FFRF is committed to defending the wall of separation and will hold all administrations accountable for breaching that wall or for excluding nonbelievers from the American tapestry. But we also want to recognize progress and give credit where it is due.