One of the most-obscure voter’s guide to cross my desk – actually my computer screen – in this election season arrived a few weeks ago, on the eve of the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Among the countless guides issued by various political, environmental, educational and religious organizations came one from a decidedly non-religious group: The Secular Coalition for America.
Proudly non-believers, they evaluated the leading aspirants for the nation’s highest elected office in an announcement topped by the headline, “Atheists Grade Presidential Candidates: A Choice of Lesser Evils.” Their candidate of choice was – no surprise here – Libertarian Gary Johnson, who received a B rating; believers in minimal coercion of outside institution’s on an individuals’ freedom of thought or action, they’re apparently not in favor of taking orders from G-d or Caesar. Obama got a C; Romney an F. Green Party standard-bearer Jill Stein got a mark of “incomplete.”
The Coalition is an amalgam of several “nontheist” organizations, including the Society for Jewish Humanism.
“In recent years, secular values have been under constant attack by religious leaders and political candidates,” the introduction to the guide stated. “With the secular character of our nation’s government being consistently threatened, voters must be aware of the positions of their elected leaders to better inform their decision at the ballot box.”
“While politicians certainly have the right to their personal religious beliefs, our laws should always be based on reason, science and logic – and never theology,” Coalition Director Edwina Rogers wrote in the Washington Post this week. “In order to win the support of the secular community, politicians must refrain from inserting religion into government.”
The voter’s guide appeared, the Coalition pointed out, at a time when – according to a recent study by the Pew Forum – the religiously unaffiliated are the fastest growing “religious group” in America; one in five Americans is not affiliated with any religion.
The guide based its grades on candidates’ public speeches and voting records on several issues of concern to the secular community, such as stance on faith-based initiatives separation of church and state, and “Willingness to appoint a nontheist.”
Obama, for example, received an F, in one category, for his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year that he has “fallen on my knees” and asked God for guidance. And Romney got the same grade for declaring in a 2007 speech that his Mormon faith would “inform my presidency, if I were elected.”
Johnson, who received higher grades than the major party candidates in most of the guide’s categories, did not actually receive an endorsement, but the Coalition’s preference was clear.
On Tuesday, Johnson received about a million votes – one percent of the national total.
He apparently never had a prayer of winning the election.