White House Gives Ear to Secularist Group

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The United States may be a country founded on religious freedoms, but today members of the Obama administration met with a group who'd rather America be free from religion.

Up to 100,000 people visit the White House every month. Since last fall, a new online database of who's coming and going has captured their names for all to see.

But Friday, behind closed doors, members of the Obama administration made history, showing its hallmark inclusiveness by meeting with dozens of activists promoting secularism in America.

For more on this meeting, CBN News spoke with Jordan Sekulow from the American Center for Law and Justice. Click play for his comments.

"It shows that they have quote-unquote arrived. They're taking seriously enough that they're getting face time in the White House," Rob Boston, a member of the Advisory Council for the Secular Coalition for America, said about the group's White House meeting. "That's empowering for any organization."

The advocacy group is an umbrella organization made up of atheists, agnostics, and humanists and usually spends its time lobbying members of Congress. But it scored a sit down with administration officials, hitting on the following three main themes:

First, to protect children from what they call "neglect and abuse" for parents who cite religious reasons to deny their children medical treatment.

Second, to end coercion of military men and women from being proselytized or forced into participating in religious events.

Third, to make sure that faith-based organizations that receive federal funds cannot hire on the basis of religion or proselytize to those receiving their services.

The group In God We Trust blasted the meeting, calling into question the administration's decision to sit down with what they call some of the most hate-filled anti-religious activists in America.

The only statement from the White House read: "The Office of Public Engagement regularly meets with a wide range of organizations and individuals on a diverse set of issues."

But this meeting is different. It marks the first time American non-believers and White House officials ever held a policy briefing together - a hallmark of the president's desire to be inclusive.

"Whenever the president is sort of putting out a list of all the different religions in the country, the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, he will at the end, tack on and the people of no particular faith," Boston said.

It's a group that earned its first "shout out" from the President during his inaugural address, when he proclaimed, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers."

*Originally published February 27, 2010.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

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John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.