CFI Office of Public Policy

On Tuesday, November 14, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) will hold an event at the National Press Club entitled “Science and Secularism: Defending America’s True Values.” This will be the inaugural event for the Office of Public Policy (OPP). So far, the OPP already has three employees and is trying to raise nearly $1,000,000 for startup costs for the first three years.

According to an email from CFI, the Office of Public Policy will focus on two issues:

1. Defending the Integrity of Science – Science is under attack in Washington today on many fronts:


  • Intelligent Design in place of evolution
  • Opposition to stem-cell research
  • Reluctance to recognize the dangers of global warming and its effects on the environment
  • Advocacy of abstinence instead of condoms to reduce AIDS
  • Opposition to population policies worldwide and contraception

2. Defending Secularism and the First Amendment against government and religious

  • Support of faith-based charities
  • Efforts to bridge the separation of church and state
  • Support for a “holy war” on terrorism

This comes a mere two years after the start of the Secular Coalition for America, which is the only lobbying organization strictly for non-religious people.

For all that CFI does right (a great podcast, producing wonderful magazines, etc.), one area they constantly fail at is making friends with other secular organizations. CFI seems to prefer CFI-brand-Secular-Humanism than Humanism in general. A student from the Toronto Secular Alliance recently wrote a scathing review of a CFI student leadership conference, where all the students heard all weekend was how great CFI was. (See page 10 of the pdf.)

I’m not sure how the Office of Public Policy would differ from similar groups that already exist, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the National Center for Science Education. Still, it would be nice to see the group succeed. Another voice in the crowd is always helpful, since they’ll inevitably reach out to people who haven’t heard the message yet.

Since CFI is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, one thing they cannot do is lobby (something that 501(c)4 groups like the Secular Coalition for America can do).

Personally, I think the SCA has a better chance of succeeding mostly because it is a coalition of seven already established secular organizations, and if we want to make our viewpoint heard, it’s going to happen only if we work together.


[tags]Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Freedom From Religion Foundation, National Center for Science Education, Secular Coalition for American, National Press Club, Toronto Secular Alliance, Intelligent Design, atheist, atheism, Secular Humanism[/tags]

  • http://humaniststudies.org HumanistPR

    >>>Since CFI is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, one thing they cannot do is lobby (something that 501(c)4 groups like the Secular Coalition for America can do)

    That’s not entirely correct.

    501(c)3 nonprofits can lobby.

    The Institute for Humanist Studies, which is a founding member of the Secular Coalition for America, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Tim Gordinier, Ph.D., was employed by the IHS as a registered lobbyist in New York State for four years.

    A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization can only dedicate 20 percent of its resources to lobbying.

    A 501(c)4 can dedicate 100 percent of its resources to lobbying. Both (c)3′s and (c)4′s can only lobby on issues — neither can endorse a particular candiate (something a PAC can do, I believe).

    Donations to a (c)3 are tax deductible, where as donations to a (c)4 are not.

    So…the SCA can do a lot more lobbying that a (c)4 and is probably more effective in that area. But each type of organization serves a distinct purpose.

    The Alliance for Justice is a wonderful resource for 501(c)3′s and 501(c)4′s and other social activists. Their website is: http://www.afj.org/

  • http://humaniststudies.org HumanistPR

    Ooops. In the second to last paragraph, I meant to write:

    So…the SCA can do a lot more lobbying that a (c)3 and is probably more effective in that area.


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