When the loudest voices in the room are Timothy Dolan and Bill Maher, minority voices get drowned out.
The Secular Coalition for America, a nontheist lobbying organization, named Republican Edwina Rogers as its executive director yesterday, reminding me of an important truism that's often forgotten, especially during election seasons: You can't tell how someone votes by their religious practice.
Rogers has worked as a lobbyist or staffer in both Bush White Houses, for the Republican National Committee, and for Republicans like former Majority Leader Trent Lott and Senator Jeff Sessions. Yet in a Q&A on the SCA's website, she says she calls herself "a firm secularist and an ardent supporter of the separation of religion and government... I certainly feel that theists should be fully able to participate in public life—but no more than nontheists."
Minority voices like Rogers' frequently are drowned out of national debates—as are religious progressives'. A few months ago, the media framed the fight over access to birth control as a battle between conservative Catholics and secular liberals. Meanwhile, my inbox was flooded with emails from pro-choice religious organizations like Catholics for Choice begging for some nuance in our national conversation. The refreshing and frustrating thing about religion is that it can be interpreted a thousand different ways that don't necessarily line up neatly with a partisan agenda. When the loudest voices in the room are Timothy Dolan and Bill Maher, those distinctions become blurred.
As the election heats up and we start to scrutinize every voter's little quirk, let's do ourselves a favor and remember that one's religious affiliation—or lack thereof—doesn't always fit into a neat little box. And as the latest generation becomes less and less religious, faith will undoubtedly become a smaller political factor as the years go on.