Public Policy  


The Office of Public Policy

Toni Van Pelt, Director

The purpose of the Institute for Science and HumanValues Office of Public Policy is to elevate reason and science in our nation’s capital. Never before in our lifetime has our democratic way of life, our Constitution and the rule of law, been under such a strong attack by those who hold power in the United States government…by many who claim to govern in the name of a supernatural power. ISHV is standing up and stepping on stage, to champion a rational, secular, democracy by influencing the direction of national discussion and public policy. We call on political leaders of both parties to base public policy, insofar as possible, on empirical evidence and neutrality, instead of the religious faith of some. In other words, to maintain a strict separation between state and church. Further we strive to shield and promote scientific research and advancement, free of political interference. How do we do this? We engage grassroots activism nation-wide and work in coalition with like minded organizations in Washington, DC to champion and advance ISHV’s commitment to social justice, planetary ethics, and codifying into law shared values for the human family. Please join us by signing up for ISHV action alerts on our website or our FaceBook page today.


2013 Report From the ISHV Office of Public Policy

Toni Van Pelt, Director

As you may know from following the work of ISHV, we advocate on many issues of interest of the progressive secular humanist movement. An important way we do this is to work in coalition with other groups and organizations. We participate by helping to write and sign onto letters, sending out alerts asking you to contact your representatives, traveling around the country to do civic trainings and participating in dialogues with U.S. and international leaders on how best to advance the movement. In addition we work on the international stage to aid and provide a safe place for those who suffer persecution from radical religionists.

Stop Helen Ukpabio from Bringing Her Witch Hunting Campaign to the U.S.

We added our heft to the successful drive and kept her out of the U.S. in 2012. This year we continue to support Leo Igwe’s work and the safe camps for those accused of witchcraft in Nigeria

Charitable Choice and the Presidential Faith Based Office

Since it's inception in 2010 ISHV has been actively working to end religious preference in law and public policy. Today ISHV advocates against the onslaught of religious amendments, acts, resolutions and offices brought on by Congressional members, federal offices and the White House.

Our focus for 2013 was on the recent opening of the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiative in the U.S. Department of State. This office reaches out to faith-based communities to ensure that voices are heard in the policy process, and it works with those communities to advance U.S. diplomacy and development objectives.” What does this mean exactly? It means that the U.S. government must encourage and support religious dogma – even if doing so goes against the interests of U.S. citizens. Never before has America actively integrated U.S. diplomacy and religious concerns to this extent. Please sign our petition.

Secondly we are monitoring and trying to engage the newly appointed executive director, Melissa Rogers of the White House Faith Based Office. We wrote in coalition to her, “Because of the many years your work has focused upon the constitutional issues surrounding the partnership between the government and faith-based organizations, we know that you are quite familiar with the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD) and our work. As you begin your tenure, we want to use this opportunity to highlight our current priorities and underline what we consider to be unfinished business for the Obama Administration in this important arena. We also want to express our desire to work closely with you and your Office to achieve effective reforms of the Faith-Based Initiative that will better protect religious freedom and civil rights.” We have not had a response.

Military Chaplaincy

We participated and will continue to advocate for our national leaders to assure that military chaplains can adequately address the needs of the women and men in the Armed Services by providing support to humanists and other non-theists and by accepting otherwise qualified chaplain candidates who represent secular humanist beliefs

Immigration Rights

We had many opportunities to speak out for immigrations rights including a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the urgent need for health care of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and human trafficking, including particularly the need to advance access to quality and affordable health coverage and care that has not been adequately addressed in the Affordable Health Care law. We advocated for protection of survivors of gender-based violence seeking refuge in the United States, including LGBT based violence. We advocate for dignity, respect and humane immigration reform

Paycheck Fairness Act

We continue our decade long advocacy to promote economic opportunity for women and full enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, urging Congressional members to support and co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was reintroduced in the 113th Congress. The Paycheck Fairness Act has twice passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and it fell just two votes short of a Senate vote on its merits in the 111th Congress.


We at ISHV and our members are very concerned about the blatant attempts and some successes of dismantling public education. We opposed any amendments to H.R. 5, “the Student Success Act”, and any amendment to the Fiscal 2014 Senate Budget Resolution S. Con. Res 8 that would create and permit a federally funded private school voucher program or tuition tax credit program that would allow the expenditure of scarce federal funds on private school vouchers. We believe the anti-education crowd seeks to misuse taxpayers’ funds, deprive students of rights provided to public school students, and threaten religious liberty.

Spurring the Senate to Vote

On a fairly regular basis we prod Senate members to sign onto CEDAW and to vote on presidential nominations. We were one of many organizations who finally convinced Sen. Reid to move passed the 60 vote filibuster to a majority vote of 50 plus 1.

Military Justice Improvement Act

We supported the Act when it was offered as an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. This act would support service member survivors of sexual violence, by reforming the military justice system removing from the chain of command the decision to prosecute serious crimes. We will continue to work with Senator Gillibrand’s office and the coalition in whatever form it is reintroduced in 2014, as an amendment or as a stand alone bill in 2014.

Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education (ED)

We support the critical work of these important federal agencies. They work tirelessly to enforce civil rights laws, including Title IX’s protections against sex discrimination in educational programs receiving federal funds. And we advocate for evidence-based sex

education and against single sex schools.

Human Rights

ISHV lobbies for the Healthy Families Act (H.R.1286/S.631) a common sense bill that would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to recover from short-term illnesses like the flu, access preventive care, care for a sick family member or seek assistance related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Without paid sick days, workers are forced to make impossible choices when illness strikes: stay home, lose pay and risk their jobs; or go to work sick, risk their health and spread disease to their co-workers and communities. Establishing a national paid sick days standard will help make businesses and governments more efficient while giving working families more financial stability — leading to a stronger economy for all.

We also have aided in sheparding the Violence Against Women Act, which includes provisions to protect vulnerable communities, including Native American women, college students, and LGBT individuals at each opportunity throughout the legislative process, including voicing our opposition to the language of the substitute to S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). We oppose any amendment insofar as it would alter the nondiscrimination clause from the Senate -passed bill to remove protections that bar federally funded religious discrimination, Government funds should not be used to underwrite employment discrimination within government-funded projects and activities.

As you can tell we have had our plate full the entire year. There are many of the bills, acts and issues we worked on this year, but there are more. Please visit the ISHV website, under the Menu item Act NOW for complete information. And remember I am available for trainings and presentations. Give me a call.

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