Ronald A. Lindsay and Michael De Dora – Mr. Science Goes to Washington

December 24, 2012

We usually record Point of Inquiry at a distance. Over the phone. Skyping.

But for this show, I packed up my gear and hailed a cab—to the Center for Inquiry’s brand new Office of Public Policy in downtown, Washington, D.C.

The Center for Inquiry is here to literally make this country listen to reason… and science. It’s a sensibility that is simply in far too short of a supply in this town.

So I sat down with Ronald A. Lindsay, CFI’s president, and Michael De Dora, head of the Office of Public Policy, to talk about their plans to make our legislators and leaders just a little more rational and science based.

Ronald A. Lindsay is president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry and its affiliates, the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He has led the organization since 2008.

Michael De Dora is director of the Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy and its representative to the United Nations.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Today’s episode is sponsored by Audible Visit, Audible podcast dot com slash point to get a free audio book download. This is point of inquiry for Monday, December 24th, 2012. 

Welcome to Point of Inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney one of inquiry is the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs. And at the grassroots. And just a reminder, if you don’t already, please follow us on Twitter at point of inquiry and on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. So on this show, we interview a lot of great authors, that’s kind of what we do, and these great authors write great books. So it being the end of the year and all, we thought we’d do something a little special to highlight this. So we’ve created a list of the top 10 books of 2012 from people we’ve had on the show. It’s kind of like your point of inquiry required reading list. And we want you to check it out. It’s ready to go. It is on our Web site, point of inquiry dot org. So just click on over there and give it a read and maybe check out some of these books again. Point of inquiry, dot org. The Top 10 Science and Reason Books of 2012. Speaking of books, you may know that this podcast is sponsored by Audible, the Web’s leading provider of spoken audio, entertainment information and educational programing. Audible is a site that offers thousands of books for download to your computer, your iPod or a C.D.. And today it’s willing to give you one of them for free to participate. All you have to do is go to their Web site, audible podcasts, dot com slash point again. That’s audible podcast, dot com slash point. It’s a special link they’ve made for us that you can go and you can get a free ebook download. And it turns out that our audible sponsorship is pretty timely right now because we’re recommending our top 10 books of 2012. And lo and behold, Audible actually offers you six out of ten of them. That includes one of the books I’ll just mention at Lawrence Kraus’s smash Hit A Universe from Nothing. Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing. You can get that title right now and many of the other titles that we recommend to you at point of inquiry dot org. So just head on over to Audible podcast dot com slash point. Do a little searching for some of these titles. Believe me, I think you will be glad that you did. Usually we record. Board of inquiry. From a distance. Over the phone. Scaping for this show. I did something a little different. I packed up my gear, hailed a cab and was off to the Center for Inquiry. Brand new Office of Public Policy in downtown Washington, D.C.. The Center for Inquiry is here, has just arrived here to literally make this country listen to reason and science. It’s a sensibility that is simply in far too short of a supply in this here town. So I sat down with Ron Lindsay CeaseFire’s president and CEO and Michael Dora ahead of the Office of Public Policy, the newly opened office, to talk about what their plans are for making our leaders, our legislators, just a little more rational and science based. Ron and Michael welcomed the point of inquiry. 

It’s a pleasure being here with you, Chris. Thanks for having us on. 

Yes, Chris. Thanks for having us. 

It’s great to have you. We are here at the newly opened Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy. You’re here in D.C. You’ve got a foothold here. You get to suffer like all the rest of us. That’s right. Circulation’s certainly with the commuting. I think that’s a correct assessment. So why, Ron, why this move? 

I think I should begin the answer to that by explaining a bit about what our mission is as an organization, mission is organization is to foster a secular society based on science reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values. And we do that through at least a couple different means. One is education. But another part of what we do is advocacy. And in particular, we try to influence public policy to ensure that public policy isn’t based on pseudoscience or religious dogma. And if you’re going to do that, it helps to be where public policy is formulated. Do you see as the political capital, obviously, United States in some sense, political capital, the world, and to have direct contact with people, administration, legislators, other influential people? We really needed to be here. And then a couple other reasons as well. First of all, gives us a chance to collaborate more effectively with other secular groups. For example, American Humanist Association, the Secular Coalition for America, Richard Dawkins Foundation, are all located in the greater D.C. area. There are other organizations that aren’t movement organizations but are allies with US or potential allies on specific issues such as the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State. They’re either headquartered here or they have a major base of operations here. So again, we can work more effectively with them. I’ve had actually several meetings, the voice Pescado ready. And that was facilitated by the fact that they’re about four or five blocks from us. And then in terms of just educating ourselves, this is a city that, you know, is is flush with think think tanks. Brookings Institution is just a few blocks away. Cato Institute, Cato Institute is here. A number of other organizations that offer seminars on, you know, a weekly basis. The Pew Foundation is close to us. I know Michael has been to several of these presentations, so it’s great. It helps us get the information we need to carry out of work. And finally, one other thing I mentioned is just greater visibility for the organization. I can’t tell you how frustrated we were at least four or five occasions up in Buffalo, we be contacted by some representative of some national program saying we’d like to have someone comment on whatever it is, a Supreme Court decision or something. And they’d heard, you know, we had a D.C. branch office and I think they weren’t the impression that most of the decision makers were or spokespersons were in D.C., which obviously wasn’t the case. Where in Buffalo. Right. So typical when some like this happens, they want someone that afternoon or that even within a couple hours. And then you tell them, well, we’re in Buffalo, happy to do it. So we’ll get back to you and you lose that opportunity. Whereas one thing that happened when the Pew Foundation just released their their survey on on none’s, I think that came out maybe sometime in October. CNN wanted some commentary on it. They called round. They called our communications director, Paul Fidalgo. Again, they wanted someone within a couple hours. Well, fortunately, I was in town. I could just get in a cab and go to CNN headquarters and work out perfectly or so for all those reasons, I think it makes a lot of sense to advance our mission, to have our executive offices here in D.C.. 

Michael says on the website, the goal is to promote reason and signs in our nation’s capital to which one might say good luck. But seriously, there’s like a vastness of unreason things in our nation’s capital. 

So how are you going to avoid whack a mole like I mean, it’s everywhere. Well, how are you going to focus this endeavor? 

Well, of course, the mission of the Center for Inquiry allows us to filter out some of the issues that are not necessarily core mission issues for us. And so we’re we’re able to focus on a smaller set of things rather than, you know, many different issues, things that are very important to us. And, of course, we have to make decisions about what’s what’s pragmatic and was practical. You know, there’s something to be said about looking at an issue and deciding whether or not it’s really makes sense for us to dig our heels in and say we absolutely oppose this position on this issue. And and determining whether or not that actually makes sense for us politically, because we might not actually be able to achieve any sort of goal by by doing that sort of thing. Whereas intellectuals and academics outside of outside of D.C. can take, you know, stronger positions on issues, which is good. And they can kind of drive the conversation, allow us to better think about how we should handle issues. But, you know, one of the things that’s been great and this is what Ron just spoke about a little bit, is that having all these other organizations within. Literally a half mile radius or so allows us to all communicate and talk and decide which issues should be we be working on or which issues you’re working on and the wishes issues. Can I take on or should see if I take on or properly? And then how can we actually effectively reach our goals on those issues? And so SCA Secular Coalition, H.A., the American Humor Association and the ACLU and Americans United and Brookings Institution and various different groups all have different missions. And. And though we we do a lot of different work, there is a lot of overlap. And so we’re able to kind of come together, put our minds together and say, you know, how how can we best work together to effectively make change on, you know, various different issues so that that is definitely one of the bonuses. Now, being in D.C., rather than having to be in constant communication over email or or phone, you know, being in Buffalo or I was in New York before before this coming down here. So now just being able to literally walk down the street, actually, I don’t even need to get in a cab. I can just walk down the street four or five blocks and have a meeting with a secular coalition to talk about what can we do over the next couple of months to make some change on the on the issues that we care about. 

But this and I’ll go back to run this issue of multiple organizations in kind of the same space. I mean, I can think of an average listener. This show may be thinking to him or herself, how do I know that all these groups are actually additive rather than subtractive? Like I mean, wouldn’t it be great to have one AARP for all people who are sort of secular, freethinking, skeptical? Wouldn’t that be more powerful rather than this sort of splintering that we’re now joining? 

Well, you know, in theory, it might be good for the organization to have even close relationships where they actually have a merger situation. But we have to face just the reality. I mean, the historical reality is these organizations evolved differently and some of them have more discrete missions than we do. 

Let’s take the secular coalition, which, as indicated by its name, is a grouping of various secular organizations, all of which have, you know, somewhat different purposes. So the SICO coalition, its mandate is really to focus strictly on church state separation issues, CFI, which in itself, I think some people don’t really register. This is itself a coalition. It’s a coalition of people who are interested in critical examination of religion, reducing the privileges that religious institutions have, but are also has an important segment. And our affiliate, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, obviously focuses on this segment that is very interested in making sure that our public policy is based on scientific considerations and not on pseudoscience. 

So we have people who, you know, they’re not opposing interests, but they have a different focus. And because of that, our mission is a little broader. So, for example, we do things on alternative medicine. One of the things that Micheal’s don’t put together a letter to Secretary Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, are urging her not to grant essential health benefits status to acupuncture. Essential health benefits to ask would mean basically under the new Obamacare, it would have to be covered by health insurance plans. We’re very much interested in climate change. We issued a position paper on climate change issues back in 2006. That’s going to be updated and released, we think, in February to address some of the policy issues that are coming up. So and that’s obviously something that’s beyond the scope of some of the strictly secular organizations. So it is additive. It’s not duplicative, certainly. 

Mm hmm. Michael, go ahead. 

Yeah. And so I think Ron summed up very well that we actually all are working on a range of different issues and that that can be beneficial. One of the ways in which that can be beneficial, I think, is that in the past there was maybe one explicitly secular lobbyist in the room when there were all these senators or representatives or administrative officials at some events. And now there are three or four, maybe even five of us. And so we’re not as easily ignored anymore. Now, there are several of us. And so it’s kind of like you can’t just, you know, put this one person in the corner and say, well, they represent a very small section of the population. Actually, we know that there are more people who are unaffiliated religion now and interest in our issues. And therefore, it’s good that there are more lobbyists and officials down here representing their interests. The other thing I would say is that, as Ron really pointed out, there are all different sorts of issues that free thinkers and secularists and secular humanism. Atheists are interested in and as you know, as Ron said, SCCA focuses more on maybe church state stuff, and while we do a lot of church, they work. We also do science, scientific work. But the other thing I would mention is that we also do international work, which is, I think, rather unique compared to a lot of the other organizations, especially down here, is that we have representation at the United Nations and we work with a lot of groups internationally to focus on the rights to freedom of belief and freedom of expression. And so, in fact, just yesterday I was at the Brookings Institution for an event on the faith based initiative, and I was talking some people from the secular coalition, and they rather explicitly said to me that we look to CFI to do international work, kind of for the whole secular movement in a way. And there are other groups doing doing good work. The International Humanist and Ethical Union is one of them. They’re not based in D.C. But it is true that when it comes down to the D.C. community of kind of secular skeptic lobby types, that they look to CFI for a certain amount of work. It’s not being done by some of the other groups. 

Well, let me start on you since you brought that up. You know, we’ve talked about this before a little bit. I mean, we talked about a story that tugs the heartstrings of atheists, but also people are not even atheists. The story of Alexander on getting persecuted just because he said he’s actually doesn’t believe in God. And I guess a major report has now been released on global persecution of atheists. And you contributed to that. I understand. What what happened with that? 

Yeah, the Center for Inquiry contributed to that. That report actually grew out of several months ago. The Aichi You CFI on a couple of their groups, had a meeting with the State Department Office of International Religious Freedom. And it was kind of an introductory meeting to say that the secular movement is growing and that you should be aware of the concerns of secularists globally and that there are far too many cases of atheists and agnostics and dissidents being persecuted for their for their lack of belief or their criticism of religion. And we handed them a reported that meeting, and that was back in August. And then we continued to work on that report to kind of build up towards the end of the year so that by the end of the year we would have a more comprehensive report. And actually, the big reason why we wanted to do that is because just about a month ago, the Aichi, you and the Center for we had an important meeting in New York City at the U.N. with the special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, a special rapporteur towards an independent type expert at the U.N. It’s a volunteer position that reports on kind of emerging trends relating to abuses of the rights to freedom of religion or belief. And Aichi you and see if I was able to give him this report at this meeting. It was the first time, by the way, that outwardly secular groups had a meeting with this with this special rapporteur. And we gave this extensive report detailing both laws around the world that are used to persecute dissidents, minorities, atheists, agnostics, etc., but also explaining the, you know, scary number of cases like Alexander on. Of people who have been persecuted simply for going on Facebook or Twitter or talking their community about how they’re atheist. So he was floored by by the report. In fact, he said he had never, never before received a report so extensively detailing the issues that the secular community cares about. And I think there is a certain reason for that. I mean, the secular community now in the United States is really growing. It’s exploding. And so we’re starting to communicate and talk more. And certainly being in D.C. is part of that. And so the report is kind of an outgrowth of of, you know, the growth of the movement and the idea of the movement now kind of communicating with itself and actually trying to work together rather than compete in any sort of way. 

Well, I just got to clarify this special. What the special rapporteur on the tour. Yes. The Special Rapporteur. And Freedom of religion or belief. His name is Hiner Bielefeld. Now, I know. 

Just how do you spell it? 

What is this word, Rapporteur Reppert? Torts are a PPO or t e. 

You are OK rapporteur or friend or someone who keeps up a rapport with all the different. OK, well, Google U.N.. I’m glad. Yeah. And he’s actually travel. 

His job is essentially to travel around the world to to see what’s going on, you know, specifically relating to abuses against, you know, people who are, you know, religious, non religious for speaking their mind, for changing religions, et cetera. And the big thing he does, and this is the reason why he was in New York at the U.N., was every year he issues a report on kind of the biggest emerging trend. And this year, actually, his his report focused on the right to conversion or conversion, the right to leave your religion, the right to to change your religion, which is, of course, a right that many places around the world is highly restricted. And so he was in New York and Matt Cherry of the International Humanist and African Union myself were able to schedule a meeting with him. And we sat down in private with him for about an hour and a half with this report and just kind of talked about some. The issues that we have, some of the cases, one of them being Alexander on. But, you know, the unfortunate a number of other cases of people being persecuted for their nonbelief. 

But sounds sounds like very good stuff. Michael mentioned, Ron, that, you know, the number of nuns, non religiously affiliated secular people, does seem to be exploding, exploding into attention, as well as exploding in numbers and just some data from the 2012 election. And this is I’m taking this from an NPR report that was actually good that covered this. So they were 12 percent of the electorate. These nuns, non religiously affiliated, they also were heavily skewed Democrat. 72 percent Democrat in Florida. 76 percent in Virginia. So nationally, I’m quoting NPR. Obama lost the Protestant vote by 15 percent. He won the Catholic vote by two percent. He won the nonvote by 70. So this is a double edged sword because it says, hey, we’re here and we’re going to be noticed. But also we tend to be in one camp. How do you. Does that help your clouded? Does that hurt your clout? It depends on how we use it. 

But I think right now we’re in a situation where the Democratic Party is probably taking us for granted because they sense, well, where you gonna go? You’re going to go to the Republican Party. And we are. I wanna emphasize we’re a nonpartisan organization. But the reality is, because of the way the Republican Party has evolved and the stances they’ve taken official stances as reflected by the platform, certainly on many social issues, they’re willing to concede an important role to religion, which is obviously something we think should stay out of public policy. A Democrat. At least on certain discrete issues, have positions much more congenial to the secular viewpoint, for example, on same sex marriage. You know, Democratic Party now is officially behind that. But on other issues, we certainly think the Democratic Party could take better positions. We’re still very much concerned, for example, about the faith based funding program. This is something that President Obama had pledged to reform back in 2008 when he was a candidate. He’s failed to do that. Faith based fund funded agencies are still allowed to discriminate in hiring, which is a major issue for us. And just the level of funding these programs has increased and other issues like that where clearly the nuns could exert their influence, I think, a bit more directly. And I think we have to make clear to the Democratic Party that if you want our support in the future, you know, there are certain issues that are very important to us and we want to see some results in those areas. 

As you’re talking, I’m just thinking to myself, what would be some sort of concrete marker or milestone where you could say, all right, they are taking us seriously. You know, if you if you think about other lobbies, I mean, people just they know them. They they’re known to exert power. And I don’t know how they got that way. It’s gonna be different in every case. But what would be some sort of acknowledgment that the political system is really starting to take this seriously? 

One, Ray mentioned that the faith based funding program, if in fact it were reformed so that agencies that that get public money and deliver charitable services, I mean, that’s the premise behind it, that we’re supporting charitable services, not religious services, in fact, cannot discriminate in hiring. These are secular positions we’re talking about. We’re not talking about position of, you know, who gets to be a priest or a minister, but rather who delivers, you know, the soup at the soup kitchen. They should follow all the rules apply to other secular organizations. That would be a clear and I think very important step forward. Other things simple. 

I mean, Obama has done a bit of this is acknowledge the existence of the nonbeliever community. 

He did make a passing reference to us in his first inaugural. Sounds like a small thing. But there had been never done by a president before. Like to say something similar in a second inaugural. 

Those, I think, would be clear indications that, in fact, he is least sensitive to the concerns we have the area of. 

There’s a big debate, of course, right now about the whole contraceptive mandate. We’re happy that the Obama administration so far has not compromised too far with the with the Catholic Church and other interests. 

So are fighting for this so-called conscientious objection, a religious liberty exemption that would allow them not to provide contraceptive services to their employees. But there’s been some talk about some sort of compromise or accommodation. And I would be opposed to it because on principle that our view is that if you’re running a secular institution, whether you’re the Catholic Church or some other religious body, if you choose to engage in a secular business, whether it’s running a hospital or something else, you should follow the rules apply to other secular employers. And if other second, employers are required to offer to their employees contraceptive services as part of the health insurance plan. 

So should the institutions that have to be operated by the Catholic Church. 

Michael, is there any I mean, maybe it’s these issues, maybe it’s others. Is there any area in the next four years, four years where the Obama administration has the choice, can stake a step or not take a step that I think would be very, you know, conducive to what we care about, where we want we want to see that happen will be very upset if it doesn’t happen. 

Is it faith based services? Is it something else? 

One is something that Ron has already spoken about, and that’s the faith based initiative. In 2008, when Obama was campaigning in Zanesville, Ohio, you can go look at his speech. He said that religious groups that get taxpayer funding should not be able to discriminate in hiring. And that was the situation he was dedicated to fixing. Now, it’s now been over four years and he hasn’t done that and he’s in his second term. And there’s been no indication that he’s going to change that. In fact, that was that, as I said, an event at the Brookings Institution. And just yesterday, one of the speakers was Joshua Du Bois, who’s the executive director of that office. And he was very unclear about whether or not anything is going to happen over the next four years on this issue. And so that is one issue that Obama could simply issue an executive order saying that I’m doing away with the Bush era rules on this. I’m instituting a rule that says you cannot get taxpayer funding and then turn around and discriminate in hiring. I think another issue, and I think this is one that we actually might have a chance at more success with, is working with the administration to bring some attention to the plight of atheists and secularists around the world who are being persecuted. We’re starting to formulate, as I said before, some relationships with the state departments. We’re also starting formulate a relationship with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is which was set up by Congress. Kind of an independent watchdog and advises the administration, the State Department, on issues of international religious freedom, which, you know, as many atheist might not think, actually includes atheists. That is another issue that I think we could make a lot of progress on with, you know, the administration, the White House making some noise internationally about the fact that there are just way too many countries that are signed up to international treaties that protect the rights to freedom of belief and expression, that are not respecting their their promises to those treaties. 

So there’s a joint and something wrong? Yeah, just another issue that occurred to me that has been in the news a bit lately, and that is the question of whether the IRS is going to enforce the laws that prohibit churches from engaging in electioneering. He did a letter on this. Yeah, he did a letter to those two, to the IRS. 

And it you know, it’s a well-known fact that a number of churches around the country, in fact, they don’t try to hide this. They publicize the fact that, you know, especially around election time, they go out and they’re ministers or priests or whatever. Indorse expressly endorse certain candidates, not just, you know, talking about politics in general, tell people to vote. This past election turned out most of them because they’re conservative religious groups, told their parishioners or congregations to vote for Romney and against Obama. Clear violation of IRS rules because these are nonprofit organizations are tax exempt. And the IRS has essentially taken a pass on this, probably because they regard as too much of a political hot potato. But it’s something where I think both because the law requires it and it makes good policy sense. They are you should take IRS or take a stand on this. The churches who are doing this are doing it. Many of them with the hope that actually IRS will take some legal action because they think they have a strong First Amendment argument to be able to say what they want to say. So they’re actually hoping for a test case of the Alliance Defending Justice as a right wing religious legal advocacy group that actually coordinates Pulpit Freedom Sunday, they call it, in which, you know, these ministers say what they want to say about endorsing candidates. I think that’s a flawed argument. But it’s, you know, something that I think could be ignored any longer. I mean, we are an organization dedicated free speech. And certainly we would back up the right of a minister or a rabbi or priest to say what they want to say. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t, you know, say you want to have this right to free speech at the same time, try to get tax exempt status, because then, in effect, you being funded by the public. So that’s an issue where we like to see the Obama mess at trace administration, take a stand, raise some revenues, close. 

That deficit will help a little bit. Sure. That’s that’s the that’s the way to frame Ron. But both of you, you know, there is influence politically and then there’s visibility. 

And earlier this year, there was the reason, rally, where a lot of people who care about this stuff were actually in D.C. saying, hello, we’re here. 

Look, pay attention to what has been what has been the impact of doing that, you think? 

I think it did raise the profile of secular organizations and of nonbelievers in the United States. There was a fair amount of media coverage for it. 

And that’s helpful because I think one reason we’re so we continue to be marginalized and the secular community continues to be marginalized is just the idea that we’re really small. We don’t count for anything. It’s safe to ignore us. 

You know, we’re not organized as a group. 

And I think that event gave the law to and I think they’re good. I’m confident laga be future events. I don’t think necessarily next year. But the groups that helped put on that event continue to be in communication. And I think we’re going to have future events like that. You know, maybe in 2014 at some point. I think we need to do that. We need to make sure that both the political community and just the country at large is aware that we’re here. We’re not going away and we want a voice in public affairs. 

Well, let me just ask you both one last question. I think we’ve covered good ground here. The question is, how can people support what you’re doing? I mean, a lot of folks probably feel sort of it’s a drop in the bucket to send an email to a legislator, something like what impact does that have? What is the most effective way that people who care can take action to influence the public policy process, to support what they believe in secularism or to support? You guys, center for inquiry. 

In doing so well, there are many different ways that people can support. Center for Inquiry. And it’s political work. Obviously, one of the ways that people can do it is to go to the website, sign up to become a member of the organization, financially support us if they’re able to. And I say that because it’s important. Actually, a lot of people think, well, you know, how important could it really be? Well. You know, there are four or five secular, you know, or skeptic lobbyists down here, whereas there are hundreds of religious lobbyists. So we’re we’re trying to catch up. And so we we do need a certain amount of funding to be able to do that. We can’t we can’t operate without certain mental resources. But more politically focused actually does make quite a difference. If you fill out those action alerts, if you pick up the phone and call your lawmaker and say, I oppose, you know, X policy, that’s coming up for a vote. Because they’re listening, you know, they they come back, you know, from from visits outside, you know, in their district, and they come back to the office. And they’re being told, you know. Fifty seven people called opposing the policy. But three hundred and fifty seven people called for the policy. And that does make a difference in the lawmakers mind about how he or she should vote on on any number of, you know, bills. But it’s it even goes beyond that. And it’s one thing to fill out action alerts which, mind you take, you know, a matter of minutes and you send some of these. I’ve seen we. Yeah. And we send some of these. You can go to our Web site and sign up for them. I would also implore you to go to some of the other Web sites. H.H. sends out action alerts, the National Center for Science Education, the Union of Concerned Scientists, sends them out. There are any number of groups that send these out they should sign up for. And they, like I said, take a matter of minutes to fill out. And they do make a difference. But it goes it goes beyond that, I think. And I think that people need to think also more locally about how they can change the system. You know, one of the ways in which the religious right has been very effective at changing the political system is not just by coming to Congress and lobbying and sending action alerts to lawmakers in Congress, but also by going to school board meetings, getting involved locally, writing letters to the editor, making sure that their local councils and whatnot are aware that they are out there. And they’re there are a population that can’t be ignored because they have voting power. So, you know, while it’s very important, again, to to lobby, you know, personally, your elected officials here in D.C., I think that people really need to think about getting more involved at the grassroots. And I welcome people. And people have already started to do this. As I’ve gone out and given talks and done more of these types of interviews. People have e-mailed me saying I need some help writing a letter to the editor. I want to do some kind of thing where I put together a bunch of people in my neighborhood and we go lobby for a day. I welcome people e-mailing me and asking for tips about how to do that. And I can even connect them with other people in their neighborhood who they might not even be aware who who are involved in, you know, or interested in being involved in this kind of stuff. 

So, Ron. 

Yeah. Let me first say that, you know, it’s it’s a running joke. You know, people often disparage the intelligence of members of Congress. But one thing I assure you they can do is that they can count. So it’s important to make your voice heard. There is one rocket scientist, Russell, from New Jersey. Right. Right. What? Whatever is 435 members of Congress. But in any event. So, yeah, they do. They keep track of how many supporters they get on one side of the issue versus another. So it’s important to get your voice heard. It doesn’t take a lot of effort there. And then, you know, we ask people’s supporters any way they can. 

I mean, some people have time, but not money. And if you could, to help us out with our various efforts, especially a grassroots efforts. We have branches in a number of states. We work at the state level, not just at the federal level. Help us out there. If you do have the financial resources and you can send in a contribution that’s important to world organization, that does a lot with the money we have, we have a budget roughly five and a half million dollars a year. Compare that, for example, to Campus Crusade for Christ or Focus on the Family. Both have budgets over 100 million dollars. I think we actually do a much better job. And if we had just a little bit more money, we could probably easily surpass their efforts and be much more effective. 

So hear. Hear. Pound for pound. Yeah. 

I mean, we, we we leverage ah ah ah. The resources we have, I think much more effectively than they do, in part because we have better staff, better arguments. 

Logic is on our side. Reason is on our side. We just need the means to get our message out. 

Well, on that note, I think it’s been very inspiring. It’s been great to talk to both you. So, Ron and Michael, thanks for being on point of inquiry. Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us, Chris. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry. Join the discussion about today’s show. Please visit point of inquiry dot org and leave your comments. You can also send questions and comments to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. You can find us on Twitter at point of inquiry and on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. Just a reminder, don’t forget to check out the top 10 books of 2012 by point of inquiry, guests are required reading list the top 10 books in science and reason. They, too, can be found at point of inquiry dot org. Finally, if you enjoyed this episode, do you remember these shows are made possible by donations from listeners just like you. So whether you can afford ten dollars or a hundred, you can also go to Poonam Inquiry dot org, our Web site and make a contribution today. The views expressed on point of inquiry are not necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor of its affiliated organizations. 

One of is produced by atomizing and amrs New York, and our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Waylan. Today’s Indro featured Debbie Goddard. I’m your host Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney