This morning, American Atheists announced the group would have a booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference beginning March 6 in Washington.
“‘Conservative’ isn’t a synonym for ‘religious’,” said American Atheists president David Silverman in a statement announcing the booth. “In fact, a fifth of conservatives seldom or never pray, and the same number state religion is not important in their lives.”
“If conservatism doesn’t embrace religious neutrality, its influence will wither and die,” Silverman said. “Atheists are a growing constituency—an increasingly united constituency—and conservative legislators ignore our vote and our voice at their own peril. We demand equality and fairness—nothing more—which is the very foundation of American values. Imposing religious dogma on its citizens should not be the role of the small government advocated by conservatives.”
They were even prepared to offer a free one-year membership in American Atheists for anyone who stopped by the booth.
Just a few hours after the story was out, CPAC rescinded the group’s booth approval.
Silverman said he received a phone call from American Conservative Union Executive Director Dan Schneider informing him “that the ACU board is breaking its agreement to permit American Atheists to host an information booth.”
The atheist leader said Schneider told him the reason for the dis-invite was the “tone” of a quote he gave to CNN: “The Christian right should be threatened by us.”
“This is exactly the problem. The ACU, which has invited CPAC speakers such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin, is afraid of my tone? My ‘tone’ was clearly an excuse to back out after our press release angered religious conservatives,” Silverman said.
“Continuing to conflate religion and conservatism is not a viable strategy; this was apparently too scary for CPAC attendees to hear,” Silverman said. “America’s religious conservatives can deny it all they want, but soon they’re going to realize that ignoring the growing number of atheist constituents is a losing proposition.”
He said that a member of the American Atheists board met with CPAC organizers in the weeks after their registration, and their input “was well-received and the atmosphere was positive.” He added that the atheists were even suggesting CPAC speakers and other engagement opportunities.
Silverman said they still want to come to the conference. “We still want to attend CPAC. If the ACU will invite us to exhibit as previously agreed, we will be there to talk about the importance of religious equality,” he said.
Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center, who has previously accused CPAC of destroying the conservative movement, said “the invitation extended by the ACU, Al Cardenas and CPAC to American Atheists to have a booth is more than an attack on conservative principles. It is an attack on God Himself. American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity?”