Walking the plank in Iowa

Justin Scott poses for photos with two presidential candidates. He poses with Sen. Marco Rubio while supporting his “Atheist VOTER” shirt. Scott hopes to work with UNI students to secularize caucus planks

JACOB MADDEN, News Editor | [email protected]

The Iowa Caucuses are right around the corner and many UNI students will be caucusing for the first time on Feb. 1.

One man, Justin Scott, member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is hoping to open the dialogue separation of church and state and its impact all kinds of hotbutton issues.

Such as reproductive rights.

“Getting to these caucuses also supports women’s reproductive rights as well – the right for women to seek reproductive care without someone’s religion being pushed on them. These are not exclusively atheist issues.”

Scott is working as an advocate to get the issue of separation of church and state on planks this election season.

Scott, who is also a secular activist with the Iowa branch of the Secular Coalition for America, went on to explain that a plank is a list ideas that a caucus-goer would like to see the party support or not support. It is sometimes referred to as a list of resolutions and is used to influence the party platform going forward.

The Secular Coalition for America is nonprofit organization that voices the concerns of the non-theistic community, Scott said.

Scott emphasized the importance of student involvement in the caucuses.

“I want students to be engaged in the political process; you don’t have to be atheist, agnostic, or anti-theist to advocate for the separation of church and state,” Scott said.

Scott has reached out to UNI’s secular group, UNI Free Thinkers and Inquirers in the hopes of partnering with them in his mission to secularize caucus planks.

UNIFI was unable to be reached for a comment on the partnership.

Scott made national headlines in outlets such as the Huffington Post recently when he questioned Marco Rubio’s recent in outlets such as the Huffington Post recently when he questioned Marco Rubio’s recent Iowa ad that had a religious focus. Scott, filming the question, asked Rubio if he was running for “Pastor-in-Chief.” Rubio rebutted that everyone had a right to believe, or not believe, in whatever they wanted. Rubio did, however, reiterate the core of his Christian values message to the room.

Scott also commented on a Ted Cruz rally he attended where the small crowd was excited by Ted Cruz’s pro-religious message. After the room was opened for questions, the crowd reportedly fell silent as Scott introduced himself as an atheist voter and asked Senator Cruz how he planned to address and support the atheist or non-theistic voters in the country.

“Atheists have a saying: keep your theocracy out of our democracy,” Scott said.

According to their official website, the Secular Coalition for America was founded in 2002 after Herb Silverman, professor of mathematics at the College of Charleston, ran for governor of South Carolina and was denied the position because he did not assert a religious belief. Silverman called for the unification of non-theistic groups under a single purpose and what followed was the founding of the Secular Coalition for America.

Voters that would like to submit planks by the Secular Coalition for Iowa should email Scott at [email protected] These planks can be altered to each voter’s liking to be more specific about certain issues.

Scott said the goal of the Secular Coalition for Iowa is to start a statewide dialogue on the importance of the separation of church and state, as well as other secular issues.

“By submitting these planks, which will be discussed by voters, county party leaders and the leaders of the state parties, we hope to positively influence the process by which the state parties develop their party platforms,” Scott said.