The Utah Democratic Party has approved the creation of the first secular caucus in the state, a move partly designed to separate Church and State in the legislature.
Utah has long been recognized as one of the most conservative states in the country due to the prevalence of Mormonism, but in recent years the state’s political landscape has been shifting toward the left. Although Utah voters have historically favored conservative social policies, the state is home to a large secular population, with 31% of people in the state identifying as nonreligious, according to data from Gallup.
To help advance this secularization trend, the Central Committee of the Utah Democratic Party recently approved the creation of the first ever secular caucus in the state. In a statement on Wednesday, several high-profile Utah liberals lauded the decision as an important development.
“The idea of creating a Secular Caucus has generated a lot of excitement and enthusiasm amongst Democrats and Independents in Utah,” said Daisy Thomas, co-founder of the secular caucus. “We are receiving dozens of messages of interest and positive feedback thanking us for bringing this voice to the table. We want people of all beliefs, including nonreligious Utahns, to have the same opportunity to shape politics in our state, and we believe a clear separation between church and state protects all of our freedoms.”
Daniel Hicken, a practicing Mormon, is likewise excited about the new secular caucus.
“In recent years I have watched with dismay as legislation was enacted under the auspices of varied branches of Christianity in states across our country,” he stated. “At the moment, this legislation might not hurt those of my faith. But what of others? How can I turn a blind eye as others suffer the trial my own family lived through?”
Once it is made official after a procedural vote next month, the caucus will fight for the advancement of secularism and the separation of church and state in Utah legislation.
“The religiously unaffiliated are the single largest religious demographic in the Democratic party and the fastest growing nationwide, yet our constituency has largely been ignored by the party establishment,” noted Sarah Levin, a senior legislative representative at the Secular Coalition for America. “That is why we are empowering secular activists to educate party leadership about secular values and create a space to speak up for those values within their party.”
Utah Democrats were reportedly inspired to create the secular caucus after attending the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and hearing about secular coalitions in other states.
“This is exciting news for atheists in Utah,” opined atheist blogger Hemant Mehta.
Meanwhile, others have made the argument that secularism is ultimately antithetical to American values. David Lane, an evangelical Christian political activist and founder of the American Renewal Project, says most of the country’s founders had a firm belief in God.
“It is easily defended that Christianity birthed America, its first governing document written and signed by the Pilgrims before debarking the Mayflower in 1620: ‘Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith…,” Lane wrote in a column for Charisma News. “America’s Founders were convinced that they were ‘a people chosen by God with ideals to realize and a religious mission to fulfill: One nation under God.’ Secularism and Christianity are distinct religions.”