Are atheism and promoting atheism consistent with American -- let alone conservative -- values and principles?
The operational policy of the American Conservative Union now appears to contradict Ronald Reagan's view on this.
Reagan believed atheism was not merely wrong, but the enemy of freedom. The ACU has functionally adopted the position that groups promoting atheism can be featured at its annual Conservative Political Action Conference -- so long as they promote godlessness with civility.
In the same 1983 speech in which he declared the Soviet Union an "evil empire," Reagan unapologetically spelt out the "ideals and principles" that brought him into politics.
"The basis of those ideals and principles," said Reagan, "is a commitment to freedom and personal liberty, a commitment that itself is grounded in the much deeper realization: That freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly acknowledged.
"The American experiment in democracy rests on this insight," Reagan said, "its discovery was the great triumph of our Founding Fathers voiced by William Penn: 'If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.'"
CNN reported last week that American Atheists would be sponsoring a booth at this year's CPAC.
American Atheists' point of view is plainly discernable from its website, which features a recent press release applauding President Barack Obama.
"Obama's administration has recognized atheism as having a place at the table more than any previous administration," the group said. "There is still a lot of work to do, and we have a long way to go, but this is progress."
Explaining American Atheists involvement in CPAC, ACU Communications Director Meghan Snyder told CNN: "The folks we have been working with stand for many of the same liberty-oriented policies and principles we stand for."
In the same article, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins rebutted this contention.
"Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God?" said Perkins.
"If this is where the ACU is headed, they will have to pack up and put away the 'C' in CPAC," Perkins said.
Also in the same CNN article, American Atheists President David Silverman said: "The Christian right should be angry that we are going in to enlighten conservatives. The Christian right should be threatened by us."