Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, sat out of New Jersey’s primary voting on Super Tuesday.
“I didn’t vote because I’m tired of being ignored by the politicians… because I’m an atheist. All of the candidates court the religious voters and ignore me.”
She then urges the 11% of non-religious voters to “stay home” during the 2008 general elections.
This is the same person who urged us to “vote our atheism” only a month ago (she acknowledges this), but “there aren’t any candidates for us,” she says now:
Of course, non-religious people are a sizable percentage of the population (though we do not vote as a bloc). And, yes, it would be wonderful if candidates made more mention of non-religious Americans. But what is more important: Having a candidate share our values or having a candidate make a special outreach to atheist voters? I really don’t care about the latter if the former is taking place.
Johnson says she wants a candidate who will defend the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Just for the record, here’s Barack Obama:
For one, [conservative leaders] need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.
Here’s Obama’s smackdown of Justice Janice Rogers Brown. Read that and then tell me he doesn’t want to appoint judges who respect the First Amendment.
Johnson says she wants a candidate who will support the teaching of Evolution in public schools.
Obama said in an interview that “Evolution is more grounded in my experience than angels.”
Johnson goes on to talk about a president who won’t participate in prayers breakfasts or take the Oath on a Bible… good luck with those. The candidates are religious and they will still be religious when elected. As long as they represent everybody, and are not involved in the government favoring one faith over another or faith over no faith, I’ll live.
No need to sit out the election, though. Obama’s a fine candidate for atheists and theists alike. I haven’t heard him making special accommodations for the Religious Right. I don’t expect to see him changing tradition just to appease us. So long as he makes decisions with everyone in mind and continues to act in a progressive manner like he’s done in the Senate, we’ll be ok.
Your atheism is an issue to consider when voting, but it’s not the only issue, and it’s certainly not the most important issue. Not if the candidate is a religious moderate like Obama.
On a side note, Johnson also makes a reference to atheists sitting in the “back of the bus.” I don’t think you can compare what atheists have had to go through (on the whole) to what African-Americans have dealt with in the past several decades. That part just rubbed me the wrong way.