Today’s edition of The New York Times features a positive story about an atheist lobbyist.
Not Lori Lipman Brown of the Secular Coalition for America, who lobbies on Capitol Hill.
This story follows Jennifer Lange, a New York state lobbyist who works with the Institute for Humanist Studies, as she goes through her workday in the state capital.
Ms. Lange’s mission on this Monday in early February was to scuttle a bill titled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which she and every legislator on her agenda called in their common insiders’ slang Rifra. Of the nearly 10,000 pieces of legislation introduced annually in the New York State Legislature, the act was one of only several dozen brought under the lead sponsorship of the Assembly’s speaker, Sheldon Silver. It was not going to be an easy target.
Then again, in her 10 months as the part-time registered lobbyist for the Institute for Humanist Studies, Ms. Lange had already reckoned the difficulty of her task. Alone in Albany, and among just a few comparable figures elsewhere in the nation, she advocates for the political interests of secularists who variously describe themselves as nonbelievers, freethinkers, humanists, atheists, skeptics and brights.
Lange bluntly explains what she is up against and what she is working toward:
“It’s not like I’m coming from Save the Children or something everybody’s in favor of,” Ms. Lange, 32, put it in an interview. “When you say you’re an atheist, people think of negative values, of heathens. People feel that we’re antireligious. I’m not trying to change anyone’s religion. I don’t even want to talk religion or the Bible when I’m lobbying. I want to stay focused on state policy and finding the places we can make common cause.”
The story also gives some brief background on her personal life and describes what happened in the offices of a few state legislators as Lange tried to convince them (unsuccessfully) to vote against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
It’s the type of piece you don’t read very often in the mainstream media: How atheists can make a difference at a state level, albeit behind the scenes, and how there is a kind, friendly, human face behind a lobbyist trying to do good work for an untrusted, often disregarded, group of people.