Cecil Bothwell to Get Award from American Atheists

Cecil Bothwell is the atheist who recently won an election to become a city councilperson in Asheville, North Carolina. His story has been covered on FOX News and The Rachel Maddow Show.

American Atheists has decided to honor him as a result of his handling of the situation:

American Atheists Inc., a national nonprofit educational group, has named Bothwell its Courageous Elected Official of 2009. Yep, Cecil is now a CEO.

Bothwell will speak and be honored at the organization’s national convention April 2-4 in Newark, N.J.

Ed Buckner, president of AA, said the group created the award specifically to honor Bothwell and his “courageous stance.”

“There’s no way to measure this, so we can only speak from speculation, but it’s our best guess that if you took 10,000 elected officials, there are probably 500 or 1,000 in office who are atheists or agnostic,” Buckner said. “But almost none of them will say anything to let that fact be known. In fact, it’s quite courageous for Mr. Bothwell not to do the oath where you have to swear on the Bible.”

I don’t recall American Atheists giving out a “Courageous Elected Official of 2008” award… but that’s besides the point.

I think this is a great move by AA to both capitalize on the publicity and honor one of the few openly non-religious elected officials we have in this country.

How did Bothwell respond to getting the award?

Regarding the award, Bothwell said he’s “enormously honored to be recognized in this way, but also sad that simple honesty about who I am and what I believe seems unusual or worthy of particular note.” He said he’s got a couple hundred e-mails and calls and even seen himself hailed as a hero.

“And all I have done is be true to myself,” he said. “It doesn’t feel particularly courageous. It just seems normal, and I’d hope that all elected officials would do the same.

That’s a classy answer from a guy who deserves the praise.

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  • I don’t recall American Atheists giving out a “Courageous Elected Official of 2008? award… but that’s besides the point.

    Actually, it kind of is the point, as

    Ed Buckner, president of AA, said the group created the award specifically to honor Bothwell and his “courageous stance.”

  • I was just about to point that out, too. *giggle*

    Way to go Cecil!

  • Freethink

    What’s the big deal? He got elected, and deserves the position he was elected for. The law in NC was unconstitutional, and had no place in the civil order, but it’s not like he’s overcome some huge opposition. He’s just someone who stated what they believed.

  • Trace

    “And all I have done is be true to myself,”


  • muggle

    “And all I have done is be true to myself

    Well said, Mr. Bothwell. But that’s both the easiest thing and the hardest thing in the world to be. Well said and well done.

  • Demonhype

    Just like Rosa Parks, in a way, that what she did was both heroic and at the same time nothing more than what anyone would or should do.

    I’ve heard it argued that Rosa Parks wasn’t some kind of warrior on the front lines of a social battle when you come down to it–she was just a woman who was tired after a long day at work and wanted to sit down and rest, and saw no reason she should have to give up her rightful seat to someone else just because of the arbitrary and meaningless reason that that person was white. Nor should she have seen any reason for it, nor should any atheist be forced to live a lie in order to hold public office.

    It’s the little things that really matter, when you come down to it–the little stands for a person’s basic rights that shouldn’t have to be made but must be made, and are often too hard for people to make. It’s the individual intimidation that tyrants rely on, hoping you’ll be too afraid to lose what little you have to fight back.

  • Heidi

    “And all I have done is be true to myself,”

    All Rosa Parks did was sit in the front of the bus. And yet…

  • Eupraxsophy

    That’s exacly what everyone should be, is to be true to themselves. If anything I commend Mr.Bothwell for having the courage to be himself. In light of all the opposition he is the only person that I know of to have an elected position and have true integrity.
    Integrity means being as honest to yourself as you are to others.

    Truth is one of my moral values and truth has no weakness and integrity is it’s strength.

    Rosa Parks showed with her courageous act just how ugly racism truely is, and Mr.Bothwell too has shown in another way just how ugly prejudism is. This is humility. Humility gives one the wisdom to see both the ugliness and beauty that resides in truth.