Helping Atheists Get Elected in Arizona

The Secular Coalition for Arizona is doing something so awesome, so unique, and so important, that I’m amazed it’s getting no publicity whatsoever. (Yet.)

They’re organizing trainings this fall… for atheists who want to run for public office.

Training will primarily be aimed at those interested in running for local and state level offices such as school board, city council, and state legislature. This training will focus on campaigning, messaging, and the nuts and bolts of effective leadership.

“We hope to inspire some secular candidates. The best way to combat the Religious Right is to elect people who will stand up for the separation of church and state and the rights of secular Americans,” said Matt Schoenley, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for Arizona.

There is a $100 cost for the training, but it would be hard to find a more worthwhile activity for the Arizona affiliate of the Secular Coalition for America to hold. This is precisely what we need — encouragement and help for qualified atheists who want to run for local (and, later, perhaps statewide and national) elective offices.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Sinfanti

    As an AZ voter I’d love to see secular-minded candidates on the ballot.  If I weren’t working abroad I would even be attending this.  If/when I move back I hope this will still be going on.  (actually my real hope is that it won’t be necessary – fat chance)

  • Brett Maiden

    Finally a bit of news coming from my home state that I can be proud of.

  • usclat

    I’m so happy to see this happening in Arizona … it needs to done in all states, in fact, I’m surprised I haven’t heard of this sort of strategy in Texas or California to say the least. 

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    This is great! Plus it will make really weird mudslinging commercials:
    “Records show that my opponent went to ATHEIST training where they learned how to RUN GOD OUT OF AMERICA!”
    Sadly, those kinds of commercials would work.

  • http://diaryofamessylady.wordpress.com/ Lauren

    That *is* awesome! Oooo…. I hope we see some good candidates come out of that for all of the states!

  • Tinker

    I am surprised that my home state is starting this. AZ politics is so full of Mormons that it is generally assumed that every white male that runs is a Mormon (and like anywhere else we have a lot of white males running). The nosy people here don’t ask what church you belong to but what ward.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Fullbeard/10107734 Alan Fullbeard

      It’s true, at least in Maricopa county. Down here in Pima we have far fewer mormons . It’s not like the part of Gilbert I grew up in where there were literally 3 mormon churches within a mile of each other. It led to my own theory of relativity, in which the number of mormon churches is relatively the same as the number of Circle K’s.
       

  • Anonymous

    I’m torn on getting open atheists into public office. On one hand, I recognize that they’d be helping our image and giving us hope Harvey Milk-style. On the other hand, I think there are much more important things our elected officials need to deal with right now than the culture wars, and I’m reminded of Martin Luther’s saying that he’d rather be ruled by a good Turk than a bad Christian.

    • JimG

      I don’t think those goals are mutually exclusive. I agree that I’d rather see politicians of any stripe make good decisions, but there are plenty of Christian politicians making lousy decisions. If nothing else, a politically active atheist community can counterbalance some of those bad ideas.

      I’d rather vote for a nominal Christian whom I agreed with than an unpleasant atheist, but I expect we’ll see a number of congenial, competent atheist candidates emerge – so maybe it’ll be Christians faced with that choice, not us. Let’s show ‘em some good Turks.

  • Ladycopper5

    Sounds great.  I hope some religious people also go and learn about running things in a secular manner.

  • Benjamin

    The Australians
    made two TV-ads that might fit an Atheist Campaign.

    Who am I trying to
    fool its totally off topic but I had to post these.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nhAKzYr4-wg

    Professional  ad Companies made Spots that seek to abolish
    of Religion.

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    Atheists on the ballot in Arizona? Fat chance of that happenning, or them getting elected. We need to first get some progressive candidates in office – of any stripe! Then maybe we can talk about getting atheists elected here.

    I’m still waiting for the DOJ to prosecute Joe Arpaio for all of his years of lousy shenanigans (what – is there just not enough evidence or something?)…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Fullbeard/10107734 Alan Fullbeard

      The evidence against Joe Arpaio is the only evidence that magic actually exists. All the proof that would put him in his own jail seems to “disappear into thin air” when ever a request for it comes up. And, should such a beautiful example of justice ever occur, I would hope that there would be a reality TV show of Arpaio’s life under his own prison rules. I’m sure he would look just dashing in pink underwear and black and white stripes.

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    Meh.

    One of the things I’ve learned from discussions with other atheists in places such as this blog is that being an atheist doesn’t necessarily mean that we share many values and philosophies in common. How a candidate will vote (or has voted) upon various issues that are important to me does matter, and I must say, religious/philosophical preference falls really far at the bottom of that list of issues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Fullbeard/10107734 Alan Fullbeard

    An atheist candidate would still be susceptible to corruption and greed like any politician, they would still be victim to being “only human.” But it would still be a vast improvement because we would know that if nothing else, when they voted yay or nay, they wouldn’t ask themselves WWJV. So go for it. I’d do it, but I have a thing.  

  • Anonymous

    It’s a great idea as long as they aren’t giving these idealistic atheist pols any illusions about winning.

    We need atheists to break the ice, build the idea that a campaign by a out of the closet atheist on a secular platform can run a serious campaign….but the groundbreakers are going to be laughed at by other candidats, treated as fringe kooks by the media, and possibly (probably) worse from individual voters on the hustings. They’re brave folks for being the pioneers - but that’s the kind of thing any training should be preparing them for.

  • Anonymous

    Too bad they haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected. The Arid Zone is very much part of the bible belt. As I always say, “Arizona: just add water and you’ve got Mississippi.”


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