An Atheist is Running for Mayor of LaGrange, Georgia

Mike Smith isn’t just an atheist. He’s the President of the LaGrange Humanists (in Georgia). And now, he’s running to become the city’s next mayor:

Smith, an open atheist, said, “If the voters want to vote for or against me for whatever reason, that is their right, but I am an atheist, I am a war veteran, and I have the same right as every American to fully participate in our secular constitutional democracy.”

I love Smith’s tagline: “Rational Representation for the 99%.”

His platform addresses local issues that mix common sense legislation with things that probably should have been dealt with a long time ago:

  • Implement public transportation with a central station at the old Mansour’s building.
  • Establish a reasonable minimum wage in LaGrange.
  • Decriminalize marijuana use within city limits.
  • Regulate assault weapons.
  • Initiate a fair property tax.
  • Adopt a women’s equal rights ordinance.
  • End discrimination against our Latino neighbors.
  • Stop adding probation fines and fees to utility bills.
  • Stop requiring Social Security numbers for utility accounts.
  • Make the city more bicyclist and pedestrian friendly.
  • Repeal the city ordinance that makes it a crime to laugh near a church.

That last one… seriously?! I had to look it up. It’s real:

It shall be unlawful for any person to be engaged in loud talking or laughing, or any other disorderly conduct, in or near the entrance or vestibule of any church or other place of worship during divine service; or to congregate in and around any such place and behave in a rude and disorderly manner as to become offensive to persons attending such service.

Well-intentioned, but a little too over the top.

Anyway, this isn’t Smith’s first foray into local politics. Last year, he ran for the Georgia House of Representatives but ended his campaign after “a qualifying error that [couldn't] be corrected.” (The Democrat who ultimately ran in his spot lost to the incumbent Republican.)

Smith isn’t taking any donations — he says it’s “the only way to stop the corrupting influence of money in politics” — but he does have a Like-able Facebook page.

Even if he doesn’t win, we need more people like Mike Smith. We need more atheists who are willing to put themselves out there, running for public office, proving that you don’t have to believe in God to be a good representative for the community.

The election is this November.

(Thanks to David for the link)

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.

  • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

    Looking at his platform, I suspect he’s got a snowball’s chance in hell of winning (which isn’t to say that I think his platform’s bad), but more power to him.

  • nanniekat

    That’s just one little ripple in the water! We need people running for public office that are not afraid to reconnect God in our local government,! I don’t believe atheist have a place. And that is my right and my freedom and my opinion.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      You might have a right to your bigotry, but be ready for criticism when you attempt to publicize it.

      • bo jones

        I can see the splinter in your eye but not the 2×4 in mine.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004554038289 Aster Nova

        I believe atheist should be represented. We are also tax paying citizens who deserve a voice. I think Christians have been running the government too long.

    • JET

      Have you ever watched how a ripple in the water spreads out? We need people running for public office who are not so afraid of a mythological master of the universe that they will place its proper care and feeding above a basic respect for human rights and the progress of civilization. You don’t believe that atheists have a place, but we’re the ones who value this earth and this life (even yours!) and are doing our best to preserve both. And that is my right and my freedom and my opinion.

    • hailey

      Have you ever considered that being kind to fellow humans serves the world much better than wishing for an afterlife? And what kind of a heaven could it be for you to know people you respect are being sent to an eternal hell because they (unknowing to you) were atheists? Can you really enjoy an afterlife of paradise knowing that some of your loved ones are being tortured forever by the same god you call ‘loving’?

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

      Why do you not believe that Atheists have a place in government?

      Sure you are free to express your opinion as is anyone else but an opinion without definition is a pointless exercise in rhetoric. Your wish is that your comment here has an impact but if you can not explain your position and why it is valid then what’s the point of listening to you. It would be like singing an opera to deaf people. A total meaningless moment in time. Freedom is not free with out responsibility, you have a responsibility to explain your position, if not to us, then at least to the world, so you don’t look clueless about your opinion.

      • NewDawn2006

        “Freedom is not free with out responsibility, you have a responsibility to explain your position,”

        YES!! I don’t understand why people can’t understand that!!!

      • r.holmgren

        Freedom is not free with out responsibility”

        Ya, I wonder why they had to make that law about not causing a disturbance outside a Church while the service was on. Maybe Sandy Kokch could answer that. I suspect the law came into being because “those who don’t need God in order to be nice people” were having a little trouble with the responsibility part or freedom.

    • John (not McCain)

      You are anti-American filth.

    • Steve UK

      Luckily, I live in a country that doesn’t care if you worship an imaginary god or an imaginary devil, all that matters is giving your time to your constituents, what happens outside of that doesn’t matter at all. More power to Mike’s elbow, atheists are just as patriotic as believers.

    • NewDawn2006

      You’re right. You have the right to an opinion. But you
      don’t have the right to keep those who do not believe the way you do out
      of office. That is discrimination. We also have the right to call you
      out on the idiocy of your ideas. This isn’t YOUR country. It isn’t your RELIGIONS country. This is the country of ALL who live here. Not jut those who believe as you do. Not just those that kowtow to the religious. ALL of these politicians claim to be “Christians”. Look at where that is getting us. Absolutely no where. You “Christians” haven’t done shit in office other than screw people. It is time for those of us who actually give a shit about the entire country, and not just one religion, to be in charge and get something done. You want religious government? Move to Iran. THAT is what religion running government looks like.

      Inserting the response that I’m going to get… “But those politicians aren’t REAL Christians!”

    • Aster

      Well if only god was mentioned in the Constitution that might make some sense. Unfortunately, it says creator not christian god.

      • allein

        Actually, it’s the Declaration of Independence that uses the word creator. The Constitution says neither creator nor god. The closest the Constitution gets is the phrasing of the date, “the Year of Our Lord,” which was just common convention and not a religious expression.

    • Glooscap

      Neptune has no place in local government.

  • Keulan

    He sounds like a great candidate, but I don’t think he has much chance of winning since he’s in Georgia.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    We need more open-atheists running for office.
    Even if he does not win, it helps move the movement forward to see people openly rejecting the taboo against publicly admitting/embracing the term atheist.

    I tip my hat to this guy!

  • LesterBallard

    Let’s a keep an eye on the story. I mean, we already have a taste of what the reaction will be in the comments, but it should get better, or, well, worse.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jerome-McCollom/100000327150215 Jerome McCollom

    I hope he doesn’t get death threats.

  • Miss_Beara

    This guy…

    this is my kind of guy. Unfortunately there is zero chance of him winning.

    • JET

      But maybe he’ll get a few more votes than that dingbat from Florida who was personally endorsed by Jesus Christ.

      • Lori F

        I was thinking the same thing. I actually think his chances are better than hers. But he’ll be more mature than she was at her loss. “washed in the blood of Jesus… swimming in it” – not a pretty picture. Sounds too much like Carrie.

        • allein

          There’s a house near where I work that has “covered by the blood of our lord Jesus Christ” painted in big white letters on their driveway. I really think they should go for full effect and paint the house red. ;)

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

    What’s up with these Southerners?!

    • Nothing Changes

      He represents the 1% of the politically diseased in the state, he needs to move to California where he would fit right in.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

        What do you mean by “politically diseased?”

        • RobMcCune

          Something about the disease of human kindness and compassion being valued over class, sect, religion and probably race.

  • DougI

    That’s a shame, I would have donated if he accepted donations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    It shall be unlawful for any person to be engaged in loud
    talking or laughing, or any other disorderly conduct, in or near the
    entrance or vestibule of any church………..

    Err…..what happened to those constituted rights of free assembly and free expression?

    I guess, like some king sized elephants graveyard, America is the country the English language and common sense goes to to die.

  • decathelite

    This is a how how how how we get into politics. Have mercy.

  • randall.morrison90

    I see he is a veteran. I always knew that stuff about no atheists in foxholes was nonsense. After all, atheists have never been particulary against killing.

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Don’t engage the poor, attention-starved, troll.

    • Artor

      Onward, Xtian soldier!
      Yeah, Xtians are so kind and peaceful, right?

    • RobMcCune

      Why do you hate Freedom and America?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      If it said he ran into a burning building to save a baby you’d find some way in your own mind to make that a bad thing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tomatotooth Mike Smith

      I did not kill anyone.

  • Artor

    Rumour spreadin’ a-’round in that Georgia town
    ’bout that shack outside La Grange…

    Do they gotta lotta nice atheists ’round there?

  • Lori F

    Actually, if he removed the marijuana issue, I think he’d have a fair shot.

  • Sukrit

    Too bad he’s not accepting donations. I am an Indian citizen living in Bangalore, and would have willingly made a donation for his campaign.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004554038289 Aster Nova

    I would trust an atheist over a Christian any day. Georgia however, is full of bigots who only care if you use god to get elected.

  • A3Kr0n

    I think this guy is great, but I really would like to think I could have an assault rifle if I really wanted one. Heck, I think people should be able to park fully loaded tanks in their driveway if they wanted to. I look at it this way: Anybody who can afford a fully loaded tank is probably intelligent enough to use it in a safe, and responsible manner. Like duck hunting…
    TGIF!!!

  • notlob49

    More power to the Atheist, but as is normal for much of the South if you’re not pushing the religious dogma angle the odds are not good.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    There’s a CNN iReport on him http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-973686 You can vote for the story to be aired on the news.

  • thilinab

    Atheist, for womens rights, wants to legalize marijuana, for minimum wage and doesn’t want money for his campaign… He is going to get thrashed.

  • Goodie for Me

    I am from LaGrange and I am going to vote for him because I like what he wants to do for LaGrange. Unfortunately he probably won’t win because he is atheist (which doesn’t matter at all and shouldn’t matter at all) which is sad, but what do you expect from a city that makes it illegal to laugh near church.

  • A-religious

    I’m a resident of LaGrange. I am a nonreligious person who couldn’t care less about anyone’s religion, including atheist. Although I’ve read many letters-to-the-editor Smith has written over the years, I never met him until he came to my house looking for votes about a month ago. Beside the fact that he came across as someone who couldn’t explain his agenda (he appeared not to even understand how he would attempt to implement any of his ideas) he became insulting when confronted about his socialist ideas.

    He also wants to implement a property tax in Lagrange. We don’t have a property tax and don’t need one. We pay for our city services through our utility bill. BTW, our utilities run the same or less than those in the surrounding area.

    I cannot in good conscience vote for him.


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