New Coalition Will Highlight Anti-Atheist Discrimination in America

A coalition of four secular organization — the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the Secular Coalition for America, the Secular Student Alliance, and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation — are coming together to highlight and hopefully prevent cases of anti-atheist discrimination:

“After I spoke openly about being an atheist, I lost many friends and was threatened with rape and death. My own representative publicly called me an ‘evil little thing.’ All of this, simply because I did not believe in God,” said student activist Jessica Ahlquist, who successfully sued her public high school in 2012 to remove a religious prayer banner from the auditorium. “But this experience has not discouraged me. Today, I hold my head high as a proud, secular American.”

Other cases of discrimination against people who are nonreligious have gotten limited media attention, including a high school student kicked out of his own home, a man who lost child custody rights, and two women who were denied U.S. citizenship. U.S. Representative Barney Frank came out as gay 26 years before he felt comfortable being an open atheist, and then, only after leaving office. Each of these cases underscores the need for new momentum.

The coalition, called “Openly Secular,” wants to collect stories from atheists who have been discriminated again. (To be clear, they’re not saying atheists have it worse than any other minority group, a claim that would be pretty silly to make.)

As much as I want this to succeed, most of the examples they chose to mention in the press release are ones that I think got plenty of attention online (with the exception of the custody case, which even I had to search through my archives to find), not just on blogs but in the mainstream media, too. How come they couldn’t find examples of stories that everyone missed?

There was a time a decade or so ago when these stories might have gone under the radar, but it’s not like journalists or activists are ignoring them now. If we hear about it, we write about it. We take screenshots. We contact authorities. We file lawsuits.

The big question is this: Are there atheists who haven’t reported (possible) instances of discrimination against them… but they’ll report them now with this new coalition in place?

I’m not sure, but I hope I’m wrong. The people working on this project certainly mean well. Who knows, maybe there are atheists out there who feel like they’ve been wronged because of their non-belief but who didn’t think anyone would take them seriously. This is a chance for them to tell their stories knowing they’ll be heard.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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