Discrimination Against Atheists is Now Officially Illegal in Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin just became the first city in the nation to add atheists to the list of protected groups in an expanded anti-discrimination bill. The city council voted unanimously for the addition last night.

While “religion” was already on that list, as you might expect, it wasn’t obvious to everyone whether that category included atheists, so the law now explicitly says so. (***Edit***: The final wording of the law uses the word “nonreligion,” not “atheist” as I suggested earlier. Same result, though. My apologies for referring to an older version of the bill.)

Alderwoman Anita Weier first proposed the idea earlier this year:

“This is important because I believe it is only fair that if we protect religion, in all its varieties, we should also protect non-religion from discrimination. It’s only fair,” ordinance sponsor District 18 Alderwoman Anita Weier said.

“There are many categories that are protected,” Weier said. “And it did occur to me that if religion was then perhaps the opposite should be.”

You may be aware that Madison is home to the Freedom From Religious Foundation. They weren’t the only advocates for the change, though:

UW graduate student, and former Atheists Humanists and Agnostics president Chris Calvey was among the five atheists speaking in favor of the proposals.

“It’s actually something we’re commonly very concerned about, just because atheism is viewed as such a taboo in this country. And there’s such a stigma with it. That people in my student group for example are very hesitant to be honest about their lack of belief in God out of fear that they are going to be discriminated against in employment opportunities. If that came up in a job interview that’s held against them,” Calvey said.

Calvey also noted:

This appears to be the first case in the nation of a city specifically codifying the rights of nonbelievers. Better yet? The change was approved unanimously by the Madison City Council, with no members speaking out against the motion (nor anyone in the public commentary period). Even better? Three alders requested to be added as cosponsors of the motion — going out of their way to lend their most emphatic support.

I can’t imagine why anyone would be opposed to this. Unless, you know, Christian bakers had to make a wedding cake for a couple of heathens, in which case I’m sure all hell would break loose…

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