Once Again, There’s an Atheist Presence at CPAC

For the second straight year, American Atheists has a presence at CPAC, the influential conference for right-wingers.

Why bother? Because, as President Dave Silverman said last year, conservatism (with a small “c”) doesn’t have to be synonymous with Christianity, and there’s value in getting your unpopular views in front of a crowd that, by their own logic, ought to support the constitutional separation between church and state.

An actual sign seen at CPAC


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A Bunch of Atheists Told Me Why They Plan to Vote Republican

Yesterday, I asked atheists who planned to vote for one of the Republicans in the race to explain their thinking.

No debate or judgment from me. I just didn’t get how atheists — who take that word seriously — could vote for religious conservatives like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. Or Donald Trump, the media spectacle who offers no substance. Or even John Kasich, the so-called moderate, who has shown himself to be awful on social issues most atheists care about. I could understand atheists voting for a third party candidate… but these guys? What was their appeal?

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A lot of people responded and I’m listing excerpts (with minor edits) from their emails below.

I’ve broken down the responses by candidate, but let me summarize their main arguments:

1) We think economic concerns and Second Amendment fears are more important than church/state separation issues.

2) Hillary Clinton is just awful.

3) We’re assuming Bernie Sanders will lose the primary. (If he wins, we’d support him.)

With that in mind, here’s a glimpse at why at least some atheists are supporting the various GOP candidates:

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Michael Shermer: I’m Not Endorsing Donald Trump

Yesterday, I posted about how it puzzled me that Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, would support Donald Trump. He seemed to say as much last month during an interview with KCRW, an NPR affiliate in California.

He was introduced as a Trump supporter and said nothing to counter that, and then he gave reasons for why he liked the candidate. It wasn’t quite an endorsement, but that seemed like a distinction without a difference. Other websites certainly ran with it.

But was the characterization accurate?

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I asked Shermer directly and he rejected it, saying this in an on-the-record email:

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A Teacher Who Led Students Out of a Religious Assembly May Be Fired After Accusations of Racism

Get this: At Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School For Innovation in Lynchburg, Virginia, a white teacher interrupted a Black History Month assembly and told the kids to leave the auditorium with him!

A letter was sent home to all parents explaining the problem:

During the assembly, an employee interrupted the program by going to the microphone on the stage during the singing performance to express his offence with this portion of the program, and offered the students an opportunity to leave the auditorium with him.

It appears that the teacher, Jason Tyree, may lose his job over this, given the community reaction.

Even former Lynchburg Mayor Carl Hutcherson Jr. asked the school board to fire him:

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“To the community at large… we would ask that the Lynchburg city school board summarily dismiss this person who committed this grievance,” said Mr. Hutcherson Jr.

It all makes sense… until you realize that the adults in this situation have it all wrong.

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School Board Members in Chino Valley (CA) Vow to Keep Praying to Jesus at Meetings

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an important update on what’s happening with the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education (in California). This is the school district that was indistinguishable from a church service, with members frequently leading explicitly Christian prayers and reading Bible verses.

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A judge ruled last month that these prayers were unconstitutional and ordered the School Board to put an immediate stop to them. It was a good thing he did that, too, given that the Board was already on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which brought this case forward. But at least the problem was solved, right?

Of course not. These are Christian martyrs we’re talking about!

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