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Atheist Groups Form New Coalition to Fight 'Discrimination'

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  • Students in Cranston, Rhode Island hold signs supporting religious freedom after atheist student
    (Photo: Screenshot via YouTube/Providence Journal)
    Students in Cranston, Rhode Island hold signs supporting religious freedom after atheist student Jessica Ahlquist filed a lawsuit against Cranston West High School regarding its prayer banner in 2011.
By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor
May 3, 2014|10:11 am

Four secular organizations, including the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and the Secular Coalition for America, have formed a coalition, Openly Secular, to "eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance" by encouraging atheists to be open about their beliefs.

"Our mission is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and all nonreligious people to be open about their beliefs," Todd Stiefel, chair for the Openly Secular coalition and founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, which is also part of the coalition, says in a statement. "By being open about our beliefs and values, we can show that we, like all people, are worthy of love and kindness undeterred by religious differences."

While a group of over 20 national organizations from the secular movement are allegedly supporting the new coalition, efforts are being made to "expand to bring in religious and civil liberties groups as allies mutually interested in ending discrimination."

"We want to live in a world where there are no social costs for being nonreligious, where families and communities remain whole even when some have moved away from religion," says Robyn Blumner of the Richard Dawkins Foundation.

"After I spoke openly about being an atheist, I lost many friends and was threatened with rape and death," the statement quotes a student activist, Jessica Ahlquist, as saying. "My own representative publicly called me an 'evil little thing.' All of this, simply because I did not believe in God. But this experience has not discouraged me. Today, I hold my head high as a proud, secular American."

Ahlquist sued her public high school in 2012 to remove a religious prayer banner from the auditorium.

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The new group, which claims that cases of discrimination against atheists do not get enough media attention, has launched a new sections on the website of the Secular Coalition for America that can be used by atheists to "share their own stories of discrimination."

The coalition quotes a 2012 Gallup poll which found that while more than nine in 10 Americans would vote for a presidential candidate who is black, a woman, Catholic, Hispanic, or Jewish, a significantly smaller percentages would vote for one who is an atheist.

"Atheists and other nonreligious people not only face discrimination on a regular basis, but the prejudice often goes unrecognized because it can be socially acceptable to distrust those outside the majority religious faith," the coalition says.

"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," writes Hemant Mehta on his Friendly Atheist blog. "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 ... not just on blogs but in the mainstream media, too. How come they couldn't find examples of stories that everyone missed?"

 

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