The National Atheist Party announced that it will now be called the "Secular Party of America," with a mission to become more inclusive and more accurately reflect the party's goals.
"We are certain that not only is the new name far more inclusive of a greater number of Americans that share our vision of true separation of church and state, but that it will open the door to those that may not have joined us if for no other reason than because 'Atheist' was in the name," said VP of Public Relations and Marketing Bernard "Flash" Kellish in a released statement.
"We were created by atheists as a way to be a hereunto unrepresented voice in politics and have been very successful. We will miss the old name but now it is time to move forward and focus on being a viable and respected political party. We hope to make a worldwide network of secular organizations."
The decision came about after a vote last week where 77.6 percent of the voting members in the latest election decided to approve the name change, surpassing the necessary 75 percent super majority.
"I would like to thank all who voted, and my deepest thanks to all those who saw the vision and helped make this a reality. We had a great team of talented volunteers who besides their personal lives, jobs, and work with the NAP, spent even more of their time putting together and promoting this campaign," Kellish said.
The party says it has over 3,100 members and chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It was formed in 2011 with the original idea being to call it the "Freethought Party," though shortly after that it became the "National Atheist Party."
Dr. John Perkins, president of the Secular Party of Australia, said that he supports the name change. He insisted that there is nothing shameful about being an atheist, but the word "secular" is more aligned to the political agenda of such a party.
Also lauding the change, Secular Scotland Society Chairperson Caroline Lynch commented, "Secularism is a political stance; it groups together people of every race and creed who believe in democracy and freedom and wish to fight for a common cause. It will unite where atheism divides, include where atheism excludes, and yet still allow for diversity of views and beliefs."
The party's official website explains that despite the name, the group is not simply for atheists and has no religious test for people wishing to join. It adds that it only asks members to approve of its general principles, which seek a government "free of superstition and bias," guided by secular humanism.
"The National Atheist Party does not seek to inhibit the religious practices or beliefs of any group, but is committed to the division of church and state and that religious preference is a private matter, which has no place in the government or in government facilities," the organization adds.
The name change, which is set to go into effect on Aug. 1, is an attempt to move forward in a positive direction for the political party, which experienced a setback in March after its president and co-founder Troy Boyle resigned, citing "an increasing lack of cooperation by the Executive Board."