Atheists Ask Obama to Give Them Same Attention He Gives Muslims

U.S. President Barack Obama waves farewell to students after his remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque in Catonsville, Maryland February 3, 2016.
U.S. President Barack Obama waves farewell to students after his remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque in Catonsville, Maryland February 3, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

A national atheist group petitioned President Barack Obama to give nonbelievers the same attention and protections as other religious minorities after he recently visited a Baltimore mosque.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) letter, composed by co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, references the president's recent visits to a U.S. mosque and the Israeli embassy, where Obama called on Americans to stop religious-fueled bigotry.

"It is laudable for the President to embrace citizens of all colors and religious viewpoints as being part of 'one American family' and to caution citizens not to be 'bystanders to bigotry,'" FFRF acknowledged. "But there is one U.S. minority that has been consistently excluded from such notice: nonreligious Americans."

The atheist group then asks the president to make it a point during his last year in office to call for equal treatment for America's "nones."

"Those of us who are nonreligious daily encounter unwarranted stereotypes, putdowns and assumptions that we cannot be good people or good citizens," FFRF argues

But FFRF may have forgotten the many times that President Obama has used high-profile speeches and statements to call attention to non-believers and put them on the same plane as religious groups. In 2011, for example, Obama issued a proclamation for the May 5, National Day of Prayer, by acknowledging people of no faith.

"Let us be thankful for the liberty that allows people of all faiths to worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience, and let us be thankful for the many other freedoms and blessings that we often take for granted," he had stated.

And in his 2015 National Prayer Breakfast speech, he noted that people can choose to not practice a faith, which is a big statement to make when talking to a room full of some of the top evangelicals in the nation.

"And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom – freedom of religion – the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination," he had said.

The FFRF letter concludes by asking Obama to attend the June 4, 2016 "Reason Rally" set to be held in Washington, D.C., as a show of support for America's non-believing population.

"Please use your 'bully pulpit' to help erase harmful attitudes toward the nonreligious minority in the United States, as you have done for religious minorities," the group urged.

So far in 2016, Obama has visited a mosque and the Israeli embassy to voice his disapproval of religious bigotry in the U.S.

The president warned of spreading anti-semitism when he visited the Israeli embassy in Washington on January 27 to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"I cannot imagine a greater expression of Christianity than to say, 'I, too, am a Jew,'" Obama told the audience, adding that "an attack on any faith is an attack on all of our faiths. It is an attack on that golden rule at the heart of so many faiths — that we ought to do unto others as we would have done to us."

Obama also warned against the dangers of divisive rhetoric, alluding to comments made by 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump regarding Muslims in the U.S.

"Too often, especially in times of change, especially in times of anxiety and uncertainty, we are too willing to give into a base desire to find someone else — someone different — to blame for our struggles," the president said during his embassy speech.

"We're called to live in a way that shows that we've actually learned from our past," Obama continued. "It means taking a stand against bigotry in all its forms, and rejecting our darkest impulses and guarding against tribalism as the only value in our communities and in our politics."

And on February 3, Obama paid a visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, marking his first visit to a mosque in the United States.

Speaking to thousands of attendees, the POTUS said he sought to combat the "inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans" currently being used in the 2016 presidential election.

"Let me say as clearly as I can as president of the United States: you fit right here," Obama told the audience during his visit. "You're right where you belong. You're part of America too. You're not Muslim or American. You're Muslim and American."

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