WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and other secular groups have joined together to form a new coalition called Openly Secular to highlight and overcome discrimination in America.
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. A Gallup poll in 2012 found almost half of Americans would vote against a well-qualified presidential candidate from their party, if he or she was an atheist.
"Our mission is to is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and all nonreligious people to be open about their beliefs," said Todd Stiefel, Chair for the Openly Secular coalition and founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. "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."
"After I spoke openly about being an atheist, I lost many friends and was threatened with
rape and death. My own representative publicly called me an ‘evil little thing.' All of this, simply because I did not believe in God," said student activist Jessica Ahlquist, who successfully sued her public high school in 2012 to remove a religious prayer banner from the auditorium. "But this experience has not discouraged me. Today, I hold my head high as a proud, secular American."
Other cases of discrimination against people who are nonreligious have gotten limited media attention, including a high school student kicked out of his own home, a man who lost child custody rights, and two women who were denied U.S. citizenship. U.S. Representative Barney Frank came out as gay 26 years before he felt comfortable being an open atheist, and then, only after leaving office. Each of these cases underscores the need for new momentum.
Openly Secular is headed by leaders from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the Secular Coalition for America, the Secular Student Alliance and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. They are joined by a group of over 20 prominent national partner organizations from the secular movement. Openly Secular hopes to engage both nonbelievers and believers in a dialogue about acceptance, love and equality.
The coalition is now looking to expand to bring in religious and civil liberties groups as allies mutually interested in ending discrimination. Openly Secular has launched a new online outlet for people to share their own stories of discrimination. There's a form at this link: secular.org/stories.
"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," said Robyn Blumner of the Richard Dawkins Foundation.
About the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS or RDF) is a non-profit organization founded by British biologist Richard Dawkins in 2006. Our mission is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human suffering.
About the Secular Coalition for America
The Secular Coalition for America is a non-profit advocacy organization whose purpose is to amplify the diverse and growing voice of the nontheistic community in the United States. Formed in 2002, the Secular Coalition for America holds that freedom of conscience, including religious freedom, is a fundamental American value and is best guaranteed by protecting and strengthening the secular character of our government.
About the Secular Student Alliance
The Secular Student Alliance — an educational nonprofit — was formed in 2000 to organize, unite, educate, and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human-based ethics. The SSA devotes the majority of its resources to supporting affiliate groups through various avenues, including supplying literature and outreach supplies, group running guides, hands-on assistance, discounted access to prominent speakers, and monetary project grants.
About the Stiefel Freethought Foundation
The Stiefel Freethought Foundation is a non-profit that provides financial support and volunteer strategy consulting to the Freethought Movement. Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason and should not be influenced by authority, tradition or any other dogma (including religion).