MADISON, Wisc. — A city in Wisconsin that is the home of a prominent atheist activist organization has passed a law that adds “non-religion” to its non-discrimination statutes.
Madison ordinance author Anita Weier told reporters that the proposal did not arise of out any instances of actual discrimination against atheists, but rather was simply birthed out of her belief that non-belief should be included in city protections.
“It just seems to me that religion has spread into government more than I feel comfortable with,” she said. “It just occurred to me that religion was protected, so non-religion should be, too.”
However, atheists in the city testified before council in support of the move, claiming experiences with discrimination in child custody battles and employment, among other issues.
“[P]eople in my student group, for example, are very hesitant to be honest about their lack of belief in God out of fear that they are going to be discriminated against in employment opportunities,” Chris Calvey, the former president of Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics, told Raw Story. “If that came up in a job interview, that’s held against them.”
Todd Steifel, president of Openly Secular, told the Associated Press that he believes there is a stigma against atheists in America.
“People have been raised being told that atheists are evil and they eat babies and they can’t be trusted,” he said.
The inclusion, which passed unanimously, now provides protections to atheists in employment and housing, as well as public accommodations, alongside protections for sex, race, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, handicap/disabled, marital status, citizenship status, gender identity and political beliefs.
However, others state that they believe the inclusion was unnecessary, especially since Madison is considered to be the hub of atheism as it is the home of the nationally-recognized activist group Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF).
“I don’t understand why they would add this to that litany of protections in Madison, of all places,” said Julaine Appling, the president of Wisconsin Family Action. “I thought this was an April Fools’ joke.”
“[I]n principle there’s nothing wrong with banning discrimination against atheists. After all, we don’t want anyone facing discrimination,” also stated Jazz Shaw of HotAir.com “But were atheists really facing all that much public condemnation and denial of their rights? … [A]re atheists being denied jobs or rides on public transportation based on their (lack of) belief? … Nobody is going to force you to go to church.”
“More to the point, are atheist photographers, bakers and florists being forced to participate in Christian weddings?” he added. “It seems like they shouldn’t be able to refuse such a request based on recent court cases, right?”
Christine Rousselle at Town Hall posited that such non-discrimination laws might as well include every type of person possible.
“At what point does an ordinance become so broad that it effectively renders itself useless?” she asked.