Madison, Wisconsin is the first to add atheists to a list of protected classes for employment, housing, and other essentials.
There have been many legal efforts made to provide formal protection to atheists as they face discrimination in many parts of the nation. It’s currently illegal, for example, for atheists to hold office in 7 states; North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, South Carolina, Maryland, Mississippi and Tennessee. An Oregon federal judge ruled Secular Humanism as a form of religion, granting them legal protection, and advocates convinced a town in Alaska to assure atheists the right to perform invocations for their council meetings. Madison, Wisconsin has joined the list of areas passing legislation to protect atheists.
Madison Wisconsin Protects Atheists
In a completely unanimous vote, the common council announced on Tuesday that they were making an amendment to the list of protected classes, adding atheists to the list. The protection list covers physical appearance, handicap/disability, citizenship status, marital status, social security number disclosure, arrest record, national origin or ancestry, sexy, color, source of income, race, religion, student status, political beliefs and more. The vote adds atheists as protected under certain areas: public accommodation, employment, and housing.
Anita Weier, ordinance sponsored District 18, said that the amendment “is important because I believe it is only fair that if we protect religion, in all its varieties, we should also protect non-religion from discrimination. It’s only fair.” The council had 5 atheists speaking in favor of the proposal. One atheist was Chris Calvey, a UW graduate student and previous Atheists Humanists and Agnostics president. He and the others shared discrimination stories with the Madison council.
“It’s actually something we’re commonly very concerned about, just because atheism is viewed as such a taboo in this country. And there’s such a stigma with it,” Calvey said. “It’s really making a big statement that we’re not going to put up with discrimination in the name of God. That being a believer doesn’t mean you can discriminate.”
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