Religion in the News
When we think of religious freedom we rarely think of the freedom to be non-religious, but many Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist, and Freethinker groups in the United States and across the world feel their rights are being denied by their governments. (http://bit.ly/1iZk7Xe) This month ReligionNews published an article illustrating these sentiments (http://bit.ly/1bxkoft).
Recently officials in Florida rejected an atheist monument featuring the words of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Madalyn Murray O’Hair. The monument, a granite bench, would have decorated a courthouse lawn. The state had previously approved other monuments as suitable for courthouse ornamentation, such as a large stone representation of the Ten Commandments.
Atheists are asking their government: Why are we not granted the same privileges accorded to other faith and interest groups? America represents itself as being fair, equitable and tolerant of all people’s views. However, in my view, in many respects it more resembles a theocracy than a democracy, with presidents appealing, appeasing and worshiping a Christian god publicly.
Federal American law upholds the right to free speech and freedom of religion, but some research finds that non-believers feel they live in a country “in which atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans, or non-Americans.” (http://reut.rs/MJfUw3) In many states atheists are legally banned from fully participating in their government including not being able to hold public office and being unable to act as a court witness. (http://reut.rs/MJfUw3)
Reflecting on the current treatment of non-believers in the United States makes me realize how much I appreciate living in a country that not only embraces the rhetoric of equality, but also strives to uphold it. As religious rights advocates continue to strive towards equitable, respectful treatment of all belief systems I hope they remember the Atheists, Freethinkers, Agnostics and Humanists.