Is Atheism a Civil Rights Issue?

DJ Grothe and Austin Dacey wrote for Free Inquiry Magazine that Atheism is not a Civil Rights Issue.

But is it really legitimate to compare the situation of nontheists in America to the oppression of women, ethnic and racialized minorities, and the GLBT community? Can their struggle for public respect be modeled on the civil rights struggles of the last century? In fact, the analogy with gay rights is seriously flawed. Atheists need a public awareness campaign, not a liberation movement.


Their argument is that its not fair to compare the plight of atheists to that of women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities who have been persecuted in this country. While no one can argue that fact, atheists are persecuted nonetheless and most certainly have been victims of civil rights violations. The violations occurring to atheists are much less severe, but nonetheless should be noted and made public — articles like this one do not help.

What about the people that have come forward and said that they believe they lost their jobs because of their atheism? Is that not a civil rights issue?

What about the instances of violence against atheists?

And of course, there’s the issue of the many states where the legislation still lays it out plainly that an atheist may not hold public office.

Sure, it would be hard to be elected to higher office in America as an avowed unbeliever, but it would also be impossible for a socialist or a Mother Earth spiritualist. And being barred from the Boy Scouts hardly affects one’s basic life prospects. Besides, most experts agree that Scouting is not a “public accommodation” in which everyone has a right to be included.

There’s a difference here and I hold issue with the authors for not understanding. America is not a socialist country. It is a country founded on religious freedom. A “Mother Earth Spiritualist” has the same fight as an atheist in that this country is set up to defend people to worship or no worship however they choose.

Religious Intolerance IS a civil rights issue. If a Muslim were to lose a job for being Muslim, you’d better believe Jesse Jackson would be there citing the injustice that has been done to this poor young Muslim. How is it any different in the case of Atheism?


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