Should atheists be a protected class? So far, two cities, Madison, WI, and Portland OR have voted in favor of just that. It seems a bit silly to me, and I hope this doesn’t somehow become a trend. Are atheists discriminated against? Well, as far as I know, I’ve never experienced any, at least not openly, but that doesn’t mean it does not occur, just as there are still those that are denied bank loans and mortgages based on their race. It’s not an openly hostile environment, as it can’t be by law, but there’s always that subtle discrimination that niggles at the edge of society that is still a concern for many.
In the United States, the 1964 Civil Rights Act is the law that prevents discrimination in any area of employment, housing, education based on numerous factors, including religion. So being a non-believer, openly discriminated against would receive the same level of scrutiny under the law as someone that’s a Muslim. It’s illegal. Instead of that act making anyone or any specific group a protected class, it’s an umbrella that protects all citizens no matter their race, sex, or religion. So why did these cities believe it was necessary to focus on atheists, and agnostics? Is there a real problem in both of these cities with atheists being openly denied opportunities?
I’ve seen these ordinances described on Christian sites as being virtue signaling, but to what extent? A gift to the progressive left. That just doesn’t make any sense. Usually for a city to go to the trouble of creating ordinances like these, there’s been complaints. I don’t know for a fact, but I don’t think either Madison or Portland are bastions of religious conservatism. There may be more atheists, per capita in both these cities than the average, but I would think that would make them less likely to be discriminatory than more.
I know a few atheists, personally and from my dialogue with others online, that have a fear of being known as an atheist. I think though that the fear in many (not all) cases is that there’s a social stigma in our country towards atheists and that some of these people are simply unwilling to be ostracized for their social group. I’m not saying there aren’t those that believe there might be more than just losing friends or colleagues at work. It could be that they’re afraid of physical violence against their persons or their family. But does that mean that atheists need protection under the law, separate from all others?
It seems that in Portland, the idea was to just add non-religious as being protected because in law, the protections already granted based on religion (which includes no religion) wasn’t specific enough. So another law is entered in the books which basically does nothing that the overriding Federal Statutes already do. So, maybe it is a form of virtue signalling. Or just stupidity.
I don’t think that atheists need laws passed locally or otherwise specifically to protect us. For some that are already against us as a group, it just adds gas to their fire. We always like to present ourselves as no different than the general public with the exception that we just don’t believe in god(s). Why single us out for more derision amongst those same people by protecting us exclusively?