Madison, Wisconsin, Statute Enacts Law That Bans Religious Discrimination Against Atheists

This year thus far has seen major political moves made over religion, ever since same-sex couples filed discrimination suits against Christian businesses that would not provide them services. The Inquisitr has since reported on news about the situation, which probably started with Sweet Cakes by Melissa back in 2013. Since then, many similar cases have happened, but for the aforementioned, their fate was decided by the courts in the form of paying $135,000 to the same-sex couple they “mentally raped.”

This year, however, the most prominent news pertaining to the same-sex lifestyle and Christian businesses is when Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Law, which many in the LGBTQ community viewed as allowing businesses to discriminate freely against them. As a result, the law was revised to prevent discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Now, a new law is being passed in Madison, Wisconsin, that protects a certain religious group from discrimination. Ironically, it is a group that doesn’t believe in religion at all: atheists.

According to the Associated Press, the city of Madison, Wisconsin, banned discrimination against the non-religious as of April 1, 2015. This gives the non-religious, specifically atheists, the same protections afforded to people based on race, sexual orientation, religion, and the like. The reason for the new law is not because anyone identified as an atheist or non-religious complained, but that non-religion should be protected too, as explained by the law’s author, Anita Weier.

“It just seems to me that religion has spread into government more than I feel comfortable with. It just occurred to me that religion was protected, so non-religion should be, too.”

There was no dissent when city council passed the new law, as reported by the Guardian. Yet, some have questioned why Madison needed to protect atheists and non-believers in a city known for being liberal in the first place. As a matter of fact, not even businesses have expressed any concerns to the new law because they likely believe it “doesn’t really do anything.”

However for atheists and other non-believers, this new law is the mark of an important step forward for the non-religious. Todd Stiefel, the president of a group that helps non-religious people become more open about their absence of faith, known as Openly Secular, made such a claim.

“I think Madison is way ahead of the curve.”

Todd Stiefel did also state that those who are non-religious have felt their share of discrimination. Such people who tell their employers or family members their lack of faith face rejection and harassment. Stiefel has said he heard of atheists being fired the day they shared their non-religious views with their employers, or disinherited by parents after opening up about their lack of faith.

“It boils down to the misinformation and prejudice that gets passed down generation to generation. People have been raised being told that atheists are evil and they eat babies and they can’t be trusted.”

If this new law truly protects atheists or not is yet to be tested. However, it may come to pass, especially around the University of Wisconsin. According to Patrick Elliott, an attorney for Freedom From Religion Foundation, there has been an increase in religiously-owned rental housing. There hasn’t been a conflict with an atheist wanting to rent a religiously owned rental house as of yet, but Elliot is happy there are anti-discrimination laws if an issue were to arise.

[Image via Daniel Lobo/Flikr]