University of Wisconsin–Madison

This Is What “Religious Freedom” Looks Like

With all the nonsense currently happening in Indiana, and now Arkansas, it’s easy to get discouraged on the front lines of the culture wars.  And then, like a breath of fresh air, comes a mighty salvo of reason and equality from Madison, Wisconsin.

Earlier tonight, the Madison City Council voted in favor of amending the city’s “Equal Opportunity Ordinance” to add atheism to a long list of classes protected from discrimination:

Declaration of Policy. The practice of providing equal opportunities in housing, employment, public accommodations and City facilities is a desirable goal of the City of Madison and a matter of legitimate concern to its government. Discrimination against any of Madison’s residents or visitors endangers the rights and privileges of all. The denial of equal opportunity intensifies group conflict, undermines the foundations of our democratic society, and adversely affects the general welfare of the community.

The practice of providing equal opportunities in employment to persons without regard to sex, race, religion or atheism, color, national origin or ancestry, citizenship status, age, handicap/disability, marital status, source of income, arrest record, conviction record, credit history, less than honorable discharge, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity, political beliefs, familial status, student status, domestic partner status, receipt of rental assistance, the fact that the person declines to disclose their social security number, or unemployment status is a desirable goal of the City of Madison and a matter of legitimate concern to its government.

This appears to be the first case in the nation of a city specifically codifying the rights of nonbelievers.  Better yet? The change was approved unanimously by the Madison City Council, with no members speaking out against the motion (nor anyone in the public commentary period).  Even better? Three alders requested to be added as cosponsors of the motion – going out of their way to lend their most emphatic support.

Best of all, this was covered by local news affiliate Fox47, in what must be one of the most positive depictions of atheists in the media that I have ever seen.
(Also, I was interviewed, so that’s cool too.)

Kudos to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, for drawing my attention to this historic moment. And thank you Alderwoman Anita Weier, who authored the changes, stating simply:

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.

Amen to that.

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