An Atheist Alderman March 6, 2009

An Atheist Alderman

Last year, I mentioned the ever-so-brief political career of Danny Ferguson. He was being considered by the Missouri Democratic Party to run for a seat in the state government.

He was taken off their list once they found out he was an atheist (by Danny’s own admission).

Danny hasn’t left politics altogether, though. He now has a seat at the table as a city councilman in Adrian:

The mayor resigned a few months ago and one of the alderman was acting as mayor. The council decided to appoint him as mayor and they needed someone to serve the rest of the alderman’s term (about 14 months). I volunteered and the council appointed me. I went to every council meeting for around a year when I was helping out at the newspaper. I got familiar with the issues they were dealing with and became interested in the process.

Yes, it’s local. No, his appointment won’t directly affect you. Yes, he was appointed and not elected. And no, religion hasn’t been an issue at all so far. But I think this serves as a good model for how to get involved.

Get interested, get to know people in the government, and learn how to get elected.

It’s local, but this is how we must start. We need atheists to win seats in local governments, state governments, even school boards. If we can get more people doing this, it will ideally become easier for more atheists to run for more high profile positions.

Danny has started a group on Atheist Nexus called Atheist Politicians. I’m sure fans are allowed to join 🙂

Anyone else who reads this site involved in politics? What advice would to give to aspiring atheist politicians?

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  • Ian

    I think one of my relatives may be an atheist and she’s the reeve (like mayor) of her district. I don’t think it’s ever really come up though as its not a huge deal if someone turns down the bible for swearing in (at least to the administrators or media, but maybe to some locals).

  • Good for Danny! I am a member of some local commissions and boards, with the original goal of running for local office or school board someday. The thing to be careful about is that the appointed boards don’t seem so glamorous at first but then become intensely interesting after a short period of time.

    I no longer want to run for a higher office. Our charter commission has some fixin’ needs done.

    But he is right. It is very hard for someone to just jump in and decide to run for office. Most of the time in my experience, the religion question won’t come up for people that have been involved in activities.

    It is a great way to start. Candidates have a chance to network with people at the level of office that they want to run, and get endorsements and support.

  • My best advice to any Atheist seeking office is to really get out there and meet people. Go door to door, attend a gazillion functions, give out your cell phone number, walk in parades…

    Character attacks, and that’s all an opponent’s appeal to Atheistic prejudice is, only stand a chance of success if the voters aren’t given an opportunity to form their own opinions on the character of a candidate.

  • I’ve threatened to run for Mayor of my itty bitty town (of 250 people), but my husband says I can’t since we don’t live in city limits. Spoilsport.

  • Luther Weeks

    I’m not a politician but I am involved in politics on my local town committee and in citizen lobbying the legislature.

    My rule is if anyone asks anything about my religion I tell them I am atheist. Amazing how many atheists I find that way. I don’t do it to gain points – it lose the confidence and friendship of some people (but they do notice that I don’t go around killing people feeling lost) – I do it in the possibility that my example might give comfort or inspiration to someone that may feel alone or that they cannot comfortably be honest – in the possibly that rationality is an evolutionary winner in the long run.

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