Madison (Wisconsin) May Include Atheists as a Protected Class in Expanded Anti-Discrimination Bill February 3, 2015

Madison (Wisconsin) May Include Atheists as a Protected Class in Expanded Anti-Discrimination Bill

The most surprising thing about Madison (Wisconsin) Alderwoman Anita Weier‘s new anti-discrimination proposal may be that it wasn’t already in effect.

Alderwoman Anita Weier

The most significant aspect of the proposal is the protection it would provide the homeless:

Madison’s homeless community faces discrimination in housing and employment, Nazos said. Potential employers often discard applicants who list no address or list job centers or shelters as their address, and landlords usually require housing applicants to have a housing history, references and their name on a previous lease. To have protections around this kind of discrimination, [Georgie Nazos, The Road Home Dane County’s Housing & Hope Case Manager] said, would be great.

But the protected classes would also include atheists:

Putting atheists on the protected class list will also be a significant advance in reducing discrimination in Madison, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Annie Laurie Gaylor said.

For atheists, Gaylor said, becoming a protected class would mean a step toward changing the sometimes demonizing perception of atheists and deconstructing bizarre atheist stereotypes. Becoming a protected class would also make atheists feel safer from hate crimes, she said.

While you can’t discriminate on the basis of religion in the city, not everyone realizes that extends to atheists as well. That’s why explicitly saying so would be helpful.

While I’m sure there will be opposition to this — there always is when more people have their rights protected — I just don’t see a down side. If a public business or employer discriminates against atheists, they deserve to be fined or punished some other way. That should be common sense.

You can see some examples of such discrimination here. While some of the items there are merely anti-atheist opinions that have no legal weight, there are instances where people were fired from public schools or businesses soon after being outed as atheists.

If you can put a stop to that, why wouldn’t you?

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