American Atheists just announced that Brett Parker, a nearly-three-term Democratic lawmaker from Kansas, will become their new State Policy Manager — a full-time paid staff position — where he’ll be in charge of grassroots organizing and communicating with government officials and other like-minded organizations.
“I am thrilled to join American Atheists’ team and draw on my experience as a public school teacher, political advocate, and legislator,” said Parker. “When you’re an atheist lawmaker in a conservative state, the only way to get things done is to build coalitions and find common ground with people who are different from you. I cannot wait to get started leading American Atheists’ fifty-state strategy to guarantee religious equality for all Americans.”
In his role as State Policy Manager, Parker will manage grassroots engagement, communication with state lawmakers and partner organizations, and the development of testimony and advocacy resources in order to advance religious equality and the separation of religion and government.
In 2016, Parker won a seat in the Kansas legislature as a Democrat, beating a GOP incumbent, representing a district that includes the city of Overland Park. He won re-election in 2018 and 2020 (by increasingly larger margins) before announcing earlier this year that he’d vacate his seat at the end of the 2021 legislative session. That announcement gave potential replacements enough time to decide if they want to jump into the fray. He officially leaves office on August 29.
In a state where, despite a Democratic governor, Republicans have a supermajority in the House and Senate, maybe that’s understandable. You’re not getting much of anything accomplished if you’re a Democrat and you can’t stop Republicans from passing bad bills. Though when I asked Parker about his reason for stepping down, he had a much less partisan explanation: As someone in statewide office in Kansas in his 30s, it was “nearly impossible to sustain indefinitely due to the time commitment and lack of a living wage.”
During his time in the legislature, he was never public about his atheism, though Parker told me his colleagues, staffers, and friends were aware of it. But since he no longer has to run for office, there’s no reason to keep it a secret from anyone. When Parker saw the job opening online, he decided to apply for the position and American Atheists told me he was just a natural fit for the role.