The city of Madison, Wisconsin has announced that it is now against the law to discriminate against atheists, making it the first city in the nation to add people who don’t believe in a deity to the list of protected classes of citizens, reports Channel3000.
Saying, “It’s only fair,” bill sponsor Anita Weier led the city council in a unanimous vote approving the ordinance that protects citizens in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.
“There are many categories that are protected,” Weier said. “And it did occur to me that if religion was, then perhaps the opposite should be.”
At a time when neighboring state Indiana is in turmoil after the governor signed a bill allowing businesses and individuals to discriminate against others based upon their religious values, Madison council members voted to make their city more inclusive.
“This is important because I believe it is only fair that if we protect religion, in all its varieties, we should also protect non-religion from discrimination,” Weier explained.
Testifying before the council, atheists told tales of housing, employment, and parental custody discrimination due to their non-belief in God, saying their atheism should have no bearing on their character, values, or ability to their job.
“It’s actually something we’re commonly very concerned about, just because atheism is viewed as such a taboo in this country. And there’s such a stigma with it,” explained former Atheists Humanists and Agnostics president Chris Calvey. ” That people in my student group, for example, are very hesitant to be honest about their lack of belief in God out of fear that they are going to be discriminated against in employment opportunities. If that came up in a job interview that’s held against them.”
“Having it on the books, where we’re legally a protected class, that will make things much easier for atheists,” Calvey said. “And we’ll be able to be confident that at least if we’re honest about what we actually believe, then we have the law backing us up so we can’t legally be discriminated against.”
Atheism joins the city’s long list of protected classes which includes: sex, race, religion, color, national origin or ancestry, citizenship status, age, handicap/disability, marital status, gender identity, and political beliefs, among others.