Fort Worth, Texas—The North Texas atheist group Metroplex Atheists has launched a billboard campaign to promote their educational event, “Keep God Out of Our Public Schools.” On Sunday, District Judge Reed O’Connor denied them a preliminary injunction to post banners on downtown lampposts. Nonetheless, the billboard campaign, which will run until August 24, will help promote the August 26 event. In addition, the lawsuit will continue as planned. Metroplex Atheists is represented by American Atheists and local counsel Glast, Phillips & Murray with substantial assistance from the American Humanist Association.
“This is a temporary setback. We will continue our lawsuit on behalf of all the atheists who have suffered discrimination—in Fort Worth, in Texas, and all throughout our country,” said Umair Khan, president of Metroplex Atheists. “We deserve the same rights and respect as all other groups, and that’s what this lawsuit has always been about.”
“We’d like to thank the outpouring of support from the community,” he added. “This litigation is exposing discrimination, and in doing so, it will help move our city and state toward more equality and justice.”
In a letter to the editor, Dallas resident Bonnie Canelakes called out officials for discriminating against atheists “who don’t choose to join or believe what the city thinks they should.” “The atheists are right on this one. Fort Worth got it wrong,” wrote the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board. “This is clearly a free speech issue,” agreed the Star-Telegram Editorial Board. “We think it would have been better to err on the side of more speech, not less.”
“Atheists have a right to be heard. The sort of silencing and discrimination Fort Worth atheists experienced is not an isolated incident. We see it all the time,” said Geoffrey T. Blackwell, Litigation Counsel for American Atheists. “The discrimination atheists are subject to often goes unnoticed by our fellow citizens who are religious. This mistreatment impacts almost every part of daily life, be it within our families, in education, on the job, in the military, during substance abuse treatments, and especially at the hands of government officials.”
In 2019, American Atheists conducted the U.S. Secular Survey, which canvassed nearly 34,000 nonreligious Americans. The resulting report, Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America, found that anti-atheist stigma and discrimination were widespread in all areas of life. For example, 19.1% of participants reported negative experiences when accessing private businesses, such as the services provided by Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., which manages the city’s discriminatory program. In very religious communities, including many areas of Texas, this type of discrimination by private businesses was twice as prevalent than in less religious areas.
“Treating all members of a community—whether atheist, LGBTQ, or another minority group—with dignity and respect improves society overall,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists and a co-author of the report. “Unfortunately, Christian nationalist activists and lawmakers spend more time silencing those they disagree with and stigmatizing minority groups than caring about residents’ well-being. The fight continues. We refuse to let discrimination win out.”
The dangers of Christian nationalism will be the focus of Metroplex Atheists’ August 26 event: “Keep God Out of Our Public Schools.” This educational seminar will be held at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden from 1–5pm. Dr. Bradley Onishi, a University of San Francisco faculty member, co-host of the top-ranked religion and politics podcast Straight White American Jesus, and author of Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism—And What Comes, will be the keynote speaker. Dr. Wil Jeudy (American Atheists’ Texas State Director), Reverend Dr. Katie Hays (founder-pastor of Galileo Church), and Randall Theo (President of the DFW chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation) will also speak on stage.
For more information on the event, please go to https://www.metroplexatheists.org/blog/keep-god-out-of-our-public-schools-and-christian-nationalism/