The National Atheist Party is no more.
In a vote last week, members of the political group -- which supports secular government and the reinforcement of the separation of church and state -- selected the "Secular Party of America" as their new name. The change had reportedly been in the works for months, and over 75 percent of the party's members voted in support of the rebrand.
Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing Bernard “Flash” Kellish“ hailed the move in a statement.
"We are certain that not only is the new name far more inclusive of a greater number of Americans that share our vision of true separation of church and state, but that it will open the door to those that may not have joined us if for no other reason than because 'Atheist' was in the name," he said. "We were created by atheists as a way to be a hereunto unrepresented voice in politics and have been very successful. We will miss the old name but now it is time to move forward and focus on being a viable and respected political party. We hope to make a worldwide network of secular organizations.”
In May, members released a promo video similarly noting that the "Secular Party of America" name was less narrow and more indicative of the group's mission:
Kevin Davis explains some of the concerns with the previous name over at Divided Under God blog:
Many members of the party have long taken issue with its name, citing that someone’s religious affiliation does not define their politics, so naming a party “atheist” assumes that it represents all atheists, which it may not. It’s no different than forming a National Christian Party and assuming all Christians would have the same political leanings and be compelled to join. It’s presumptive and illogical. And if there’s one thing atheists hate, it’s the absence of logic. On top of that, the name suggests that only atheists are desired or allowed to join, which is untrue. In fact, anyone in favor of a government free from religious influence is encouraged to join.
The broader reach could help give a little mainstream appeal to the group, whose basic religious beliefs are currently shared by very few members of Congress.
The National Atheist Party had experienced some hardship over the past year. In March, the party's president abruptly resigned, citing an "increasing lack of cooperation by the Executive Board" and other competing obligations. Last year, the group was also forced to cancel its national convention due to a lack of funding.
The group has a constituency of around 8,000 members across all 50 states.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) identifies as an atheist. While Sinema's office has said that she "does not consider herself to be a member of any faith community," the congresswoman does not identify as an atheist. For more on Sinema's beliefs, click here.