POLITICS
09/22/2014 03:53 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2014

Barney Frank And Chris Kluwe Back Campaign To End Discrimination Against Atheists

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe have signed on to a new campaign to end discrimination against atheists, agnostics and the nonreligious.

Openly Secular, a coalition of more than two dozen secular organizations, seeks to debunk misconceptions about secular people by encouraging nontheists to come forward and raise awareness for the 29 percent of Americans who identify as nonreligious.

In an Openly Secular campaign video posted Friday, Kluwe, who described himself as "cheerfully agnostic and openly secular," urged nonbelievers to advocate for their rights.

"It's important for secularists to be vocal about who they are ... in a truly functional society, in a stable society, everyone is afforded the same freedom to be who they are no matter what that is as long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of other people to be who they are," Kluwe said. "If you want to enjoy your own beliefs, then you have to fight for everyone else's beliefs just as hard, because if you don't, someday you might be on the other side of that line and you're not going to be very happy when that day comes."

Kluwe, a gay rights activist who hasn't shied from defending marginalized groups in the NFL, described the league as a non-hostile environment for secular players.

"I don't think atheists feel alienated within the NFL ... we're all part of the team," Kluwe said.

In another Openly Secular video posted Friday, Frank, who revealed his nontheism in an interview with Bill Maher last year, aimed to battle the common perception that nonbelievers are intrinsically amoral.

"There are plenty of people who are very good people without a religious influence ... not believing in a supreme being ... is absolutely neutral as to what kind of a person you are," Frank said in the video. "[T]here is no empirical evidence nor is there any logical argument that says you can't be a good person without that."

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, 53 percent of Americans think belief in a higher power is necessary to be a moral person.

In an interview with Religion News Service earlier this year, Frank revealed that he'd been a nonbeliever long before admitting it publicly, but he'd refrained from publicizing it out of fear that disavowing "any religiosity could get distorted into an effort to distance myself from being Jewish."

"During my service [in Congress], I never pretended to be a theist," Frank explained in June. "It just never became relevant that I wasn't, and I guess I was not as conscious of the discrimination nontheists felt."

Only 54 percent of voters said they would back atheist candidates, making them the most unelectable in the country. Seven states even maintain unenforceable mandates requiring public officeholders to believe in a supreme being.

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