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Humanists Applaud President Obama for Including Nontheists in Religious Freedom Day

For Immediate Release

(Washington, DC, January 19, 2010) The American Humanist Association today commended President Obama for his continued acknowledgement and inclusion of nonbelievers when speaking about the role of religion in American life. “…It was the genius of America’s forefathers to protect our freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice none at all,” President Obama said while delivering a speech declaring Saturday Religious Freedom Day.

“We’re gratified that President Obama continues to reach out to nontheists in a positive, inclusive way,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Atheists, agnostics and others who don’t subscribe to religion are generally ignored by politicians. But President Obama continues to reference us when speaking about the varied religious spectrum in the United States. It’s heartening to see any politician--let alone the president of the United States--who doesn’t fall prey to the nearly pervasive assumption that it’s only the people who believe in God that matter.”

Each year the president declares January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the passage in 1786 of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. The statute is considered to be a vital legal step in establishing religious freedom and the separation of church and state. Religious Freedom Day is intended to promote students’ religious expression rights, and Americans are called upon to observe the day “through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools and places of worship.”

“It’s great to see the president recognize the freedom not to worship as a fundamental American right,” said Speckhardt.

This is not the first time President Obama has acknowledged nontheists in a political speech. The first such occasion took place during his inauguration, marking the first time a president has referenced nontheists in the ceremony.

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.