You may argue that the word “interfaith,” by definition, excludes those without faith, but the event was billed as an all-inclusive memorial service and that is the spirit in which the atheists saw it. Because of the snub, local humanists were forced to create a makeshift memorial service at a later date and create an online petition urging government officials to meet with them in coming weeks to hear their stories and ensure that “healing and unity will include everyone” in the future. Atheists online also donated more than $28,000 to various local charities in a matter of days, all without much publicity or fanfare, to help those (of all backgrounds) who suffered because of the attacks.
But the organizers of the memorial event weren’t the only people leaving atheists in the dust. When the Boy Scouts of America announced last week that they may finally allow gay scouts in their ranks, the loudest reactions came from progressives who were (rightfully) upset that gay leaders would still be banned. (Apparently, you can be a gay scout until you become an adult… at which point they kick you right back out.) However, the ensuing controversy all-but-ignored the fact that, even if the change allowed gay people of all ages, atheists would still be forbidden from becoming scouts because they are neither “reverent” to God (as required by scout law) nor able to do their “duty to God” (as required by thescout oath). In other words, an organization that prides itself on building character and developing responsible citizens does not believe atheists are capable of holding those values. One of the reasons for this continuing form of discrimination was brought up by the New Yorker‘s Richard Socarides: “Catholic and Mormon church hierarchies… sponsor and fund much of the Boy Scouts’ activities.” While the BSA may cave in to outside (and even inside) pressure to allow some gay people into their ranks, their religious landlords still prevent them from accept scouts who may not believe in a higher power.