By Herb Silverman
I give two cheers for the NBC/WSJ poll that shows Americans would prefer a gay presidential candidate to an evangelical one. That, to me, is a twofer — acceptance of gays and discomfort with evangelicals. But I don’t yet give three cheers because Americans would still prefer an evangelical president to an atheist.
Since 1937, Gallup has been asking people whether they would vote for a generally well-qualified presidential candidate nominated by their party if the nominee happened to be a Catholic, Mormon, black, female, atheist, etc.
Gays were not even included in the survey until 1978, and they ranked last. Today atheists are at the bottom. The good news is that there is now less discrimination against all minorities — and in 2012 for the first time a poll indicated that a slim majority (54 percent) would consider voting for an atheist.
Another advance for gays but not atheists is in the Boy Scouts. That organization’s modified policy now allows gays to become scouts and leaders. Atheists, however, continue to be excluded, apparently because the Boy Scout oath implies that an atheist boy can’t be “morally straight” unless he can do his “duty to God.” Perhaps one day the Boy Scouts will become as tolerant as the Girl Scouts, who don’t discriminate against any girls.
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