How religious freedom can bring common ground to common foes

By Kelsey Dallas

SALT LAKE CITY — As the Trump administration focuses on boosting religious freedom across the globe, government officials may be overlooking a potential ally here at home: nonbelievers.

Compared to their experiences with past administrations, leaders of key nontheist groups say they feel frozen out of the president’s religion-related efforts, in spite of the fact that atheists are often the victims of faith-based violence.

“We will stand with coalitions and groups defending Christians around the world, and it’s also important that the U.S. opposes atheists being threatened,” said Nicholas Little, legal director for the Center for Inquiry, an organization that advocates for a secular society. A former Center for Inquiry leader served as chairman of the United Nations NGO Committee on the Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The State Department’s latest report on international religious freedom, released last week, included several examples of people being targeted for their lack of belief. For example, a man in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to eight years in prison and 800 lashes in 2016 for spreading atheism and threatening the moral fabric of the country.

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