Portland could soon make discrimination against atheists and agnostics illegal

Protections for atheists and agnostics and “general” non-believers could soon be written into Portland law, the Portland Mercury reports.

On Wednesday, the Portland City Council will discuss a bill that seeks to add “non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism and non-belief to the definition of Religion.”

“Portland has a large percentage of residents who identify as religiously unaffiliated,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz said in a press release. “We need to make these changes to our Civil Rights Code to remove discriminatory barriers, so they may participate equally in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the City.”

Just like gender and race, those who ascribe to a particular religion are already protected under the city’s code, making it illegal to discriminate against them because of their beliefs. Now, people who do not identify with any religion will enjoy the same protections.

From the Portland Mercury:

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, Portland was the most non-religious city in America in 2015, with 42 percent of residents identifying as religiously unaffiliated. Just as different religious minorities can face discrimination when applying for a job, looking for a place to live, or attempting to patronize a business, religiously unaffiliated people can experience prejudice as well. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that Americans continue to hold unfavorable views toward atheists, though that trend is improving.

As Oregon state law currently stands, there are no clear prohibitions regarding discrimination against people who are religiously unaffiliated.

Speaking to the Portland Mercury, Portland’s Freedom from Religion president Cheryl Kolbe said that the bill “is very affirming for those of us who are atheist, agnostic or any other form of non-belief.”

The bill will be voted upon this coming February 27. If it passes, Portland will follow the city of Madison, Wisconsin in passing such a law.

Featured image via Flickr

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