Mayor: Nonbelief deserves equal treatment

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor:

We’ve been holding the Nonprayer Breakfast for 30-some years, and guess what? We have never had a mayor attend one until today. It’s my pleasure to introduce “Hizzoner” the Mayor, Paul Soglin.

I remember campaigning for you, Paul, when I was a high schooler before I could vote. Paul Soglin was a very famous anti-war activist. If you have never seen the documentary “The War at Home” about the Vietnam protests at the University Wisconsin-Madison, it is super. Paul then went on to get his law degree.

The first time that he ran for mayor, the incumbent was Mayor Dyke. I was at the public forum at West High School where Dyke said, “The decent people would only vote for Mayor Dyke.” That was a turning point in Paul’s first campaign. He’s also the person who oversaw construction of Monona Terrace Convention Center, and boy, was that a fight! Aren’t we glad we’re here?

And I’m very pleased that the mayor is here. He’s going to add a little bit of welcoming.

Mayor Soglin:

Thank you very much and for that reminder. Bill Dyke did include in his opening comments at West High that evening that he hoped there were enough decent people left in Madison to reelect him. I followed and started my introduction, which I guess is suitable for this audience, saying that I don’t care if you’re decent or indecent, I want your support.
I grew up in the 1950s during the height of the Cold War. There were a number of us in the classroom who would say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation” ­— and then there’d be silence ­­— “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

There were those in this country who felt quite strongly that we could only survive if they imposed their moral and their religious standards on the rest of us. And of course it was to continue during our lifetimes, during the war in Vietnam, continued into the 1980s and ’90s, and now.

You can’t go to a baseball game without seeing tens of thousands of people rise [for the seventh-inning stretch, when after 9/11 the song “God Bless America” replaced “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”]. To again, feel compelled to abide by a standard, which is clearly and historically not in the best interests of this country.

I don’t have to share with you the horrors of what goes on today throughout the world, and has for centuries. Where in the name of religious fervor, we don’t just kill but we brutalize, we maim and we inflict enormous trauma in regards to the spreading of religious fervor.

It seems to me, as one who’s held elected office over the years, that if we’re going to change this country there has to be an understanding that the imposition of one’s views about morality is a very private matter. And while there will be debates over issues such as reproductive choice and free speech, which I think is critical to this discussion, to do it in the name of some supreme being is contradictory to the fundamental premise upon which this nation was founded.

When we look at our history, we know that there were some very, very grave mistakes and political compromises that were made. Some of those compromises had to deal with the role of government for people who had property and for those who didn’t, for those who were men and those who were women. And certainly for those who were slaves and those who were not.
Another of those compromises was made in the name of religion and the belief or lack of belief in a supreme being. It’s time that we recognize that those compromises have to end in modern-day America as well as throughout the world.

So with that, I welcome you to what many of us fondly refer to as 77 square miles surrounded by reality. Thank you for having selected Madison for your annual convention. Have a good time.

Freedom From Religion Foundation