A Vietnam combat veteran and secular activist is featured in a “secular values voter” campaign in Maine, and will appear in a full-page ad in the Maine Sunday Telegram on July 3.
Tom Waddell, who directs FFRF’s Maine chapter, will be featured in a full-page ad headlined “I’m Secular and I Vote,” in which he is shown wearing an “A” for atheist pin in a photo taken in front of his state Capitol. He’s the first “out-of-the-closet atheist” to give invocations before the Maine House and Senate, and has written a monthly column on the intersection of religion and politics in the Kennebec Journal, a Maine daily newspaper, for seven years.
FFRF points out that Waddell is one of 75 million nonreligious Americans who want Congress, state legislatures, public officials and courts to listen to “secular values voters” by keeping religion out of government and social policy — and that includes on the urgent question of abortion rights.
“I’m a Vietnam combat veteran,” Waddell says, “a lifelong Atheist, and married for 35 years. My wife and I often advocate for LGBT rights, a woman’s right to abortion, and the rights of Atheists. Currently, I am working on making Atheists a protected class under the Maine Human Rights Commission.”
Waddell, who identifies himself in the newspaper ad as a “Vietnam combat veteran, FFRF chapter director, Mainer . . . and Atheist,” notes: “The ‘Nones’ (those of us unaffiliated with religion) are now 29 percent of the U.S. population. We are the largest ‘denomination’ by religious identification!”
The 2020 Census on Religion by PRRI actually shows that the percentage of religiously affiliated in Kennebec County, Maine, is higher than the national average at 32 percent.
Adds Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “FFRF is putting public candidates and officials on notice that the nonreligious now represent nearly a third of all adult Americans. We are the true ‘values voters’ and it’s critical that our secular viewpoint be heard and represented.”
Waddell, saying he “trusts in reason, science and America’s secular Constitution,” lists a compelling number of secular voter demands: To keep religion out of government and social policy, out of public schools, and out of bedrooms, personal lives and health care decisions — including when or whether to have children, and whom to love or marry. “Use my tax dollars only for evidence-based, not faith-based, purposes,” he emphasizes.
FFRF is running the billboards and newspaper ads in time for the July 3-4 weekend in about half of the United States, with the rest appearing around Sept. 17, Constitution Day.
The campaign is particularly timely coming on the heels of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Gaylor observes that 98.8 percent of FFRF’s membership supports Roe, which is consistent with a YouGov analysis showing that atheists, at 91 percent overall, are the most likely to identify as pro-choice.
Gaylor called the Supreme Court’s ruling against abortion rights “an alarming wake up call,” and part of the Supreme Court trend to privilege religion at the expense of individual liberties. “That’s why our secular voices must be heard and why it’s essential to keep religious dogma out of our laws.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation serves as the largest association of freethinkers in North America, with more than 36,000 members including nearly 200 in Maine, and works as a state/church watchdog to safeguard the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. To learn more, visit: ffrf.org.