A billboard featuring a distinguished retired couple proudly proclaiming “We’re Atheist and We Vote” has gone up on a rooftop on the corner of NY2 and Second Avenue in Watervliet, in suburban Albany, as part of a national multimedia secular voter campaign launched by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in this critical election year.
Mira and David Peck are representing the state of New York in FFRF’s campaign, and will also appear in a full-page ad in the Albany Times Union running on Sunday, July 3, in which they are pictured in front of their state Capitol building.
Mira, born in the USSR to Polish nationals, one who was Jewish, was raised in Poland in a secular home, and emigrated to Australia at age 16. After graduating from college, Mira hitchhiked to the Great Barrier Reef, where she met her American husband. They trekked through Asia and Europe, then moved back permanently to the United States, where she pursued a Master’s degree and earned a law degree from Rutgers Law School. An American citizen, she had a successful career with BASF Corp. They adopted two children from Russia, who are now grown, and have two grandchildren.
David was born into a Protestant farming family in Upstate New York and after marrying Mira and settling back in the United States, taught high school biology and chemistry. He participated in 10 EarthWatch projects in Inner Mongolia, Costa Rica and Greece, among others. He writes, “Charles Darwin and Thomas Paine are my heroes.”
FFRF points out that the couple are two 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.
“We are happy to lend our names to this important cause,” Mira adds.
Mira identifies herself in the newspaper ad as “a retired corporate exec, mother, Empire State citizen . . . and an Atheist.” David is identified as “a retired high school science teacher, father, Empire State citizen . . . and an Atheist” They note: “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 percentage of religiously unaffiliated is higher than the national average in Albany County, N.Y., at 33 percent.
Explains FFRF 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.”
Saying they “trust in reason, science and America’s secular Constitution,” the couple list 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,” they emphasize.
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 more than 1,950 in New York State, and works as a state/church watchdog to safeguard the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. To learn more, visit: ffrf.org.