“I’m an atheist and I vote,” proclaims New Jersey writer Emily Eckart on five billboards up in various locations in the state capital.
The billboard messages in Trenton can be found: at East State Street, 50 feet east of Canal Street; 545 Brunswick Ave., 10 feet south of Chase Street; on Bridge Street, 300 feet west of Ferry Street; at 122 Perry St., 200 feet east of Broad Street; and on Prospect Street, 75 feet south of Frazier Street.
Eckart is part of a provocative secular voter campaign by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which points out that 75 million adult Americans — nearly one in three — are nonreligious. In a variety of billboards and full-page newspaper ads, nonreligious Americans such as Eckart are announcing that they devoutly want to keep religion out of government — and are voting that way.
Eckart, pictured in front of the New Jersey Capitol in Trenton, will also appear in two full-page newspaper ads running in New Jersey on Sunday, Sept. 18. Those ads are timed to observe Constitution Day, Sept. 17, the 235th anniversary of the signing of what FFRF calls the “godless” and entirely secular Constitution.
FFRF works as a state/church watchdog, with more than 38,000 nonreligious members, including Eckart.
Eckart, 32, explains that she’s been an atheist for 16 years.
“I grew up in a deeply religious family where many family members, including my grandfather, were pastors,” she says. “Because of this, I’ve generally kept quiet about my atheism, which I came to on my own after much reading and contemplation. However, the recent assault on women’s rights driven by conservative Christians has spurred me to speak out.”
She’s also interested in debunking what she calls “a prevailing cultural assumption that religious people are inherently more morally upright than atheists and nonbelievers.”
Eckart, an author and environmentalist, holds degrees from Harvard University, where she studied music, literature (bachelor’s) and sustainability (master’s).
Eckart is participating in round two of FFRF’s national secular values voter awareness campaign taking place in more than half the states this month. The campaign visited other states in FFRF’s earlier “independence from religion” campaign over the Fourth of July. View all ads here.
Full-page newspaper ads will also run in the Washington Post and 44 other newspapers, including those in many capital cities with accompanying billboard messaging.
In the ad, Eckart 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.”
Eckart calls for keeping religion out of government, social policy and public schools. Notably, given the overturning of Roe. v. Wade and increasing attacks on LGBTQ rights, the ad also demands that religion be kept “out of bedrooms, personal lives and health care decisions — including when or whether to have children, and whom to love or marry.”
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says, “We’re putting public candidates and officials on notice that secular voters are here, that WE are the true ‘values voters’ and that it’s time that our secular viewpoint be respected and represented.”
The growing and increasingly overt calls for Christian nationalism and an alarming tendency of the U.S. Supreme Court to privilege religion and eviscerate individual rights require that secular voices be heard, conclude Eckart and FFRF.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has more than 38,000 members throughout North America, serves as a membership group for like-minded atheists, freethinkers and humanists, and works diligently as a state/church watchdog to uphold the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.