New Hampshire nontheists participate in secular ad campaign

Secular vote campaign New Hampshire billboard

The Granite State will soon be home to a boldly etched message this election season.

“I’m an atheist and I vote,” proclaims New Hampshire retired community activist Jack Shields on a billboard that will go up the week of Sept. 19 at 190 Elm Street, Manchester, N.H. “I am atheist and I don’t care who knows,” says the active volunteer.

Shields is part of a provocative secular voter campaign by the Freedom From Religion Foundation pointing out that 75 million adult Americans — nearly one in three — are currently nonreligious. In a variety of billboards and full-page newspaper ads around the country, nonreligious Americans such as Shields are announcing that they devoutly want to keep religion out of government — and are voting that way.

In most instances, FFRF has located one nonreligious member per state to represent it in the voter awareness campaign. In the case of New Hampshire, however, FFRF is represented not only by Shields but also by former New Hampshire state Rep. Charles Townsend. 

“Since I retired from the House,” says Townsend, who identifies as a freethinker, “there are more state legislators who are open about being nontheist, but, in a state population that is 36 percent religiously unaffiliated, the Legislature continues to pass legislation supporting religious sectarian views. I hope this campaign changes that.

Townsend and Shields are each pictured in front of the New Hampshire Capitol in Concord in full-page newspaper ads running in the area in coming Sunday editions. 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.

Shields retired from the Community Action Program weatherization program and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, Africa. He volunteers with the local historical society, the village association, the Northern rail trail, is a Penacook Riverside Park caretaker and an antique motorcycle club marshal.

“I have placed a Bill of Rights display to counter a creche on the City Plaza  for the past four years,” Shields says, “and am active with the local New Hampshire activist group.”

After a 25-year career as a population health analyst, Townsend served in the New Hampshore House for four terms, then retired to serve on several nonprofit boards. 

The New Hampshire campaign is being replicated in more than half the states in September; FFRF visited other states earlier in an “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, as well as accompanying billboard messaging.

In their newspaper ad, both the Granite Staters 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 ad 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.”

“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,” adds FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The growing and increasingly overt calls for Christian nationalism, and alarming Supreme Court trends to privilege religion and eviscerate individual rights for religious reasons require that secular voices be heard, concludes 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.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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