Seráh Blain, Director of Communications
James Woods for Congress, 848 N Golden Key Street, Gilbert, AZ 85233 · (602) 505-0892 · [email protected]
Contact: Seráh Blain (above)
Atheist Media Day Hosted by Arizona Congressional Candidate
(April 27, 2014) Gilbert, Ariz. – As part of his effort to reach out to underrepresented groups, particularly those who are viewed as politically risky to support, congressional candidate James Woods is hosting an Atheist Media Day today. Woods, who is running for the US Congress in Arizona’s Congressional District 5, is an atheist himself and believes a healthy democracy needs to include all voices. Woods believes the political system in the United States cuts too many people out of the process.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about people who don't believe in God," said Woods. "Because of the negative stigma, lawmakers aren't seeking out atheist constituents and asking how we want to be represented. They're afraid of the political fallout. But how can you make sure government is serving all Americans if you don't allow marginalized groups of people to talk about what they need?"
According to the Pew Research Center, one in five Americans—and a third of adults under 30— is agnostic, atheist or not affiliated with any religion. By large margins they view religious organizations as too concerned with money and power and too involved in politics. Despite these numbers, Woods says elected officials spend a lot of time meeting with religious and interfaith groups but are avoiding atheist groups.
Woods reached out to a number of nontheistic reporters and organization heads to set up interviews and make himself available to members of the secular community. He hopes that media directed to secular Americans on Atheist Media Day will help that community feel heard—and that people unfamiliar with atheism will learn that the atheists do not fit the stereotypes typically assigned them.
Leaders in the secular movement are expressing support for the outreach effort. “I was really excited to hear about James Woods deciding to reach out to atheists, humanists, agnostics and other nontheistic people,” said John Figdor, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School who is currently serving as the Humanist Chaplain at Stanford. “Our voice is often unheard, despite the fact that 32% of people identify as nonreligious.”
Arizona State Representative Juan Mendez, who made national headlines last year when he opened the legislature with an atheist invocation rather than a prayer, applauded Woods as well. “People around the country feel cut out of politics and social justice work because they don’t see their values articulated by their representatives,” Mendez said. “When James talks honestly about his Humanism, it provides a kind of representation people have been hungry for. We need more inspiring and honest leaders like him.”
Woods says he is planning similar events for other constituents who are overlooked by lawmakers. “I’ve been listening to people with disabilities, people from the transgender community and people whose immigration status is undocumented. They feel ignored, and that needs to change.”
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