Obama just signed a law giving this group of Americans legal protections for the first time


Religious freedom is generally thought to include freedom not to follow any religion, but atheists aren’t too fond of saying they’re exercising their “religious freedom.” A new law signed by President Barack Obama goes some of the way toward being more inclusive.

Obama signed the International Religious Freedom Act into law on December 16, which is believed to be the first-ever U.S. law to mention atheists–”non-theists” as the law calls them–as a protected class.

“The new law has some really interesting language in it,” University of Miami law professor Caroline Mala Corbin told the Religious News Service. “It takes an expansive view of religious liberty, saying freedom of religion is not just about the right to practice religion. It is also about the right to have your own views about religion including being agnostic and atheistic.”

Outside of mentioning of atheists, the new law isn’t all that groundbreaking. It mainly affects the State Department’s ability to condemn countries that are infringing on their citizens’ religious freedom, but now that also includes countries infringing on their citizens’ freedom from religion, which it previously did not.

“The freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs and the right not to profess or practice any religion,” the law states.

The law’s passage was hailed by groups on both the left and the right, ranging from the American Humanist Association to the ultra-conservative Family Research Council.

But that didn’t stop conservatives on social media from speculating that Obama–who they believe is a secret Muslim, or something–was trying to pull a fast one.

Obama reveals himself as Satan? Wow, we really buried the lede here.

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