Casey Evans is a local politician and LGBT rights activist who is the chair of the democratic second district in Pennsylvania. Evans identifies as a humanist, is an open homosexual, and says that there are many parallels between non-religious people and homosexuals: both groups face common obstacles such as overt and latent discrimination, mistreatment and social stigma. His partner, Jaron Neilsen, also notes that it is potentially disasterous for people to be openly gay or openly atheistic. Evans and Neilsen commented specifically for this article.
Evans believes that homosexuals and atheists are “natural allies,” but he says people often do not see the common threads that link both groups. Members of both groups, for example, advocate for separation of church and state because they do not want to see religious beliefs turned into legislation. Evans notes one of the problems with instituting religious beliefs as law is that everyone is not equally represented; our government is supposed to treat everyone as equals. Nielsen notes that non-religious people and homosexuals are often treated as “the other” or “scapegoats” that some people blame every problem on.
Evans, responding to concerns of if he is afraid or worried, politically or otherwise, of publicly declaring that he is a humanist and a homosexual said that he promised to tell the truth to the people he represents rather than hiding or lying. Evans noted that he is a humanist who has an open-mind, does not waste his life worrying about punishments from a god, and believes that humans can work together by putting beliefs aside and embracing what they have in common rather than isolating people because of differences.
When Casey Evans was featured in local newspaper articles and was running for office, he noted that the response was refreshingly overwhelmingly positive, but he received some hate mail and noticed some nasty and ignorant comments on local news websites. He notes that there is “lots of ignorance in the area and people in Northeastern Pennsylvania are very resistant to change. Although much of what people think about homosexuals [such as the idea that people can be recruited into homosexuality, homosexuality can be cured and gay parents are inferior to straight parents] has been discredited and is not supported by professional legitimate organizations, people hold onto these ideas.”
Although local groups such as the Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society — a local social, educational, activist, and philosophical group of non-theists — embrace diversity and welcome all sorts of people, Evans notes that the phrase ‘some restrictions may apply’ may be fitting for some institutions across the country when diversity is concerned. Many schools, for example, while promoting diversity, reject LGBT groups, groups for secular students, or otherwise do not offer the same recognition or rights that other groups may be offered. Nielsen believes that community groups are essential for reasons of community and support regardless of what others may think.