Margaret Downey

Margaret Downey (born August 16, 1950) is an atheist activist who is the former President of Atheist Alliance International and the founder and former president of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia. She also founded the Anti-Discrimination Support Network, which reports and helps deal with discrimination against atheists.

Downey has been active in a variety of causes including feminism and anti-smoking campaigns before becoming a public representative of atheism.

Her first major involvement as a publicly active atheist was when her son Matthew Schottmiller was not allowed to renew his membership in the Boy Scouts of America since he was raised in an atheist household. This led to Margaret Downey v. Boy Scouts of America, which did not go far in the courts before the United States Supreme Court's 2000 decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that the Boy Scouts constituted a private organization and could thus choose their own membership criteria, thus preventing Downey from taking her case further. Since then Downey has been a prominent public representative of atheism in the United States as well as representing atheists and other non-theists at United Nations conferences. Her work has been incorporated into United Nations reports on religious discrimination.

Downey is also affiliated with a variety of other organizations that promote atheism and the separation of church and state such as Freedom From Religion Foundation of which she is a board member and the American Humanist Association of which she is a past board member.[4] She is also well known for her fight to maintain a secular presence in the Free Speech Zone in Philadelphia by erecting a "Tree of Knowledge" each year, a large spruce tree decorated with the covers well known books of atheist, scientific, or free-thought themes.

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