Letter: Sen. Johnson’s jab at atheists is unacceptable. This is not a Christian nation.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. John Johnson, R-Ogden, during Senate floor time at the Legislative Session, Jan. 25, 2022.

I have a big issue with Sen. John Johnson, on behalf of both myself and the large community of Utah Atheists.

Sen. Johnson equates atheism with hedonism in his latest diatribe about Davis School Board. I am an atheist, and personally run a nonprofit which serves the unsheltered thousands of meals a year on the street. We opened an emergency shelter in downtown Salt Lake City with no funding last year. My volunteers ranged from Methodist to Baptist to LDS, but at least half of them were strong-minded atheists, who chose to stay up all night without getting paid to ensure our unsheltered friends had a safe place to sleep in the freezing cold.

Among these volunteers, we had folks who fought through medical issues, we had people wreck their cars, we had folks get warnings at work for coming in tired. Hardly the rash definition of hedonism he equates to us. These volunteers were more kind, compassionate and loving than the vast majority of people I’ve met in this lifetime, and I think Sen. Johnson could learn a lot from these atheists.

Sir, with all the respect for your elected position, you represent atheists, agnostics and people of non-Christian faiths. This is explicitly not a Christian state, it’s not a Christian nation; Utah, and America are a melting pot of all different cultures, religions and beliefs. I find it offensive and frankly hurtful for you to dismiss all the thousands of hours we’ve put into humanitarian work, and dismiss our culture or beliefs as hedonistic or in any way negative. Atheists deserve a place in our culture, in our libraries, in our representative Legislature and in our schools. We are — like every culture — full of good, bad, indifferent and incredibly compassionate people — like the predominant church in this state, and like every religion in this world.

If you choose not to represent us, please resign. If you stay in your office, please remember that we are your constituents, and due equal representation.

Wendy Garvin, executive director, Unsheltered Utah, Riverton

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