Margaret Downey

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Margaret Downey
Born16 August 1950 (1950-08-16) (age 69)
OrganizationThe Freethought Society

Margaret Downey (born August 16, 1950) is a non-theist activist who is a former President of Atheist Alliance International and founder and president of the Freethought Society (formerly Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia).[1][2] She also founded the Anti-Discrimination Support Network, which reports and helps deal with discrimination against atheists.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Downey grew up with a Puerto Rican mother and an Irish father.[1] When her father left, she adopted a family friend "Uncle Floyd" as a father-figure who encouraged Downey into atheism.[1]


Downey has been active in a variety of causes including feminism and anti-smoking campaigns before becoming a public representative of atheism.[1]

Margaret Downey is known for her activities in this area. Her first major involvement as a publicly active nontheist was when her son Matthew was not allowed to renew his membership in the Boy Scouts of America since he was raised in a nontheist household.[1][5] 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.[1][5][6][7] 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.[1][4][8] Her work has been incorporated into United Nations reports on religious discrimination.[9]

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] In 2003 she was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Steven Wells (2007-11-19). "Taking the Christ out of Christmas". Philadelphia Weekly. Archived from the original on 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  2. ^ Walter F. Naedele (2008-01-27). "Following own way, and mind". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2008-01-30. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  3. ^ "Anti-Discrimination Support Network". Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia. Archived from the original on 2007-12-21. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  4. ^ a b c "Secular Celebrations Presents Margaret Downey". Secular Celebration. Archived from the original on 2008-01-26. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  5. ^ a b Margaret Downey (November 1999). "Challenging the discriminatory practices of the Boy Scouts of America". The Humanist. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  6. ^ "Secular Parenting in a Religious World: An Interview with Margaret Downey". Margaret 2007-11-19. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
  7. ^ "Supreme Court says Boy Scouts can bar gay troop leaders". CNN. 2000-06-28. Archived from the original on 2008-01-26. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  8. ^ Matt Purple. "Atheists Assail Bill Recognizing America's Religious History". Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  9. ^ Margaret Downey. "Discrimination Against Atheists:The Facts". Free Inquiry magazine. 24 (4). Archived from the original on 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  10. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Archived from the original on October 5, 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2012.

External links[edit]