News Briefs

Former Kansas House member to lead policy initiatives for American Atheists

By: - August 16, 2021 11:35 am

Former Democratic state Rep. Brett Parker, who represented an Overland Park district in the Kansas House, will be the state policy director of American Atheists, an organization dedicated to separation of church and state. (Submitted)

TOPEKA — Former state Rep. Brett Parker has been hired to serve as national policy manager of the religious equality organization American Atheists.

“When you’re an atheist lawmaker in a conservative state, the only way to get things done is to build coalitions and find common ground with people who are different from you,” said Parker, who represented an Overland Park district at the Capitol. “I am thrilled to join American Atheists’ team and draw on my experience as a public school teacher, political advocate and legislator.”

Parker’s task as policy manager will be to manage grassroots engagement and communication with state legislators and organizations throughout the country. He is to develop advocacy resources and testimony aimed at promoting separation of religion and government.

Alison Gill, vice president for legal and policy at American Atheists, said in a statement Monday the organization was expanding its reach to meet the rise of Christian nationalism.

“Brett’s state-level advocacy work is an integral part of our strategy to turn the tide,” Gill said.

American Atheists, of Cranford, New Jersey, is dedicated to fighting for religious freedom outlined in the First Amendment as well as policy aimed at preventing use of religious beliefs as justification for bigotry or for gaining special government treatment.

In the Topeka statehouse, Parker was the Democratic agenda chairman in the Kansas House. Earlier this year, he co-founded and served as interim executive director of the nonprofit Prairie Roots Kansas to work on improving voter registration and turnout.

House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer of Wichita said Parker was a passionate state legislator who worked to represent his constituents by seeking affordable, high-quality health care and equal treatment for all Kansans.

He was a “valuable member of our caucus with unique contributions and a forward-thinking perspective,” Sawyer said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.