DUSTIN CHALKER, MRFF ATHEIST AFFAIRS ADVISOR – From One Atheist to Another: Calling Mikey Weinstein an Atheist is Defamation

On April 24th Fox News aired a segment in which Megyn Kelly repeatedly referred to MRFF founder and President Mikey Weinstein as an atheist. In the aftermath, Mikey has taken the position that these statements constitute defamation of character. In response, some atheists have taken offense to the notion that being called an “atheist” constitutes defamation. As a rational person, I’m inclined to take an objective look at the situation and the related laws rather than jumping to conclusions about Mikey’s personal opinion of atheists.

The law defines defamation as a (1) published statement that is (2) false and (3) injurious to a person’s reputation.

Megyn Kelly’s statements were made on-air on April 24th. This constitutes a published statement (1).

I am an atheist. My friend Mikey Weinstein is not. Calling me an atheist would be a statement of fact. Calling Mikey Weinstein an atheist is false. This constitutes a false statement (2).

Finally, a person’s reputation depends upon the perception of the public, not upon their own personal beliefs. I know that Mikey Weinstein holds no personal prejudice or negative beliefs regarding atheists. But again, reputation is a matter of public opinion and the public at large holds extreme prejudices against atheists. Public polls have consistently shown that atheists are the most distrusted minority in the United States. The inescapable conclusion is that these statements constitute an injury to Mikey’s public reputation (3).

So we have established that Megyn Kelly’s on-air claim that Mikey is an atheist is both false and injurious to his reputation among a prejudiced American public. This constitutes the legal definition of defamation of character, specifically slander. The law does not require Mikey himself to consider atheism a negative trait. To take offense and accuse Mikey of maligning atheists is irrational and unbecoming of a demographic that prides itself on objectivity and reason.

MRFF is a non-profit charity dedicated to protecting the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of all service-members. Although 96% of MRFF’s clients are Christians, Mikey Weinstein has been an invaluable ally to the 2% of atheist clients who seek his help. On behalf of atheist clients like myself, MRFF has taken an uncompromising stance against coercive ceremonial prayers, religious bullying, and mandatory spiritual fitness training. MRFF is not an atheist organization, but an organization of multi-faith (and non-faith) allies who stand together to defend our service members against theocratic coercion of any kind.

These are our allies. Stand together or fall apart.

Dustin Chalker

MRFF Atheist Affairs Advisor

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