One of Oregon’s largest groups is in line to get protection from religious discrimination for the first time: people who are atheist, agnostic or believe in “nothing in particular.”

Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz is introducing an ordinance to extend the protections against discrimination in the city’s civil rights code to people who do not believe in a god or gods.

The unaffiliated make up 31 percent of Oregonians, and the state is often ranked as the least churchgoing in the nation, according to the Pew Research Center. Sixty-one percent of the state identifies as Christian. 

Cheryl Kolbe, the President of the Freedom From Religion Portland Chapter, convinced Commissioner Fritz to introduce the ordinance.

“I thank Ms. Kolbe for bringing this issue to my attention and those who weighed in on the Code changes,” says Fritz. “It is an important conversation, informed by people with many perspectives. Freedom of religion includes freedom not to affiliate with a religious belief. This Resolution clarifies that fact.”

Madison, Wisconsin, passed a similar law in 2015.

Portland’s existing civil rights statute protects people from discrimination on a wide range of factors, including race, religion, age and disability.

It bars employers, landlords and places of public accommodation in Portland from discriminating against a person on the basis of those factors.

The city ordinance includes an exemption for churches, temples and other religious facilities.  

State law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on non-religion. 

The unaffiliated may have an ally in Gov. Kate Brown. She has said her religious practice is limited to meditation and a belief “that each one of us has a spirit living within us.”