Brett Parker, former Johnson County state rep, to take on new role with American Atheists

Brett Parker

Rep. Brett Parker, a former Democratic representative from Overland Park, is joining national nonprofit American Atheists, which advocates for the "total, absolute separation of government and religion" in American politics. Parker will be in charge of managing communications with state legislators nationwide in his role as state policy manager. File photo.

Brett Parker, a former Democratic state representative from Overland Park who resigned his seat earlier this year, says he is joining American Atheists in a leadership role in the state of Kansas.

The national nonprofit, which bills itself as “the premier organization fighting for the civil liberties of atheists,” made the announcement on Monday.

Parker confirmed the news later in a tweet.

Parker announced in May he was resigning his seat in Kansas House District 29, which he won a third term for in November 2020.

New role

Parker will become the new state policy manager for American Atheists.

Quoted in the news release, Parker said he intends to draw on his past experiences “as a public school teacher, political advocate and legislator” in his new work.

“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,” Parker said. “I cannot wait to get started leading American Atheists’ 50-state strategy to guarantee religious equality for all Americans.”

Although Parker will remain in Kansas, Parker said his new role will support the nonprofit’s efforts nationwide.

That will include working with state legislators in Kansas and other states and trying to advance the group’s goal of “religious equality and the separation of religion and government,” the release said.

American Atheists says it is particularly concerned with the rise of Christian nationalism, a still-evolving term that has been used to describe efforts to promote the Christian faith in government and give Christians privileged position in U.S. society in ways that American Atheists says violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

“Brett is perfectly equipped to take on the Christian nationalist threat and promote positive legislation to protect the civil rights of all Americans,” American Atheists’ President Nick Fish said in the release.

Ending role with Bollier political advocacy group

After announcing his resignation in May, Parker initially took on the role of executive director of Prairie Roots, a newly formed political advocacy group chaired by former state senator and one-time U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills.

Parker said this week that the role with Prairie Roots was always meant to be an interim position. Peyton Browning, a Sedgwick County native and former Bollier campaign staffer, is now the group’s executive director.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far to launch Prairie Roots, and Peyton was a large part to making it all happen,” Parker said in a press release from the group. “My role as interim executive director was intended to support the organization during our launch and help transition Peyton into her new role, and I’m excited to have her lead the state’s first deep canvassing operation.”

Parker was a public school teacher and political newcomer when he first ran for the Kansas Legislature in 2016. That year, he beat incumbent Republican James Todd to win his first term in House District 29.

In the five legislative sessions he served in Topeka, education funding proved to be one of his top priorities, as well as pushing for Medicaid expansion.

Parker also advocated for a bipartisan approach to redistricting in his final term and also repeatedly decried efforts by the Republican-controlled legislature to add new limits on voting.