Troy Boyle is a talented comic illustrator and law student, but you may know him best as the former President and Founder of the National Atheist Party. He left the NAP because he got offered a job that had a legal conflict with him holding a political office. After he no longer worked for that company, he assumed they would let him back in. He was wrong. They wouldn't even let him become a member of the very organization he founded. Here is his story.
Jon: You were the founder and former President of the National Atheist Party. How did the NAP get started? Walk us through what inspired you to create it.
Troy: One night, when I was watching Nightline, they were interviewing Richard Dawkins, and coming from an English background, where they have coalition governments and multiple-party politics, he expressed frustration that the U.S. is bipartisan to the extent that atheists are not represented politically. He wished that all atheists in the U.S. were more active politically. At the time, I was on an atheist-themed Facebook page chatting with Mark Smith, and we both agreed that an atheist political party would be a good thing. A social experiment, if you will. So Mark drew up the mission statement of the party and I created the Facebook pages necessary. We launched it February of 2011 as the "Freethought Party."
Jon: Why did the name change to the National Atheist Party?
Troy: We had a lot of mudslinging and angry discussions on our page, because no one knew what "Freethought" meant. Traditionally, in American politics, freethought meant "atheist." But a lot of the people who came to the page thought it should mean "free to believe whatever you want" and these people would argue with the hardcore atheists and anti-theists that were also drawn to the page. With all this conflict, I realized that we shouldn't name the party before we ask the people what they want, so we held a vote. Among the choices presented, the "National Atheist Party" received 80% of the vote, so we deleted the Freethought pages and re-established ourselves as the National Atheist Party on March 11, 2011.
Jon: After this name change, it became the Secular Party of America. How did this name change come about?
Troy: I was uninvolved in the last name change. I resigned as President in April of 2013 for two reasons: 1) Because I was hired as a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) officer for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department in Washington, DC, and they didn't allow workers in national security to hold political offices. And 2) the Executive Board had become increasingly truculent. The members, that I had hired, decided that they could run the party better than I could. There were a lot of heated arguments, and refusals to implement my decisions. I had to quit anyway, so I made their "mutiny" public and quit. They changed the name after I left, but I gather there was impropriety and the entire party collapsed and folded under accusations of ballot stuffing. I wasn't surprised, but it was sad for me to watch an organization that I built implode due to the mismanagement of the Board.
Jon: You've been accused of oversharing on Facebook. You were called unstable. Is this one reason the NAP did not let you back?
Troy: I think that's mere hyperbole. I stated my intention at the beginning of this venture to change the paradigm of glossy, airbrushed, facetious politics for transparent openness. At the time, everyone supported me in that idea. What none of us could have predicted was that I was laid off by Mitsubishi USA, my employer of 6 years. Sharing that "downfall" publicly was seen as a bad move by the Board. They told me that our membership would likely lose confidence in me as a leader if I could not "hold a job." The fact is that I didn't lose my job over any performance issue. Mitsubishi was responding to the recession by eliminating my position. The Wall Street meltdown was responsible for my lay-off. Regardless, the Board became increasingly obsessed with "image." In short, they reverted to the very kind of airbrushed politics that I wanted to avoid.
Jon: Did you have a major say in what people were appointed to what positions within the NAP? If so, since they ultimately decided to not let you back, do you regret any of these appointments?
Troy: It is supremely difficult to find quality candidates for a non-profit, unpaid position that demands the kind of hours and participation that a fledgling political party demanded. We went through several top-level candidates who promised a lot, but delivered very little. We'd cycle in a new person, and then lose them when they discovered the job was more than they could really take on. Especially unpaid. So you have to make compromises. Each Board member was hired by a vote of the then-incumbent Board members. Often, I would task an exiting Board member or Senior Department Lead to find his or her replacement before they left. We vetted them as well as we could. Also, life changes forced some Board members to take a less active role than they originally intended. I can't say that I regret any appointment, because we made the best possible decision at the time from the pool of available and interested candidates.
Jon: Since it has collapsed, do you have any plans of starting it back up since those who didn't want you to be a part of it are no longer with the organization?
Troy: I have learned my lessons from the National Atheist Party. I'm glad that I started it and it was two years that I would never give back. It was a growth experience and an educational experience for everyone involved. At it's height there were 17,000 affiliated atheists and 3,000 registered members across all 50 states. That says something. That says that atheists CAN come together. Maybe not all of them, and not without strife, but they can come together and accomplish great things. Going forward, I intend to continue as a public advocate of atheism, reason and science. You haven't heard the last from me. I have several organizations in mind that will incorporate the lessons learned from the NAP's "Camelot."