Maryland State Senator Looking to Become Only Atheist in Congress

Maryland State Senator Looking to Become Only Atheist in Congress

If Maryland state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) wins the general election in November, he could become the only openly atheist member of Congress.

According to the Huffington Post, Raskin is a member of the American Humanist Association, a group that lobbies Congress for the separation of church and state. He teaches constitutional law and is being backed by the Freethought Equality Fund political action committee.

But he is best known for a 2006 speech where he said lawmakers “place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don’t put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”

“If successful in the general election, Raskin will be the only open nontheist serving in the U.S. Congress, the first ever to win an open seat, and just the second humanist to serve in Congress,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the Freethought Equality Fund, in a statement. “Raskin’s election is a significant event for the secular community and will help to dispel the baseless bias against this rapidly growing segment of America.”

Congress’ last openly atheist member was Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif) who served in Congress for more than 30 years. He left the House in 2012.

Currently, only one member of Congress, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), is listed as religiously unaffiliated, which is not the same as atheist.

“I think one of the core principles of humanism is to use reason and compassion to make decisions in your everyday life, and for a politician, that means when you are debating public policy issues and casting votes,” said Bishop McNeill, PAC manager for the Freethought Equality Fund.

“It’s important that all politicians remember that they have a responsibility to represent all voters in their district, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion,” McNeill added. “Jamie Raskin has shown this ability while in the Maryland State Senate, and we’re confident he will be a strong humanist advocate in Congress if elected in November.”

Publication date: April 28, 2016