Well, he’s probably not the first, but he is the first to admit that he had no belief in any supernatural god: Representative Pete Stark. Here’s the press release from the Secular Coalition for America, which I received by way of the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy:
There is only one member of Congress who is on record as not holding a god-belief.(D-Calif.), a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Chair of the Health Subcommittee, and member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America.Although the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, the Coalition’s research reveals thatis the first open nontheist in the history of the Congress. Recent polls show that Americans without a god-belief are, as a group, more distrusted than any other minority in America. Surveys show that the majority of Americans would not vote for an atheist for president even if he or she were the most qualified for the office.Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, attributes these attitudes to the demonization of people who don’t believe in God. “The truth is,” says Silverman, “the vast majority of us follow the Golden Rule and are as likely to be good citizens, just likewith over 30 years of exemplary public service. The only way to counter the prejudice against nontheists is for more people to publicly identify as nontheists. shows remarkable courage in being the first member of Congress to do so.”In November, 2006 the Secular Coalition for America, a national lobby representing the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheists, announced a contest. At the time, few if any elected officials, even at the lowest level, would self-identify as a nontheist. So the Coalition offered $1,000 to the person who could identify the highest level atheist, humanist, freethinker or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the.In addition toonly three other elected officials agreed to do so: Terry S. Doran, president of the School Board in .; Nancy Glista on the School Committee in ; and Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from .Surveys vary in the percentage of atheists, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheists in the U.S, with about 10% (30 million people) a fair middle point. “If the number of nontheists in Congress reflected the percentage of nontheists in the population,” Lori Lipman Brown, director of the Secular Coalition, observes, “there would be 53-54 nontheistic Congress members instead of one.”
Secular Congressional lobbyist Lori Lippman Brown will be at the Harvard Humanist’s convention in April, which I wrote about here.