Pete Stark, unitarian, humanist, non-theist
- Pete Stark (D-Calif.) -- First openly nontheistic member of Congress
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged
his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for
America. Rep. Stark is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and
Committee and is Chair of the Health Subcommittee.
Our research reveals that Rep. Stark is the first open nontheist in the
history of the Congress. He holds the highest level office of the four
contest nominees who agreed to self-identify with our community.
This announcement concludes the Secular Coalition's "Find an Atheist,
Humanist, Freethinker Elected Official" Contest, launched to explore
visibility and respectability challenges for nontheists in public office.
We can all make a difference by sending him a personal congratulatory
greeting to him at his contact page:
http://www.house.gov/stark/contact/ , or
posting a commentary at
Apparently the privilege of posting a commentary is by subscription;
it costs $3.95 for 30 days.
So far, there is only one commentary at the website.
Stark was born in Milwaukee and was a member of the First Unitarian
in that city before he moved away.
First atheist congressman!
Congressman Holds No God-Belief
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.): first Congress member in history to
For Immediate Release
Contact: Lori Lipman Brown, (202) 299-1091
March 12, 2006
There is only one member of Congress who is on record as not holding a
Rep. Pete Stark (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 that Rep. Stark is 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 like
Rep. Stark with 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. Rep. Stark 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 United States.
In addition to Rep. Stark only three other elected officials agreed to
do so: Terry S. Doran, president of the School Board in Berkeley,
Calif.; Nancy Glista on the School Committee in Franklin, Maine; and
Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from Arlington, Mass.
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."