Arizona is really making a name for itself as a place where open atheists aren’t afraid to run for political office. Two more candidates filed their paperwork today, mentioning their atheism in public statements.
Beth Weisser will be running for the Arizona State House from District 5. She ran for the same position in 2014 and lost. In a statement today announcing her candidacy, she emphasized her commitment to the non-religious community:
I believe we are all connected to each other and responsible for each other. My values inspire me to see politics as a tool for helping one another and strengthening our connections. In politics, we often only use the language of religion to talk about values, and that means politics pushes out nonreligious people. Values can come from our own hearts just as much as our religious traditions.
As a freethinker and Humanist, it is important for me to reach out to other nonreligious people and invite you to be a part of the political process with me. I want to work for a world where we can all be open and authentic about our identities and we can celebrate the variety of our beliefs. I want to make sure religion is not abused as a way to discriminate against people, and that our government remains secular.
We need to work together for a more compassionate, connected world, and we need to stop telling nonreligious people they are unworthy of participating in that work.
Meanwhile, Mikel Weisser (yes, they’re married) will be running for U.S. Congress from District 4. He, too, ran for this seat in 2014 and lost. And he, too, pointed out his non-religiosity in a statement released today:
One of the key features of my campaign is that we are reaching out to every community we can think of that has been marginalized and disconnected from the political process.
Atheists and other nonreligious people often have to hide who they are to be invited to participate in politics, and that’s simply wrong. As the secular community knows, our constitution was written with strong protections against religious oppression — yet the Religious Right continues to pass laws based in religious ideology, and religionists attempt to monopolize the language of values.
In order to fight the stigma against nonreligious people, I want to encourage atheists, agnostics, Humanists and freethinkers of all stripes to join me in being open about your identities so that we can fight the idea that religion is a necessary aspect of a moral life.
I am a nonreligious person who sees religion as one way people organize their values. My values are organized by my understanding of the naturalistic connections we all have to each other and the universe. And my values require that throughout my campaign, we make it clear that all voices are valuable to the democratic process regardless of religion or nonreligion.
A third Democrat, Talia Fuentes, is running for U.S. Congress from District 5. The seat is currently held by a Republican. While not an atheist herself, Fuentes expressed sympathy with non-religious people and said she shared many of their values:
I have a great deal of admiration for the Democrat who ran for the congressional seat in my district in 2014: James Woods. James was one of the first political candidates on a national stage who was brave enough to tell the world that he was an atheist. He advocated for people regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. He fought the stigma against atheists and made it easier for other nonreligious people to run for office.
I am not an atheist, but I stand in solidarity with the secular community. I want to help end the anti-atheist bias that pushes freethinkers out of politics. I promise the secular community that I will stand with you and advocate for you; that I will speak out against religious intrusion in government; and that I will work with anyone who shares my progressive, pro-science values no matter whether you are religious, spiritual, atheist, agnostic, or questioning.
All three will have primaries on August 30 (if they have a competitive race within the party).
They join several other candidates from Arizona who have already come out as Secular Americans, including Scott Prior (State Senate), Athena Salman (State House); Cara Prior (State House), and Juan Mendez (State Senate).
There’s also Kyrsten Sinema, the only “Unaffiliated” member of the U.S. Congress, running for re-election… but she refuses to say anything more about her religious affiliation or possible lack thereof.