It’s been a while since we’ve talked about the Congressional Freethought Caucus, but in case you need a refresher, the CFC was announced in 2018 by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), a Humanist and currently the only openly non-religious member of Congress.
At last count, it had a total of 10 members, including co-chair Huffman.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) (Also a co-chair)
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) (Also a co-chair)
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
This isn’t an “atheist club” for Congress, as critics have suggested. This is just a group of lawmakers dedicated to promoting reason-based public policy, keeping church and state separate, opposing discrimination against non-religious people, and championing freedom of thought around the world. There’s really no reason anyone should be against this, including religious politicians.
Yet in the past year, there hasn’t been any public change in the number of caucus members. It’s been stuck at 10.
Thanks to a tip from one reader, however, I can announce that there are two more members of the caucus.
The first is Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA).
Wild, who’s Jewish, came to Congress in 2018, winning a redistricted seat as part of a blue wave, and also winning a special election that allowed her to get a “head start” in the months before her colleagues were sworn in. The Secular Coalition for America lists Wild as a member of the Freethought Caucus though they have never formally announced it. Still, her membership is listed on her official House website.
The other member came as a bigger surprise to me, because he’s not even listed on any records of CFC members.
Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), who flipped a seat in the suburbs of Chicago in 2018, quietly joined the caucus earlier this year. (It was briefly noted by the Chicago Sun-Times in April, though the nugget of information didn’t seem to travel beyond the article.) When the Pew Research Center put out its biennial list of the religious makeup of Congress, Casten was one of only 18 members in the “don’t know/refused” category, but there was no formal announcement of his joining. Even now, there’s just one word about it (“Freethought”) on his official House website.
So the Freethought Caucus membership now stands at 12. (I would urge them to recreate The Last Supper just for my amusement, but I also want them all re-elected…)
The hope is that the number keeps growing while the stigma of being an atheist (or even being associated with non-religiosity) decreases. Those two things are more closely linked than we might imagine.