There Are Now More Atheists in State and Federal Office Than Ever Before November 21, 2020

There Are Now More Atheists in State and Federal Office Than Ever Before

I was waiting for a lot of close races to be called before I posted this, but I think I can safely do it now.

When the votes were finally counted this year, we already know Democrats kept the House and flipped the presidency, while control of the Senate depends on two runoffs in Georgia. That’s been the focus of the news media for good reason. But even so, there’s a lot of news regarding openly non-religious candidates who ran for office.

I was keeping track of everything, thanks to help from the Freethought Equality Fund PAC and the Center for Freethought Equality — both of which are affiliated with the American Humanist Association.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways:

All 14 members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus kept their seats.

No one lost. Only one candidate really had a tough election, but Illinois’ Sean Casten still won by a comfortable margin. Even Rep. Jared Huffman of California, the only openly non-theistic candidate in Congress, had a cakewalk in his second race since coming out as a humanist in 2017.

The point is: Being non-religious doesn’t appear to be a make-or-break issue in these major races. All the more reason for other members of Congress to come out now while the national media is focused elsewhere. Those who come from safe districts, where they’re virtually guaranteed re-election, are in even better positions to join the Caucus.

There are now 10 non-religious state senators.

This is a jump from seven just two years ago. While they use different labels to describe themselves, these legislators show that you can represent people of faith even when you don’t believe in a Higher Power yourself.

Sen. Juan Mendez (AZ)
Sen. Victoria Steele (AZ)
Sen. Stanley Chang (HI)
Sen. William Brownsberger (MA)
Sen. Megan Hunt (NE)
Sen. William Peter Soules (NM)
Julie Mayfield (NC)
Sen. Dick McCormack (VT)
Rep. Melissa Sargent (WI)
Kelda Roys (WI)

Mayfield was a first-time candidate. Roys was a former state representative who was jumping back into state politics. Sargent was a state representative who ran for state senate. Hunt wasn’t on the ballot this year. And the rest were incumbents.

There are now 45 non-religious state representatives.

41 were re-elected. 4 are new to the list and designated with an *. (A few races not mentioned here still haven’t been counted.)

Rep. Jennifer Jermaine (AZ)
Melody Hernandez* (AZ)
Rep. Athena Salman (AZ)
Rep. Bill Quirk (CA)
Karen McCormick* (CO)
Judy Amabile* (CO)
Rep. Chris Kennedy (CO)
Rep. Brianna Titone (CO)
Rep. Cathy Kipp (CO)
Rep. Joshua Elliott (CT)
Rep. Roland J. Lemar (CT)
Rep. Anna Eskamani (FL)
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (FL)
Rep. Michael Grieco (FL)
Rep. David Moon (MD)
Rep. Tram Nguyen (MA)
Rep. Jim Hawkins (MA)
Rep. Howard Watts (NV)
Rep. Rochelle Nguyen (NV)
Rep. John Bordenet (NH)
Rep. Suzanne Smith (NH)
Rep. Joyce Weston (NH)
Rep. Amanda Bouldin (NH)
Rep. Andrew Bouldin (NH)
Rep. Tim Smith (NH)
Rep. Kat McGhee (NH)
Rep. Jan Schmidt (NH)
Rep. Sherry Dutzy (NH)
Rep. Jacqueline Chretien (NH)
Rep. Sherry Frost (NH)
Rep. Amanda Gourgue (NH)
Rep. Andrew Zwicker (NJ)
Rep. Harvey Epstein (NY)
Rep. Pam Marsh (OR)
Rep. Marty Wilde (OR)
Rep. Julie Fahey (OR)
Rep. Diego Hernandez (OR)
Rep. Brian Sims (PA)
Rep. Robin Scheu (VT)
Rep. Kathleen James (VT)
Rep. Barbara Rachelson (VT)
Rep. Rebecca White (VT)
Rep. Warren Kitzmiller (VT)
Rep. Strom Peterson (WA)
Francesca Hong* (WI)

While they have not been officially decided yet, Rep. Jon Rosenthal (TX) and challenger Ashlee Matthews (UT), both running for state house, are leading their respective races.

Several openly non-religious politicians are no longer in elected office.

Among names previously on this list, five of them retired, Nebraska’s Sen. Ernie Chambers was term-limited out (again!), and one state representative died during his term.

There are no openly non-religious Republicans in state or federal elected office.


Not every atheist in office necessarily deserves your support.

Nothing I’ve said here is necessarily an endorsement of the candidates. As with any other officials, they need to be judged on their records. There’s symbolic importance to elected officials being openly non-religious, but it doesn’t automatically make them better legislators or more progressive politicians. As I’ve said before, I would love the chance to criticize atheist politicians for their votes. I just don’t have that opportunity yet.

(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier)

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