The first and only openly atheist person in the U.S. Congress was Pete Stark. I say "was" because he lost his seat in the 2012 election. That's unfortunate for a number of reasons, but the worst thing about this is that one of the causes may have in fact been this atheism and his support for secular government.
Pete Stark, 2007
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Actually, there may be an aspect of Pete Stark's loss that's even worse. The person he lost to and who specifically attacked him as not representing American values because he didn't cast a meaningless vote to "re-affirm" the phrase "In God We Trust" as America's national motto was a Democrat.
We should expect conservative Republicans to campaign on anti-secularism and anti-atheist bigotry. That's just about the only sort of response they can come up with when faced with secularism or atheism. We should not, however, tolerate Democrats doing the same because right now the Democratic Party is the only major political party that can be relied upon to defend secular government.
Yesterday, the U.S. Congress voted 398-9 to re-affirm our national motto, "In God We Trust." Since 1864, the phrase, "In God We Trust" has appeared on U.S. currency and in 1956 it was recognized as our national motto. Since the Civil War this inspirational motto has captured the spirit of our country and guided its people through world wars and the attacks of September 11.
"It seems like too often these days Congress can't agree on anything. Yesterday, 398 Members agreed to re-affirm our national motto," said Eric Swalwell, Dublin City Councilmember and candidate for Congress (CA-15). "Congressman Stark was one of nine members of Congress who disagreed. The Fifteenth Congressional District deserves a Member of Congress who is in touch with its people, can work well with others, and can honor our national motto."
Source: Swalwell for Congress
How many atheists are there in government and in public office? More than we're aware of, I'm sure -- admitting to being an atheist or even to being an agnostic is more damaging to one's political career today than admitting to being gay. You can't even trust Democrats not to turn a person's support for secularism against them, never mind their atheism.
Honestly, I can't avoid the conclusion that Eric Swalwell is an evil person for what he did. Even if Pete Stark were a poor elected representative (and I have seen some reports of some very odd things Stark said and did), the only legitimate response is to criticize him for those things, not to criticize him for his support for secular government.
Hopefully, Eric Swalwell will be a one-term congressman. The people in that district deserve to be represented by someone who doesn't campaign on anti-secularism and anti-atheist bigotry. The rest of us deserve to not have someone that low sitting in Congress at all.