Then: 1 Member of Congress Speaks for Atheists. Now: 1 Member of Congress Speaks for Atheists
In 2012, Representative Pete Stark of California was the lone Congressional representative with the courage to speak at the Reason Rally, an assembly of people from across the country in Washington, DC to assert the right of political participation for people without religious faith. As Rep. Stark said that day…
“A public servant doesn’t need to believe in God, or in any other religious character, to do an efficient job in bringing about changes in the world that are necessary. I have noticed that, ironically, the more a member of Congress talks about religion, the less they do to help people. So many bad things are done in the name of religion, like going to war, which we would all like to end.
“So, I hope that you have, today, that you enjoy celebrating reason. We have a lot of work to do to maintain the separation of church and state, and I am pleased to be with you, to encourage you to continue in your work.”
A Gallup poll taken in 2012 revealed that 96% of Americans were willing to consider voting for a Black person for President. 95% of Americans were willing to consider voting for a woman for President. 94% would vote for a Catholic for President, 68% for a gay or lesbian person for President. Just 54% would vote for an atheist for President.
Four years later, how have matters changed? There’s another Reason Rally coming to Washington, DC, this time on June 4, 2016. This year, there’s also just one member of Congress who has the courage to ascend the stage and speak at the Reason Rally.
A Gallup poll taken in the run-up to the 2016 election reveals that 92% of Americans are willing to consider voting for a Black person for President. 92% of Americans are willing to consider voting for a woman for President. 93% would vote for a Catholic for President, 74% for a gay or lesbian person for President. Just 58% would vote for an atheist for President.
What’s different? Pete Stark has long since left Congress. The one member of Congress courageous enough to speak for the political legitimacy of people without religion is Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
Some things are different in 2016. Some things are pretty much the same.