With 20% of Americans now claiming to have no religious affiliation, you might expect to see more atheists elected to public office. On the contrary, open atheists are almost nonexistent in the political sphere. In fact, most politician atheists seem to conceal their views until after leaving office to avoid the backlash. Here are five examples of nonbeliever politicians who show the complexities of being irreligious in the United States:
1. Barney Frank
Case in point: former Massachusetts Congressman Frank. Despite the country’s homophobic attitudes, Frank was daring enough to come out as gay while holding office all the way back in the ‘80s. The fact that he kept mum on his atheism – as if that would be the career killer — just goes to show the extent to which Americans are unwilling to accept faithless lifestyles.
Now that Frank has left public service, however, he is more willing to open up and even joke about his atheism. He copped to being a “pot-smoking atheist” on Real Time with Bill Maher and said that if he were to take office again, he would “not swear” on the Bible, but would use the Constitution.
Representing Arizona in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Sinema is the only apparent nonbeliever serving at a national level. She told a reporter she is “not a member of any faith community,” states her religious affiliation as “none”, and declined to use a Bible when being sworn into office.
Since joining Congress, however, Sinema’s staff has tried to backtrack on the public perception, insisting that she doesn’t self-identify as atheist, either. In a remarkable parallel to Frank, Sinema – who is openly bisexual – may feel safer disclosing her sexuality than her lack of faith. Regardless of what Sinema wants to label her beliefs, her admitted “secular approach” is still a welcome deviation from the many in Congress who take a faith-based approach to governing.
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