Openly Secular Candidates


No Religious Test for Office?

While Article 6 of the United States Constitution prohibits a religious test for office, for far too long, the stigma of being openly secular has imposed a de facto religious test on candidates for elected office. A 2015 poll conducted by Gallup showed that only 58% of Americans would consider voting for a well-qualified candidate for president if the candidate was an atheist.

The Secular Coalition for America does not endorse candidates for office however a crucial component of our mission is promoting the visibility of, and respect for, nontheists. To that end, this page serves to highlight the openly secular candidates across the country who are countering this harmful prejudice by proudly running for public office.

Seven State Constitutions Still Have Religious Test Language in their Constitutions

In May 2016, the Secular Coalition implemented a grassroots campaign during Texas’ local precinct and county conventions, submitting secular planks to be considered by the platform committee at the state party conventions. Three secular planks including one calling for a repeal of the religious test in the Texas Constitution, were officially incorporated as clauses in the Texas Democratic Party platform.

While it is unconstitutional for a state to enforce a religious test for office, seven states have still failed to strike religious test language from their constitutions. As a founding partner of the Openly Secular campaign, the Secular Coalition is working toward removing this language from the respective constitutions in Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Find out more by checking out the Secular Constitutions Report.

Browse Candidates by State

Get to know the openly secular candidates across the United States.

California

Colorado

Illinois

Maryland

Nebraska

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

Oregon

Vermont

Washington

Wisconsin

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About the Freethought Equality Fund PAC

All candidate information on this page is provided courtesy of the Freethought Equality Fund (FEF). FEF provides nontheist Americans the opportunity to make their voices heard in the political process by supporting candidates who identify as humanist, atheist, agnostic, and who share our goals of protecting the separation of church and state and defending the civil liberties of secular Americans.

The FEF PAC is affiliated with the Center for Freethought Equality, which is the advocacy and political arm of the American Humanist Association. Find out more about FEF here and sign up for a free FEF membership here.

California

Neil Polzin

Neil Polzin ran for the Covina City Council. Covina is located twenty miles east of Los Angeles, California. Neil was one of four candidates seeking three seats on the Council, with two incumbents seeking reelection. He is active in the secular community as a board member of Camp Quest. Neil also served as both a board and staff member of the Secular Student Alliance. Neil received national attention when he lost his position with the Boy Scouts of America after he informed them he was an atheist. Neil was not successful in the March 7 election.

Colorado

State Representative Chris Kennedy

Representative Chris Kennedy was elected to Colorado’s 23rd State House District, defeating Republican Chris Hadsall by twelve points. Kennedy, who was raised without religion in his life, identifies as agnostic. He made a major career change from architectural engineering to public service because “he could no longer stand on the sidelines and watch the erosion of the middle class, the squandering of our federal budget on wars and handouts to special interests, the destruction of our environment and the denial of equal rights to so many of our citizens.” Kennedy has volunteered on many local and federal campaigns and worked for several local elected officials. From these experiences and the political contacts he developed, Kennedy was urged to run for this open seat, as the Democratic incumbent could not seek re-election due to term limits.

Illinois

Howard Katz

Howard Katz won his election on April 4 to become the Batavia (IL) Township Clerk. Batavia Township is located forty miles west of Chicago and just north of Aurora, IL. Howard is very active in the secular community. In addition to being a Humanist Celebrant, he is a board member of the American Humanist Association and the Humanists of West Suburban Chicagoland. He has been active in politics since the third grade when his parents had him handing out flyers for Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign. He is also Chair of the Democratic Party in Batavia Township. Howard has been appointed to local office before, including the Clerk position, but this was his first electoral victory (he ran unopposed). See his essay on seeking elected office – “I’m doing my part – are you?”.

Maryland

U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin

Congressman Jamie Raskin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, defeating Republican Dan Cox with 59.2% of the vote. As a self-identified humanist and lifetime member of the American Humanist Association, Senator Raskin is one of the leading advocates for the separation of church and state. Also a progressive Democrat, Senator Raskin led efforts in Maryland passing bills on same-sex marriage, repealing the death penalty, and legalizing medical marijuana. After first being elected to the State Senate in 2006, Sen. Raskin has been a rising star of Democratic politics in Maryland, serving in leadership roles on the Select Committee on Ethics Reform, the Judicial Proceedings Committee, and having been selected as Majority Whip (the second top leadership position in the State Senate) in 2012. He also serves as a constitutional law professor at American University, having received his law degree from Harvard in 1987.

Derek Kent

Derek Kent is running for the Maryland House of Delegates. This is Derek’s first run for elected office, but as a veteran and progressive activist he has an extensive history in public service and a strong vision for Maryland’s future. He identifies as a humanist.

Nebraska

State Senator Ernie Chambers

Senator Ernie Chambers won re-election to Nebraska’s 11th State Senate District, defeating opponent John Sciara. Chambers is a hero in the secular movement with his attempt to end state-supported chaplain legislative prayers in the Supreme Court case Marsh v. Chambers (1983) and his 2007 legal action against God to protest frivolous and inappropriate lawsuits. He the longest-serving state senator in the history of Nebraska, although he did have to take a short break when term-limits were introduced. Senator Chambers received the American Humanist Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award at its 75th anniversary conference this year.

New Jersey

Andrew Zwicker

Andrew Zwicker is a scientist, freshman legislator, and atheist, and seeking re-election to the New Jersey General Assemby. Assemblyman Zwicker is the far too rare scientist-legislator. He is a physicist and Head of Science Education at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. His victory in 2015 was the biggest upset in New Jersey when he won by less than 100 votes. Now, in 2017 Andrew is the biggest target in New Jersey. As a scientist, Andrew promotes public policy using evidence based decision making, not ideology, and is focused on rebuilding the state’s infrastructure and economy, protecting the environment, and enhancing public education and making college affordable.

New Hampshire

State Representative Martha Hennessey

Representative Martha Hennessey was elected to New Hampshire’s 5th State Senate District, defeating Republican Marie Lozito in the general election. She is currently a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives (District Grafton 12). Hennessey is not affiliated with a religious organization and believes “in the dignity of all human beings and our individual rights to pursue personal meaning and truth; I believe in complete separation of church and state.” Hennessey is a Psychologist and taught at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine. She is a progressive legislator advocating for the environment, women’s reproductive rights, public education, LGBT rights and gun control.

State Representative Tim Smith

Representative Tim Smith was re-elected to New Hampshire’s State House in the Hillsborough District 17. Smith is a lifelong atheist. He is also a Major in the Civil Air Patrol and a member of the New Hampshire Democratic State Committee. Smith was first elected in 2012 and is serving in his second term. He promotes policy that will empower everyday people to improve their circumstances such as supporting public education and ensuring a viable social safety net. Smith has introduced legislation to protect rape victims from child custody lawsuits, enhanced penalties for corrupt contractors and corporate criminals, and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

New York

Patrick Delices

Patrick Delices, who identifies as an agnostic, is running for the New York City Council in District 17, which represents the South Bronx. Patrick is a self-described “rational Republican” advocating for reproductive rights, church-state separation, and LGBTQ rights. He is also the “People’s Politician” honoring the Bronx’s rich history and dynamic cultural diversity by working to realize its great economic promise. He seeks to expand employment opportunities and economic empowerment, educational access and affordability, healthcare and social services, and fair and effective civil and criminal justice systems.

North Carolina

Cecil Bothwell

Cecil Bothwell is running for re-election to the Asheville City Council in North Carolina. Cecil gained national attention when some members of his community attempted to prevent him from being seated — because they had “problems with people who don’t believe in God” — when he was first elected to the City Council in 2009. Prior to this challenge Bothwell did not think his religious beliefs were anyone’s business, but since then he has delivered lectures in 25 cities, covering 12 states, on being a secular elected official.

Audra Killingsworth

Audra Killingsworth is running for the Apex Town Council. Apex is a small town of 45,000 residents just a few miles southwest of Raleigh, North Carolina. Audra is competing for one of three seats that are up for election on November 7, 2017. She identifies as a secular humanist and is a member of the American Humanist Association and the Triangle Freethought Society. “After watching the impact that government can have on us,” says Audra, “I realized that I want to contribute. I want to make a difference. What better place to start than locally, in my own community.”

Oregon

Julie Fahey

Representative Julie Fahey was elected to Oregon’s 14th State House District, defeated Republican Kathy Lamberg. Fahey, who doesn’t identify with any religion, believes “critical thinking and science can best help us understand our world.” Her public policy decisions will be “guided by evidence and a rational approach to decision-making, rather than by dogma or religious beliefs.” She is passionate about protecting the environment, expanding economic opportunities, improving education, defending a woman’s right to choose, and will be a “tireless voice against discrimination in all its forms.” Fahey has spent the last 15 years in the private sector helping businesses and nonprofits pay and treat their employees fairly to create positive work environments.

State Representative Diego Hernandez

Representative Diego Hernandez defeated Michael Langley in the Oregon House of Representatives District 47 general election. Hernandez, who was raised Catholic, is now an agnostic. He is a strong supporter of the separation of church and state and believes that public policy should be “subject to argument, and amenable to reason.” He is dedicated to supporting education, community safety, and an economy that supports working families and small businesses. He received a BA in Political Science and Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon and a Masters in Social Work at Portland State University. He has worked as a middle and high school teacher and was elected to the school board. Hernandez is currently the Co-Executive Director of Momentum Alliance, a nonprofit that develops young civic leaders.

State Representative Pam Marsh

Representative Pam Marsh was elected to Oregon’s 5th State House District, defeating Republican Steve Richie. She is not affiliated with a religious organization and believes that “one’s religious views are irrelevant to public office.” Marsh has been an Ashland City Council member since 2012, and she is a small business owner and manager of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. She earned a BA in Political Science from Southern Oregon University. Marsh is committed to strengthening public education and health care delivery systems, and increasing affordable housing and the minimum wage. She will promote legislation to address climate change by fostering an energy economy based on renewable resources and emerging technologies.

Pennsylvania

Herb Riede

Herb Riede has previously served as a Councilmember and Mayor in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania and is looking forward to applying his expertise in planning and effective budgeting in Meadville. Herb was raised by a Methodist-turned-atheist father and lapsed Baptist mother, who taught him to question everything. He identifies as an atheist, secular humanist, and occasionally as a Gene Roddenberryian.

Tennessee

Shawnee Rios

Shawnee Rios ran for the City Council District 6 seat in Knoxville, Tennessee. Shawnee was not successful in the district primary election on August 29, 2017. Shawnee identifies as an atheist and is very active in the secular movement. She serves on the board of directors for both the Rationalists of East Tennessee and the Freedom From Religion Foundation – East Tennessee Chapter, and also serves as the co-organizer and treasurer for the Atheist Society of Knoxville.

Vermont

State Representative Sam Young

Representative Sam Young was re-elected to the Vermont State House – Orleans-Caledonia-1 District. Young was raised Christian, but is now agnostic. He was first elected in 2010 and is serving in his third term. Young is working to expand broadband and telecommunications in this district to increase economic opportunities, realign tax policy as a member of the Ways and Means Committee to increase funding for public education, and decriminalize Marijuana possession and invest in drug treatment and harm reduction services.

Washington

Aaron Moreau-Cook

Aaron Moreau-Cook is running for the Bothell City Council in Washington state. In the past year, Aaron has transformed from a political novice into an experienced campaigner. In 2016, he ran as a first-time candidate for an open state representative seat. Although he was not successful in the Democratic primary, he used that experience to build his name recognition, campaign skills, and community networks. For this election, Aaron has built a strong list of organizational and individual endorsements — even the endorsements from two of the candidates he ran against last year in the Democratic primary – including the new state representative Shelley Kloba. Aaron identifies as agnostic.

State Representative Beth Doglio

Representative Beth Doglio was elected to Washington’s State House as the 22nd Legislative District State Representative – Position 2. Doglio, who in her early childhood was raised Catholic, is now agnostic about religion. For the past 30 years, she has focused her efforts on working for civil and environmental justice. She currently is the campaign director for the environmental protection organization Climate Solutions. She has also worked and volunteered for other environmental, reproductive rights and educational organizations as well as for local and federal political campaigns.

State Representative Strom Peterson

Representative Strom Peterson was re-elected to Washington’s State House as the 21st Legislative District Representative – Position 1. Peterson identifies as agnostic and says that “Religion does not play a role in my personal life, but my personal beliefs such as helping the poor and protecting the environment influence my policy decisions.” Serving in his first term in office, he has successfully reached across the aisle to pass environmental legislation to protect honey bee colonies, provide funds to replace outdated and leaking petroleum storage tanks and made it easier for doctors to monitor the over-prescription of opioids. He is also a champion of fully funding public schools to reduce class size and increase teacher pay.

Wisconsin

State Representative Melissa Sargent

Representative Melissa Sargent was re-elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly District 48. Sargent identifies as agnostic. She was first elected in 2012 and is serving in her second term. In the harsh political environment created by Governor Scott Walker and the Republican controlled Assembly and Senate, Sargent has been a strong progressive voice to fully fund public schools and make college affordable, increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, enact common sense gun control, legalize marijuana, and protect women’s reproductive choices.