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.

Arizona

California

Colorado

Georgia

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Maryland

Michigan

Nebraska

New Hampshire

New Mexico

New Jersey

New York

Ohio

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Vermont

Washington

Wisconsin

Texas

Utah

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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.

Arizona

Brianna Westbrook

Brianna Westbrook is running for Congress in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. Westbrook’s campaign to replace the Republican incumbent began because she was “sick and tired of sitting on the sidelines hoping for a candidate that will stand up for the issues that matter.” Her progressive agenda includes: rewarding home and business owners that utilize renewable energy, abolishing private prisons, tuition-free community college, campaign finance reform, raising the federal minimum wage and supporting the push for Medicare for All because she believes health care is a human right, not a privilege. She is also active in her community as the co-chair of the local Indivisible chapter. Westbrook is a humanist and is seeking to be the first transgender member of Congress.

California

Kia Hamadanchy

Kia Hamadanchy is running for Congress in California’s 45th Congressional District. Hamadanchy has devoted his career to “fighting for families across this country and to making sure that each and every American – no matter where they are from, who they love, or what religion they practice – is treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.” Hamadanchy knows how Washington works having served as a staff member to U.S. Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He will use his knowledge and skills to promote policy that will “save the America that we love and admire” and to “preserve a livable world for our children and grandchildren.” While a number of his family members consider themselves to be Muslim, Hamadanchy was raised in a secular fashion and does not identify with any particular religion. He strongly believes in each and every American’s right to practice the faith of their choosing.

 

Seth Vaughn

Seth Vaughn is running for Congress in California’s 10th Congressional District. Vaughn’s “driving goal in Congress will be to restore democracy and get money out of politics.” The vast majority (88%) of Rep. Jeff Denham’s donors don’t live in his district – this was the 6th highest out of the 435 members of Congress in 2016. Vaughn is leading by example and refusing all out-of-district donations, including PAC money. He says, “We need to end our corrupt campaign finance system and start demanding democracy!” Vaughn identifies as atheist/agnostic.

Tony Zarkades

Tony Zarkades is running for Congress in California’s 48th Congressional District. Zarkades served eight years as an officer in the Marine Corp, and is now an airline pilot. He is running to save the middle class and prove that a good man can get elected to Congress. Zarkades was raised Greek Orthodox, but now considers himself not religious. He stated, “In a way, you could say the Constitution is my religion. My living room displays pictures of the Founding Fathers, Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, much like people might have a picture of the Last Supper or Christ’s crucifixion. You will not find a stronger candidate to advocate for secularism and the rights of non-believers.”

Colorado

Betty Field

Betty Field is running for Congress in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District. Field has an extensive history in social work, assisting children mired in environments with violence, addiction, and poverty. She also served as executive director of an LGBTQ legislative action group. Betty has seen the issues facing poor and middle-class families and she is determined to help by making free quality education available through an Associates Degree or Technical Education Certification and by making health care a human right with Medicare For All. Field was raised Roman Catholic but is not religious now.

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.

Georgia

Kathleen Allen

Kathleen Allen is running for Congress in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. She is a community leader, homelessness activist, and proud mom, whose career in managed healthcare grounds her support for establishing a single-payer healthcare system. She believes we must invest in our future through public schools, raise the minimum wage, and reduce our unemployment rate by supporting local businesses and reforming our immigration policies. Through her career, Allen developed an appreciation for, and understanding of, the complexity of the healthcare economy and brings to Congress a commitment to honest collaboration and fiscal responsibility on behalf of all Americans. Allen was raised in a secular home and identifies as an atheist.

Illinois

David Gill

David Gill is running for Congress in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. “As an Emergency Room doctor,” Gill stated, “I’ve demonstrated that I have tremendous passion for improving the lives of all people. That passion drives my career in medicine, and it’s what motivates me to become a leader in the U.S. House.” Gill’s experience in providing leadership and taking effective action in crisis situations will serve us well in dealing with the Trump Administration. Gill is a longtime member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, Physicians for a National Health Program, and several organizations that promote death with dignity legislation. He is a humanist and a passionate defender of the separation between church and state.

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?”.

Iowa

Paul Knupp

Paul Knupp Jr. is running for Congress in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. He is the co-founder and past president of the Humanist Society of Iowa. Rev. Dr. Knupp is also a humanist chaplain for the American Humanist Association and an ordained clergy of the United Church of Christ. As a humanist chaplain, he provides his services at the Iowa State Penitentiary and the Ft. Dodge Correctional Facility. Trained in psychology, Knupp says his skills are required in Congress today because “America needs counseling.” Knupp identifies as a humanist.

Indiana

Mike Hartley

Mike Hartley is running for Congress in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. He is an Army and Iraq War veteran. Having experienced poverty as a child, Hartley is committed to establishing programs and policies that create opportunities for economic security. This includes making health care a right under a Medicare for All program. Hartley does not have a religious affiliation. He says,”As an elected official, my religion will be the Constitution of the United States.”

Dan Canon

Dan Canon is running for Congress in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District. He is a civil rights attorney, who has worked on behalf of teachers, union members, inmates, veterans, and immigrants. He was part of the team that successfully litigated for marriage equality in the historic Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges. Having spent his life “providing a voice to the voiceless” in the judicial system, he will be a voice for all in Congress – not just the select few. Canon identifies as agnostic.

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.

Michigan

David Benac

David Benac is running for Congress in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District. Dr. Benac is a history professor and political activist. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and served on the Platform Committee, where he spoke out in favor of striking the numerous religious references offered for inclusion in the party’s platform. Benac believes firmly in the wall of separation between church and state that is enshrined in the First Amendment. This protects all Americans from religious intolerance and theocracy. He is running for Congress because he “doesn’t believe the Federal Government is working in the best interests of the American people, and we face too many serious challenges today to let this continue.” Benac was raised Catholic, but is now religiously unaffiliated.

Mississippi

Carlton Smith

Carlton E. Smith is running for Congress in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District. Smith is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and is currently a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Southern Region Staff. His policy goals include promoting new businesses and new jobs, providing affordable healthcare for all, ensuring quality public education for children and youth, ending the gerrymandering of congressional districts, and replacing the Electoral College with a national popular vote. Smith identifies as a humanist and as a Universalist Christian who draws inspiration from the life and teachings of Jesus.

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 Mexico

Dennis Dinge

Dennis Dinge is a scientist running for Congress in New Mexico’s First Congressional District. Trained in electrical engineering and physics, he currently works on cutting edge supercomputing technology. Dinge wants to bring his problem solving skills to Washington. He says, “I take three basic steps when solving a problem: see the problem, understand the problem, fix the problem. An unbiased assessment of all facts is necessary for the first two steps. Creativity and testing are necessary for the third. Contrast this with the current situation in Washington, in which the approach to problems is to form an opinion and then cherry pick, or even make up, facts to support that opinion.” Dinge was raised Southern Baptist, but now identifies as agnostic.

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.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher

Vivian Viloria-Fisher is running for Congress in New York’s 1st Congressional District. Viloria-Fisher wants to take her thirteen years of legislative experience on the Suffolk County Legislature to Washington so her constituents will have a “representative who truly appreciates the importance of protecting our planet earth, respecting all our neighbors and ensuring that families can count on a safe future: financially and environmentally.” Viloria-Fisher was raised Catholic and embraced a life of “empathy, thoughtfulness, and public service according to the example provided by Jesus, Gandhi, and other great leaders.” She is now a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation.

North Carolina

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.”

Ohio

Aaron Godfrey

Aaron Godfrey is running for Congress in Ohio’s 16th Congressional District. Aaron is a scientist with a B.A. and M.S. in physics and works at a high-tech aerospace company. Raised in a true working class family, he struggled to raise the money to pay for college – an ongoing struggle, thanks to the burden of student loan debt. Godfrey fears that the American dream of reaching the middle class through education and hard work is being eradicated. To reverse this, he is advocating for reform of the K-12 public school system and access to affordable, quality higher education. He also supports the creation of a public option/Medicare-for-All healthcare system, an end to partisan gerrymandering, and efforts to curb our nation’s contribution to climate change and support of initiatives for sustainable, renewable resources. Godfrey identifies as an atheist.

Janet Everhard

Janet Everhard is running for Congress in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District. Dr. Everhard is a retired physician, who “learned to listen compassionately, research and distill complex issues, and make important decisions in stressful situations.” In Congress, she wants to use her skills on issues such as economic and job development, access to affordable quality healthcare, infrastructure repair, environmental protection, and educational/retraining opportunity for all ages Everhard was raised Methodist, but “chose a humanist life by my teenage years.” She respects each person’s choice of spiritual path.

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.

Robert Hunziker

Robert Hunziker is running for Congress in Washington’s 8th Congressional District. Hunziker is running to counter the corporate interests that dominate the political process. He is a member of WolfPAC and wants to get money out of politics. Leading by example, he is refusing to take corporate or PAC money, even ours. Hunziker’s progressive agenda includes: to extend the $15 minimum wage that is working in Washington state to the rest of America to promote a living wage for all workers; create jobs while fighting climate change with investments in infrastructure and renewable energy; ensure that everyone has the opportunity to earn a higher degree by making public colleges and universities tuition-free and expand Medicare-for-all to provide good healthcare to every American. Hunziker is an atheist.

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

Bill Leiner

Bill Leiner is running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District. He is a former Mayor of Coplay, PA and Lehigh County Commissioner. He currently serves on the Coplay Borough Council. Leiner will bring to Congress “the political sensibilities of a successful manager, steelworker, union leader, healthcare leader, community organizer – and a tested problem-solver.” He was raised Catholic, but says that identity is now “dormant.” Leiner is not affiliated with any religion.

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.

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.

Texas

Kent Lester

Kent Lester is running for Congress in Texas’ 31st Congressional District. Lester is a West Point graduate who served 20 years in the Army. Following his military service he became a high school teacher and just recently retired from this career. In his classes he taught his students “how to think, not what to think.” Following the 2016 election, his former students encouraged Lester to run for Congress. Lester’s goal is to “bring the Old-School American Values we believe in back to Capitol Hill. Respect for all, not prejudice against a few. Service to the nation, not shirking one’s duties. Integrity, not double-talk.” Lester was raised in the Episcopal church, but now identifies as agnostic.

Darrell Rodriguez

Darrell Rodriguez is running for Congress in Texas’ 4th Congressional District. Rodriguez is a former public school science teacher and now serves as a school counselor. He is running for congress because “Washington has been controlled by millionaires and special interests for too long. We need teachers, police officers, nurses, social workers, firefighters and other voices at the table making decisions in Congress.” His campaign is promoting healthcare for all, comprehensive immigration reform, addressing climate change, and improving education by increasing teacher’s pay and reducing class sizes. Rodriguez was raised Baptist but now is religiously unaffiliated.

Justin Snider

Justin Snider is running for Congress in Texas’ 6th Congressional District. Snider is a successful small business owner and a local community organizer. His experience as a Bernie Sanders delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention reinforced the need to promote progressive issues and policies at a local level. Snider’s attention quickly turned to his congressional district, which has been represented by Joe Barton for over thirty-four years, and he decided challenging Barton would be a good place to continue his efforts to bring reform and change to our political system. Snider was raised Christian, but now identifies as humanist.

Utah

Marla Mott-Smith

Marla Mott-Smith was running for Congress in Utah’s 4th Congressional District; however, she withdrew when Salt Lake City Mayor Ben McAdams entered the race and she endorsed his candidacy. Mott-Smith is a successful small businesswomen and political activist. Her activism includes establishing a nonprofit that advocated for housing and job training for the homeless, and organizing fundraising efforts to support a home for abused women. As the matriarch of a large and diverse family, she very mindful of the need to protect the environment for future generations, expand economic opportunities, and ensure fair and equal treatment for all. She also has a “track record of standing up to bullies,” which is especially needed at this time. Mott-Smith was raised in the Catholic church, but is now religiously unaffiliated.