Stark first member of Congress to come out as "nontheist"
Bravo to Pete Stark (D-CA) for coming out as the first nontheist in Congress:
Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark, D-Calif., is the first openly "nontheistic" member of Congress, the Secular Coalition for America announced Monday, March 12.
The coalition said Stark, who has represented San Francisco's East Bay since 1973, acknowledged his atheism in response to a questionnaire sent to public officials in January.
In a statement, Stark said he is a "Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being."
"I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social service," he said.
Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, said "the only way to counter prejudice against nontheists is for more people to publicly identify as nontheists. Rep. Stark shows remarkable courage in being the first member of Congress to do so." [Beliefnet]
Stark's revelation was sparked by an unusual contest:
Stark's beliefs garnered attention after the Secular Coalition for America offered a $1,000 prize to the person who could identify the ``highest level atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States.'' Associate director Ron Millar told the Los Angeles Times that the group wanted to highlight the difficulty that politicians have declaring they don't believe in God.
A member of American Atheists California nominated Stark.
``We didn't think we'd have any member of Congress come forward,'' Millar said. [Guardian]
Bravo to Pete Stark for coming out. Still, "nontheist" is an odd word. I always thought that deists were non-theists--which would mean that Stark shares a religious orientation with some of the Founding Fathers. As Eric points out in comments below, the sponsors of the contest explicitly define the term to include atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and virtually anyone else who disavows a supreme being.
Stark describes himself as a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.