More than a decade after Rep. Pete Stark became the first sitting Congressman in modern history to come out as explicitly non-theistic (though he called himself a Unitarian), the now-retired politician finally has some company…. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) — one of the nine members of Congress to not have an official religious label to his name — announced that he would embrace the label of “humanist.” (With a small “h,” if that matters.) The American Humanist Association defines the word as “a progressive lifestance that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity.”
Despite the loud and frequent claims by the American Taliban ©, America isn’t a Christian nation. The Founding Fathers we determined that America not repeat what they saw as the mistakes of England, where the Church WAS the State. They realized the admixture of government and religion to be a recipe for tyranny, an assessment proven true repeatedly over the course of human history.
The separation of Church and State has always been a very basic tenet of American governance, something I’ve written extensively about over the years. Simply put, your God doesn’t get to be my government. America isn’t a Christian nation, but rather one in which Christians are a considerable majority amongst a plethora of faith traditions. Which one is the “correct” one? Does the majority religion get to rule because between 70-80% of Americans self-identify as Christian? If we’re going to allow one religion to rule and use its holy book as the basis of law and public life, does that then denigrate all the other faith traditions?
As if we need to think about that question for more than a nanosecond….
“I don’t believe my religion is necessarily relevant to the work I do. But I do think it doesn’t quite feel right to just take a pass on the question, because your religious views can speak to your moral and ethical framework on the world. And that is something I think the public is entitled to know,” Huffman said.
He added, “I suppose you could say I don’t believe in God.” If that sounds wishy-washy… well, it is, especially since he also said, “I’m not completely closing the door to spiritual possibilities.”
Rep. Huffman’s statement does seem crafted to be all things to all people. We should keep in mind he’s trying to be true to himself without alienating those of his constituents convinced the areligious simply shouldn’t be trusted with the affairs of state. Too many Americans believe those who consider themselves good without God are evil, immoral, and not to be allowed unsupervised into polite company.
(Seven states (including Texas) still have laws on the books preventing atheists from holding office…despite the fact those laws are blatantly unconstitutional.)
While I understand his position, I don’t share his belief that “the public is entitled to know” what religion their elected representatives are. I’ve always been of the belief that whatever invisible entity one chooses to pray to (or not), it’s no one else’s damned business. Many believe (incorrectly) that a politician has to be a Christian in order to hold public office…but that’s merely ignorance and prejudice speaking. It also has absolutely no bearing on how an elected official handles the responsibilities of their job.
In America, God and government are separated into disparate milieus. While not polar opposites, one should not be used to exert influence on the other. No person or government body should be adversely impacted by those who feel their faith is the One, True, and ONLY Faith ©. All one need do is look at the example of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in which religion and the State are one and the same to understand the peril of mixing God and government.
The Constitution even says that there can be no religious litmus test used to determine one’s fitness to hold public office. It also says Congress shall pass no laws intended to benefit a specific faith tradition. The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing…and it’s probably the single biggest reason America has held together for so long.
Who would you rather see on Capitol Hill- Rep. Huffman, who approaches governance from a place of intellect…or Judge Roy Moore, who’d turn America into a theocracy run by hypocrites and despots?