Open Humanist Poised to Win Congressional Seat

In a high-profile Maryland congressional primary on Tuesday, an open humanist prevailed over a crowded field. State Sen. Jamie Raskin, a member of the American Humanist Association and recipient of the organization’s 2008 Humanist Distringuished Service Award, beat out competitors who included Kathleen Matthews, the wife of television host Chris Matthews, and David Trone, a wealthy businessman who spent a recordbreaking $12 million in an unsuccessful campaign.

Raskin gained some fame a few years back when, hearing a colleague say she opposed same-sex marriage because it conflicted with the Bible, he replied, “When you took your oath of office you placed your hand on a Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” A law professor at American University, Raskin is a solid progressive whose career as a state legislator has included strong opposition to the death penalty, support for same-sex marriage, and other progressive stances.

Since the district is heavily Democratic, Raskin is expected to win the seat in the general election in November. If elected, Raskin would be the first openly nontheistic humanist to win an open congressional seat. Congressman Pete Stark of California came out publicly as an atheist in 2007, but at that time he had already been in Congress for over three decades.

One more noteworthy item about Raskin is his good taste in reading material. Commenting on Fighting Back the Right, this is what he said: “This book is a powerful call for government of, by and for the people in the 21st century – not gods and not private corporations, whether religious or secular. Stirring!”