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Rep. Greg Casar, a Texas Democrat, has joined the Congressional Freethought Caucus
He is the 18th member of the CFC, which champions reason-based policies and opposes discrimination against atheists
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I can exclusively report that Rep. Greg Casar, a first-term member of the U.S. House from Texas, has just become the newest member of the Congressional Freethought Caucus.
The caucus now includes 18 members, all of whom are Democrats.
Casar is a former member of the Austin City Council who won his House race last year with over 72% of the vote. He made headlines over the summer after staging a thirst strike in opposition to a Texas law banning food and water breaks for people working outdoors. The 34-year-old Whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus plans to run for re-election.
Ron Millar of the Center for Freethought Equality has been instrumental in connecting members of Congress with the CFC, and he told me he was “thrilled” Casar took up the invitation to join. He’s a “great addition to the CFC,” Millar added.
It was only two months ago that Reps. Kevin Mullin (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) also became members of the group. And like most of Casar’s colleagues in the CFC, he’s also religious. The Pew Research Center, in their 2023 roundup, listed Casar as Catholic.
Casar has not made any public announcement about his affiliation just yet, but the CFC’s website now lists him as a member. His membership was confirmed in an email from the office of CFC co-founder Rep. Jared Huffman.
In case you need a refresher, the CFC was first announced in 2018 by Rep. Huffman, a Humanist and currently the only openly non-religious member of Congress.
It now has a total of 18 members:
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) (Co-chair)
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) (Co-chair)
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA)
Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL)
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA)
Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA)
Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA)
Rep. Kevin Mullin (D-CA)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX)
(Jerry McNerney, a former co-chair of the group, chose not to run for re-election in 2022. Another former member, Carolyn Maloney, lost her primary to another Democrat after their congressional districts in New York were redrawn last cycle.)
To be clear, this isn't an “atheist club” for Congress, as some critics have suggested. This is just a group of lawmakers dedicated to promoting reason-based public policy, keeping church and state separate, opposing discrimination against non-religious people, and championing freedom of thought around the world. There’s really no reason anyone should be against this. That’s why there’s nothing hypocritical about the fact that nearly every member of this Caucus is religious.
The hope is that the membership continues growing—making the Caucus more influential—while the stigma of being an atheist (or even being associated with non-religiosity) decreases across the country. Those two things are more closely linked than we might imagine. Keep in mind that the Congressional Prayer Caucus, which typically promotes a version of conservative Christianity, is much larger and has members from both major parties. By that metric, the Freethought Caucus has a long way to go.
Sarah Levin, the founder and principal of Secular Strategies, which empowers lawmakers to be “effective champions of secularism,” celebrated Casar’s inclusion in the CFC, telling me “we need members of Congress standing up to counter the Christian nationalist agenda with a pluralistic, inclusive alternative.”
With the extreme, Christian nationalist policies we’re seeing come out of Texas, I’m thrilled to see Congressman Casar join the caucus. It’s a reminder that despite the setbacks, despite the uphill battle that can sometimes feel impossible to climb, there are leaders like him standing with us. There’s power in numbers.
As The Freethought Caucus continues to grow, we’re getting closer to the day when we can finally take back the mantle of religious freedom.
I agree with her completely. The most shocking thing about these more recent names on the list is that, based on the relative lack of media interest, people don’t seem to care… which is to say, no one—not even in right-wing media—thinks it’s a big deal for sitting House members to align with a group defending atheists.
That also means none of these lawmakers believes joining the Caucus will be a concern for them heading into the 2024 elections, which may come as a shock to anyone who remembers a time when aligning with atheism was considered one of the biggest taboos in politics.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)
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