Monday, February 21, 2011

How Pete Stark became the only openly non-theist member of Congress

Here's the story from his own website:
My most recent accident was becoming a well-known humanist. Somewhere along the line a nice group of people, the Secular Coalition for America, sent a form requesting information from those of us who support separation of church and state. In response to a question about belief you could check one of three boxes. I checked the one that said I didn’t believe in a supreme being. Then there was a blank to answer the question, “What religion do you associate with?” I wrote, “Unitarian” and sent it back to them. (What I didn’t know is that there was a reward offered to find high-ranking nontheist politicians and that some guy out in Hayward, California, was hustling to make $1,000 by turning me in. I met him later at one of my town hall meetings, and he wouldn’t share the money with me. I told him, “That’s not fair!”)
I love his story about how he became involved with the Starr-King Unitarian Seminary:
Returning to accidents, I then became an accidental religious leader. We had a fellowship, as Unitarians do, in Walnut Creek, California. We raised a little money and hired a minister, Aron Gilmartin, who was a great guy. One day he asked if I would like to help out a little school in Berkeley called the Starr King School for the Ministry, which was a Unitarian seminary. They owned their own building, had a $30,000 endowment, two faculty, and eight students, and they were going broke. When I arrived there they asked, “Will you be the treasurer?” I said yes. “Well, then you have got to be on the board of trustees,” they urged. “Can you come to the first meeting?” At that first meeting they put my name in nomination to be chairman of the board. And I knew I was being set up, but I became the chairman, a position I held for ten years and which exposed me to some of the most interesting people I have ever known.
Gotta watch out for those Unitarians: they lure you into a dark alley, hit you over the head, and when you wake up you're chair of the Steering Committee.

I have the enormous good fortune to live on Broadway and on Highway 61 (they're the same street here) and be represented by someone who matches my denomination and stance on theism exactly. No wonder we picked this house!

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