(RNS) — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first Muslim women in Congress, has joined the Congressional Freethought Caucus.
Launched in 2018, the caucus seeks to promote secular government, separation of church and state, freedom of conscience and policy “based on reason, science, and moral values,” and to oppose discrimination against nonreligious people, or the so-called nones.
Members do not need to identify as nonreligious. Tlaib is Muslim.
“Supporting religious freedom, church/state separation, and evidence-based public policy aren’t simply constitutional,” said atheist advocate and author Hemant Mehta, who first reported the news at Friendly Athiest. “Those principles represent the best path forward for the country. Rep. Tlaib also understands that those values are perfectly aligned with her faith.”
The Congressional Freethought Caucus was organized by Rep. Jared Huffman, who identifies as humanist and is Congress’ only openly nontheistic member, along with Reps. Jamie Raskin, Jerry McNerney and Dan Kildee.
It now has 13 members, all Democrats. Members include Reps. Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Steve Cohen, Hank Johnson, Zoe Lofgren, Susan Wild, Sean Casten and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Mehta said he hoped Tlaib’s participation spurs other members of Congress to also join the caucus.
“As an atheist, I know it’s not always easy for members of Congress to openly express support for non-religious people,” Mehta said. “I genuinely appreciate her support of Secular Americans — and secular values — across the country.”
Tlaib’s office did not respond to a request for comment.