Jared Huffman

On this date in 1964, Jared William Huffman, attorney, politician and freethinker, was born in Independence, Mo., to Phyllis and Bill Huffman. He was raised in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is headquartered in Independence. It is the second-largest branch of the Latter-day Saints movement, was founded to repudiate the doctrine of plural marriage and is known as the movement’s more liberal, Midwestern wing. It changed its name in 2001 to the Community of Christ. 

The youngest of three brothers, he was raised by his mother after his parents divorced. His father died when he was 19, and it was then that he started to question his faith. A stellar volleyball player in high school, his team won the Junior Olympics and he was recruited to play at the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he earned a B.A. in political science. Three times he was an NCAA volleyball All-American and went on to play for Team USA in 1987 when it was ranked No. 1 in the world.

After graduating cum laude in 1990 from the law school at Boston College, a Jesuit school, Huffman set up a private practice specializing in consumer and public interest law. Among his victories was a case decided in favor of the National Organization for Women that required all California public universities to comply with federal Title IX barring gender discrimination.

He then worked as a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and helped restore a 153-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River in California’s Central Valley. He also served 12 years as a director of the Marin Municipal Water District. Running as a Democrat, he won three terms in the State Assembly, representing the Bay Area. Since 2013 he has served in the U.S. House as the representative for Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Trinity, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

Huffman’s mother was “deeply religious until her dying day.” After she died nine days short of her 87th birthday in 2017, he found it easier to be publicly honest about his lack of religious belief. (“Freethought Matters,” Sept. 3, 2019) He calls himself a humanist. Huffman is “the only avowed non-theist in Congress.” (Washington Post, April 9, 2020)

Comic Stephen Colbert once teased him about his “unspecified” religious status on a Pew Forum questionnaire. “Come on, grow a pair. What is it? Are you an atheist?” “I don’t know,” Huffman replied.“Agnostic then?” “Perhaps.” Colbert picked up his pen while saying, “I’ll just put you down for ‘heathen-slash-hell-bound.’ ” (“The Colbert Report,” Sept. 23, 2014)

In 2018, Huffman co-founded the Congressional Freethought Caucus with Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Dan Kildee, D-Mich. The caucus is composed of about a dozen members “who feel strongly about the secular character of our government,” said Huffman. Nonbelief is not a prerequisite for caucus membership. Kildee and McNerney are Catholic, others are Jewish and Hank Johnson of Georgia is Buddhist. (Washington Post, April 9, 2020)

“I have no problem with people practicing their religion,” Huffman said in a 2017 interview, adding that he strongly objects to government endorsement of religion, which is unconstitutional. His wife and children regularly attend Catholic Mass. (San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 16, 2017) He and Susan live in San Rafael with their children, daughter Abigail (b. 2000) and son Nathan (b. 2003).

Huffman was the recipient in 2018 of FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award and accepted it at the national convention in San Francisco. (His very thoughtful and at times humorous acceptance speech is here). He has also appeared on FFRF’s “Freethought Matters” TV talk show that airs weekly. 

He was the American Humanist Association’s 2020 Humanist of the Year.

Freedom From Religion Foundation