Pocan, who represents Wisconsin’s 2nd District in Congress, has earned this score by proving his staunch commitment to the separation of church and state and his freethinker constituents throughout his admirable career. Pocan was sworn into office in 2013 and has since been a reliable and exemplary ally for secularism and progressivism.
Pocan has worked with FFRF multiple times during his career, even defending FFRF when necessary. Pocan assisted FFRF’s challenge on the restrictive prayers that open each day for the U.S. House of Representatives, nominating Dan Barker, FFRF’s co-president and a former minister, to deliver a secular invocation in front of the U.S. House as guest chaplain. This courtesy request was quickly shut down by then-House Chaplain Pat Conroy. In response, Pocan penned a friend-of-the-court brief defending Barker and a secular invocation before the U.S. House. Although FFRF was ultimately not permitted to carry out a secular invocation, Pocan’s defense highlighted his dedication to the rights of freethinkers and the 54 percent of nonreligious residents within Pocan’s represented area of Wisconsin, Dane County.
In 2019, Pocan announced he is a freethinker after being named a “Champion of the First Amendment” at FFRF’s annual national convention due to his work in the Congressional Freethought Caucus and his support for a secular invocation. In his acceptance speech, Pocan said, “And if you work for the government you have an obligation to follow our laws. Period. And those laws say there is a separation between church and state. It’s really that easy. But it’s also very important for the 24 percent of us in this country who don’t follow a specific religion to also have their values recognized. We are strongest when we adhere to the values put forth by our Constitution and it doesn’t make us a religious nation. Just the opposite.” Pocan’s declaration points to a favorable future where Congress’ demographics start to reflect the growing nonreligious makeup of the United States.
Following FFRF’s national convention, Pocan also appeared on FFRF’s “Freethought Matters” TV show in 2019. While discussing the House chaplain blocking FFRF’s attempt for a freethinking invocation, Pocan said, “It would mean more power and, finally, some representation for 24 percent of us in the United States: The adults who are not religious.”
Pocan is a stellar example of what freethinking representation looks like in Congress. The fight for preserving secularism within the U.S. government will continue to benefit with Pocan in the House.
Caitlin Berray is the Governmental Affairs Fellow for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Caitlin graduated from Baylor University with a B.A. in International Studies and a minor in Political Science in December 2021. Joining FFRF in October 2022, Caitlin first worked as FFRF’s Governmental Affairs Intern.