This is part of The Humanist’s monthly series highlighting openly nonreligious elected officials across the nation. Because of the work of the Center for Freethought Equality, the political and advocacy arm of the American Humanist Association, there are now over 100 elected officials at the local, state, and federal level who identify with the atheist and humanist community serving in thirty-three states across the country. Join the Center for Freethought Equality to help politically empower the atheist and humanist community—membership is FREE!
The Center for Freethought Equality’s advances have been groundbreaking. Prior to the 2016 election, there were only five state legislators and no members of Congress who publicly identified with our community; because of its efforts, today we have seventy-one state legislators and a member of Congress, Jared Huffman (CA-2), who publicly identify with our community! It is critical that our community connect and engage with the elected officials who represent our community and our values—you can see a list of these elected officials here.
Representative Bob Carter
Representing West Missoula, Montana
“As a non-believer, where do I get my morals from? Maybe kindness and compassion are simply human traits just because they are the right thing to do.”
Representative Bob Carter first ran for office in 2021 as an open atheist and humanist. He was elected to the Montana House of Representatives in 2022 and currently serves on the House Transportation Committee, Agriculture Committee, and Business and Labor Committee.
A small business owner and third-generation Montanan, Carter grew up working on farms and ranches. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana in Computer Science with minors in both math and media arts. A passionate supporter of public education, Carter served as public school board trustee for eleven years. A long-time community advocate and volunteer, he has served on the board of directors for various nonprofit, governmental, educational and agricultural organizations. Carter lives in Missoula with his children and wife, with whom he has fostered several children as licensed foster care parents.
Sarah Levin: What motivated you to run for office?
Rep. Bob Carter: After my professional career I found the perfect partner to start a family with. Shortly after our first child was born, I developed a passion for anything education or child related. Since then, I have been a strong advocate for education and volunteering in my community. Now, sixteen years later, I have been elected as a four-term public school board member and have also served on a multitude of other non-profit, education, and agriculture related causes in our community.
For the past eight years I fully supported the legislator who represented our area in the Montana House of Representatives. When he termed out of office, I felt a run for that vacant seat in the legislature was the next logical step for me.
Levin: What are your policy priorities and how does your nonreligious worldview impact your policy platform?
Carter: I have so many policy priorities and interests, from human, healthcare, and voting rights, to renewable energy and climate change. If I had to choose the one thing that I felt would be most important for the future of humanity it would be the progressive, science-based education of our children.
When I say science-based education, I don’t mean we should start teaching chemistry to kindergartners, I’m saying we need to use the scientific method of information gathering and data analysis to inform our educational decisions, and to be willing to make changes when necessary, rather than the idea of casting doubt on progress or “going back to the good old days” of education.
Levin: Why was it important for you to be open about your nonreligious identity?
Carter: So many of my colleagues wear their religion on their sleeve and claim religion is what gives society its morals. I want them to know that here I am, an atheist and humanist, who does not believe in the supernatural. My question is: As a non-believer, where do I get my morals from? Maybe kindness and compassion are simply human traits just because they are the right thing to do.
Fun fact: I, along with a Rabbi, attend our legislature’s weekly Christian prayer meetings. We both feel it is important to meet people where they are if we are going to counter some of their misconceptions.
Levin: How did voters respond (if at all) to your openness about your nonreligious identity?
Carter: During my eleven-month campaign I knocked on thousands of doors with the goal of speaking with as many people as possible, and surprisingly my lack of religion came up more often than I would have guessed, mostly in the context of women’s healthcare related issues. The result was almost always positive, yet there were people who said they could not support me because of their religious beliefs which I was always respectful of.
To learn more about Representative Bob Carter visit: