According to MO Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D), there aren't any true atheists in America, but candidates who profess to be nonbelievers should not be judged just because they do not profess have a religious faith.
The United Methodist pastor who represents Missouri's 5th congressional district and Ralph Reed of the Faith & Freedom Coalition both sat down with CNN's Candy Crowley on April 9 to discuss whether a person can successfully run for national public office, declaring to be a "non-believer."
Cleaver did not think so, explaining:
Unfortunately, I think any person who did that would have a difficult time winning. Actually, I don't believe that there is such thing as an atheist because no respectable atheist would walk around with something in his pocket that said 'In God We Trust.' Nonetheless, I think that those of us who understand that we live in a pluralistic nation, we've got to be the ones who tell people openly, in public, on national TV, that we cannot tolerate that, where people make decisions about people who don't have a faith.
Reed said it was possible to successfully run as a non-believer, just like it is possible to run as a Muslim or Hindu and be elected, because voters make decisions based on their shared values with candidates and the candidates' qualifications for office. The People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch blog points out that Reed, who came to national prominence as the first executive director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, has been linked to numerous charges of corruption, tainting his image with the GOP. His Faith & Freedom Coalition was created to rehabilitate his image in the wake of his deep involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.