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Author Topic:   Atheists can't hold office in the USA?
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 1 of 777 (747228)
01-13-2015 12:55 PM


I bumped into this by accident today and was, well, surprised
American states that have anti-atheist laws on their books.
Arkansas, Article 19, Section 1:
No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.
Maryland, Article 37:
That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.
Mississippi, Article 14, Section 265:
No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.
North Carolina, Article 6, Section 8
The following persons shall be disqualified for office: Any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.
South Carolina, Article 17, Section 4:
No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.
Tennessee, Article 9, Section 2:
No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.
Texas, Article 1, Section 4:
No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.
Apparently these state laws are trumped by the
No Religious Test Clause of the United States Constitution, which is found in Article VI, paragraph 3, and states that:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
But this doesn't prevent the bigots trying
Cecil Bothwell, an atheist who in 2009 won an election for a Asheville, North Carolina city council seat, was almost unseated by local critics who pointed to a provision in North Carolina’s constitution that prohibited nonbelievers from being elected.
Why do these laws still exist in the US?

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by Dr Adequate, posted 01-14-2015 12:57 AM Tangle has replied
 Message 726 by ScottRP, posted 02-26-2015 9:53 AM Tangle has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 4 of 777 (747240)
01-13-2015 2:27 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by jar
01-13-2015 2:01 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
But why isn't the very existance of those laws unconstitutional? Why aren't atheists campaigning to get them revoked

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by jar, posted 01-13-2015 2:01 PM jar has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by jar, posted 01-13-2015 2:31 PM Tangle has replied
 Message 22 by dwise1, posted 01-14-2015 3:55 AM Tangle has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 6 of 777 (747246)
01-13-2015 2:37 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by jar
01-13-2015 2:31 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
The story above seems to bely that - the guy got enough votes to get elected.
Cecil Bothwell, an atheist who in 2009 won an election for a Asheville, North Carolina city council seat, was almost unseated by local critics who pointed to a provision in North Carolina’s constitution that prohibited nonbelievers from being elected.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by jar, posted 01-13-2015 2:31 PM jar has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by NoNukes, posted 01-13-2015 3:19 PM Tangle has replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 8 of 777 (747272)
01-13-2015 4:24 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by NoNukes
01-13-2015 3:19 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
I still don't get how an unconstitutional law is still on the books in some states but not in others. Does this tell us something about those states?

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by NoNukes, posted 01-13-2015 3:19 PM NoNukes has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by jar, posted 01-13-2015 4:33 PM Tangle has replied
 Message 13 by NoNukes, posted 01-13-2015 5:57 PM Tangle has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 10 of 777 (747281)
01-13-2015 5:20 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by jar
01-13-2015 4:33 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
Just random then? Nothing else in common?

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by jar, posted 01-13-2015 4:33 PM jar has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by petrophysics1, posted 01-13-2015 5:51 PM Tangle has replied
 Message 12 by jar, posted 01-13-2015 5:55 PM Tangle has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 14 of 777 (747292)
01-13-2015 6:20 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by petrophysics1
01-13-2015 5:51 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
Ouch, did that touch a nerve?

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by petrophysics1, posted 01-13-2015 5:51 PM petrophysics1 has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 20 of 777 (747304)
01-14-2015 3:31 AM
Reply to: Message 16 by NoNukes
01-13-2015 6:55 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
NoNukes writes:
Tangle has a history of making condescending statements of this type. While I don't share petro's level of irritation, I understand where it comes from.
I don't believe that there is a single word in my question that could be honestly described as condescending. I was genuinely surprised to see that 7 states in the USA appeared to ban atheists from public office.
As for my history, I'm also genuinely puzzled why a modern Western democracy, for which I have otherwise great respect, has such a high proportion of it's population holding primitive religious views (and such a destructive gun culture). It's a canundrum which, when pointed out by an outsider, gets these kind of reactions.
Are Americans able to question these things themselves without being accused of being 'condescending' - or whatever - or is it just something that non-Amercans are not allowed to ask? Why so sensitive?

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by NoNukes, posted 01-13-2015 6:55 PM NoNukes has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 23 by dwise1, posted 01-14-2015 4:55 AM Tangle has not replied
 Message 30 by NoNukes, posted 01-14-2015 12:49 PM Tangle has replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 21 of 777 (747305)
01-14-2015 3:43 AM
Reply to: Message 18 by Dr Adequate
01-14-2015 12:57 AM


Dr. A writes:
Well, in a sense they don't. When a law or part of a law is found to be unconstitutional, you don't have to recall all the statute books and tear out the offending pages; the law ceases to exist, qua law.
The guy writing the article makes this point about it.
I think that the legislatures of these states have a duty to eventually get around to removing these provisions and any other elements of their state constitutions that institutionalize discrimination. Now might not be the time due to the large number of pressing issues that plague this nation, but the change ought to eventually be made. Atheists, or any other religious minority for that matter, shouldn’t have to go to court after winning an election just so that federal law is upheld and discrimination is rejected.
Which seems fair.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 18 by Dr Adequate, posted 01-14-2015 12:57 AM Dr Adequate has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 24 of 777 (747309)
01-14-2015 4:57 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by jar
01-13-2015 4:33 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
Jar writes:
Not really.
Well I had to look it up but they're all southern bible belt states and mostly adjacent to each other. What they appear to have in common is that they answer the question
"How important is religion in your life?" as very high. Mississippi answering at 82% for example. (wow!)
So I guess that's why the laws haven't been repealed.
It hasn't stopped other southern and only slightly less religious states not having the law anymore. e.g. Louisiana at 73%. So I guess it's possible.
Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics | Pew Research Center

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by jar, posted 01-13-2015 4:33 PM jar has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 25 by caffeine, posted 01-14-2015 6:22 AM Tangle has replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 26 of 777 (747312)
01-14-2015 6:44 AM
Reply to: Message 25 by caffeine
01-14-2015 6:22 AM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
Well I had to look up the welshman thing and found these 'laws' also
STRANGE-BUT-TRUE LAWS
It is legal for a male to urinate in public, as long it is on the rear wheel of his motor vehicle and his right hand is on the vehicle
A bed may not be hung out of a window
Taxi drivers are required to ask all passengers if they have smallpox or the plague
Any person found breaking a boiled egg at the sharp end will be sentenced to 24 hours in the village stocks (enacted by Edward VI)
Any boy under the age of 10 may not see a naked mannequin
Throughout the whole of England it is illegal to eat mince pies on the 25th of December
It is illegal to be drunk on licensed premises
But they're just quaint antiquities. No-one in Chester would believe that it's ok to shoot a Welsman inside the city walls with a bow and arrow, whilst it seems that 80+% of Mississippi people perhaps might think that atheists should not be able to hold public office if asked becuase their religious beliefs are very important to them.
It also seems to be the case that these anti-atheist laws are actually attempting to be used - they're not just part of ancient history - as in the example above.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 25 by caffeine, posted 01-14-2015 6:22 AM caffeine has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 27 of 777 (747315)
01-14-2015 9:10 AM
Reply to: Message 25 by caffeine
01-14-2015 6:22 AM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
caffeine writes:
As far as I can see, Louisiana is not a case of not having such a law 'any more' - they never did. Their constitution has been modified many times, so I might be missing it, but I can see no sign that religious belief was ever used to qualify for office. Things which have historically disqualified Louisianans from holding public office:
Fair point. It was probably deemed as unnecessary a law preventing blind people driving buses. It sort of begs the question when those atheist laws were added and by whom.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 25 by caffeine, posted 01-14-2015 6:22 AM caffeine has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 28 by jar, posted 01-14-2015 9:28 AM Tangle has replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 29 of 777 (747328)
01-14-2015 11:56 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by jar
01-14-2015 9:28 AM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
jar writes:
The current Maryland Constitution was adopted in 1867.
Only a few years after Darwin published Origin then.......

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 28 by jar, posted 01-14-2015 9:28 AM jar has not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 31 of 777 (747334)
01-14-2015 1:03 PM
Reply to: Message 30 by NoNukes
01-14-2015 12:49 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
Now you're just being deliberately obtuse.
My original questions have been answered, thank you.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 30 by NoNukes, posted 01-14-2015 12:49 PM NoNukes has seen this message but not replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 33 of 777 (747348)
01-14-2015 4:08 PM
Reply to: Message 32 by Taq
01-14-2015 3:52 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
The law isn't just instrumental, it also has a symbolic, signalling role. It says that this activity is something this society disapproves of to the extent that if you transgress it, the state will punish you. It creates our moral norms and signals an expectation of behaviour.
So to have have it still on the statute books, not simply as a bygone relic of how things used to be, but to be pulled out when it suits regardless of it's ineffectiveness, is a signal of a different kind is it not? However, I have no idea whether the example quoted is just a one-off or not and whether people in those states are generally aware of it.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 32 by Taq, posted 01-14-2015 3:52 PM Taq has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 34 by jar, posted 01-14-2015 5:10 PM Tangle has replied
 Message 39 by Taq, posted 01-14-2015 7:00 PM Tangle has replied

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 9537
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 35 of 777 (747359)
01-14-2015 6:02 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by jar
01-14-2015 5:10 PM


Re: It's hard to modify Constitutions
Jar writes:
No it is not.
Care to say why. Otherwise I'm just going to counter with "oh yes it is"
But it is worth a chuckle or three on a really dull news day.
Ok, we've had our little chuckle, perhaps you'd now care to explain your position.
But the answer to the topic is of course, "Nonsense, atheists can hold any political office in the US if they get elected."
Yes, we've answered that - the constitution trumps state law. Gottit. It's posible for an atheist to hold public office in Mississippi if s/he can get enough votes. Fine.
We've moved on from that. The question now is whether these redundant laws are still being waved around and having an effect. I've no idea, have you? Do you care?

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 34 by jar, posted 01-14-2015 5:10 PM jar has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 36 by ooh-child, posted 01-14-2015 6:08 PM Tangle has replied
 Message 38 by jar, posted 01-14-2015 6:17 PM Tangle has not replied

  
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