Want to run for city council in Mississippi? Well, you can’t if you don’t swear that there is a “supreme Being”. Same in Maryland, South Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Tennessee (no surprise there). Over half of Americans polled stated that they wouldn’t vote for a qualified candidate if they knew he/she was an atheist. I know that this comes as no surprise to most of you but in rhe political arena we are on the bottom of the totem pole, ranking behind the LGBT community. The irony here is that such tests are unconstitutional! Yet due to popular opinion in those States, these antiquated laws remain active. Anyone on this forum ever run for a political office in any of the above mentioned States? I’m curious.
It’s not a matter of preference George, it’s a matter of law. Article 6 paragraph 4 of the Constitution specifically states:
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.
The States I mention are defying Constitutional law by requiring a religious test. This isn’t a nebulous argument like the Second Amendment interpretations from both sides; this one is spelled out. It’s the whole “nullification” argument all over again. We should have settled this in 1865.
I don’t understand the question George. Do you mean a religious test by the States I mentioned or a National religious test, because if it’s the latter then see my last post. The States I mentioned may shield their religious tests by arguing “past practice, i.e. their laws were on the books in the 19th Century so they just left them there but I suspect that they appeared at the same time the fundamentalist movement was gathering steam in the 1920’s. That’s a research topic, more on the background later.
This weeks POI podcast mentioned something about a law like this that has since been overturned in court. IN the case they were discussing they forbid anyone who was an atheist from becoming a notary public. I don’t remember the details and don’t have time to go back and listen again but if someone here comes across it maybe you can post the details
Thanks Mac. I’ll look for it too. As far as I know these laws are not only still on the books but strictly enforced in the Southern States where an avowed atheist wouldn’t stand a chance of being elected to any public office. Unfortunately I don’t have the stats (not sure there are any) on what atheists ran for any office in the States I mentioned. For that matter, even potential atheist candidates in those States who don’t have religious laws on their books wouldn’t stand much of a chance of being elected at present. As an aside, I wonder how many patients an atheist doctor would have if he/she made their lack of faith in a “supreme being” public?
There is also the Torcaso v. Watkins case before the Supreme Court. The Court decided:
There is, and can be, no dispute about the purpose or effect of the Maryland Declaration of Rights requirement before us - it sets up a religious test which was designed to and, if valid, does bar every person who refuses to declare a belief in God from holding a public “office of profit or trust” in Maryland. ... We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person “to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.” Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.
This might be a bit dated but the article goes on to say that SCOTUS hasn’t taken any direct action against any State yet.
Thanks TVA. In regards to your question about a physician atheist, just like in politics I suppose it would depend on where you are in the country. I am in the metro NY area so pretty liberal. It never really comes up much except on the rare occasion when someone wishes me a nice holiday around Happy Hanuukah and then with a puzzled look asks me if I’m Jewish ( I guess some people assume all doctors are jewish around here.. I’m actually from a catholic background) to which I usually honestly answer that my family celebrates Christmas but I don’t follow any religion. The response I usually get seems to be one of indifference. No one seems to care one way or the other as long as they don’t insult you with the incorrect holiday greeting lol.
Thats not to say some people might not change doctors if they ever got into a debate about religion with me but the exam room isn’t really the appropriate place for that. After all I have the upper hand. They’re naked or wearing a stylish paper gown. They’re not going to argue much with the guy who’s about to do their rectal exam.
I guess that’s why you don’t hang out a shingle with a large A in red letters over the office door! What I wondered is if it would make a difference in the doctor-patient relationship. That question would be moot of course for a Christian Scientist! But in “sensitive” situations as you described, religion would be the last thing on their mind. Unless you state your disbelief, most people tend to assume you’re a believer. I was asked recently what church I attended (by someone I’d never met BTW) and I simply said “I’m not religious”. That seemed to satisfy them, but most just invite me to attend their church and I politely decline, unless they’re persistent. Do you casually lay a copy of Skeptical Inquirer on top of your usual waiting room magazines?
I am not what you would call a militant atheist. I have no problem with people being religious as long as they keep their religion out of my life. For that reason I think it would be hypocritical to force my atheism into theirs. That’s not to say there aren’t proper places for this discussion and as a frequent contributor to the local “letters to the editor” section of the regional newspaper I have at times written letters addressing religion in politics and government. On the other hand when someone is a captive audience in my office I am not sure that is the proper place to proselytize to people about religious issues. I wouldn’t want to be confronted with christian or muslim literature when I go to the doctor so I think it would be hypocritical for me to do the same. When a patient goes to the doctor the only the doctors only focus should be on helping them with their health issues, not trying to convert them.
I am fortunate in that people in our neck of the woods do not wear their religion on their sleeve. I have christian patients, jewish patients, and muslim patients as well as agnostics and atheists. Our diversity in NY creates a culture that is a little more tolerant than what you may see in the bible belt and people tend to be private about their religious beliefs. ” Bible bangers” as they are called, people who are vocal and in your face about their religion would not feel at home around here. People may go to church or temple and even invoke the name of a generic god in public speeches. There is even the occasional individual who writes to the paper because he thinks that all our schools need to do to turn things around is to put prayer back in the classroom, but outside of that I rarely hear much discussion about religion.