Atheist barred from office by NC state constitution
Posted: 12 December 2009 07:59 PM   [ Ignore ]
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An article in the Asheville, NC Citizen-Times reports an attempt to block the accession to office of a professed atheist recently elected to the Asheville City Council. The legal basis? The North Carolina state constitution (article 6, section 8) expressly forbids such a thing:

Sec. 8. Disqualifications for office.

The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God. [. . .]

Presumably this has been in the state constitution from the get-go, but perhaps no professed atheist has ever been elected to public office in the state before. I certainly hope that the legal challenge goes to trial, so that the law itself can be challenged in an appellate court. Here, by the way, is a bit of another article 6 of another constitution—the US constitution:

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.

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Posted: 12 December 2009 08:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It has never been upheld in any other state with an anti-atheist statute (such as Maryland), and I can’t see it being upheld in the State of NC without changing the US Constitution, something even the far right is loathe to do. The Constitution is very clear and unambiguous on the matter. There is no other way to interpret it.

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Posted: 13 December 2009 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Article on this repellent nonsense in the NYTimes today, read it HERE:

In North Carolina, Lawsuit Is Threatened Over Councilman’s Lack of Belief in God
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 12, 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — City Councilman Cecil Bothwell of Ashville believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government, but he does not believe in God. His political opponents say that is a sin that makes him unworthy of office, and they have the North Carolina Constitution on their side. ...

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Posted: 13 December 2009 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I found this part of the Times article interesting:

Six other states have similar provisions barring atheist officeholders.

I am trying to find out which six states these are. I found a post on a message board that lists Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Maryland, besides North Carolina, which has already been counted, so that makes only five.

The Arkansas state constitution not only bars unbelievers from public office, but denies them competence to give testimony in court!

Constitution Of The State Of Arkansas Of 1874.
Article 19. Miscellaneous Provisions.
§ 1. Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness.

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.

Is it possible for the court—whatever court in North Carolina is concerned in the Asheville case—simply to shrug off the matter and leave the provision in the state constitution untouched? Are there other instances in which provisions acknowledged to be unconstitutional have been left in state constitutions?

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Posted: 13 December 2009 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Found a useful article in the “Freethoughtpedia”: “Laws and other rules against atheists and agnostics.” It includes the following information:

Arkansas:

Constitution Of The State Of Arkansas Of 1874.

Article 19. Miscellaneous Provisions. § 1. Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness.
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 of the Declaration of Rights of the Maryland Constitution 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:

Mississippi State Constitution. No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.

North Carolina:

North Carolina State Constitution, Article VI, Section 8:

Sec. 8. Disqualifications for office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office:
First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

South Carolina:

South Carolina State Constitution, Article VI, Section 2: No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.

Tennessee:

The Tennessee Constitution, Article IX, 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.

(Edited to put accounts of Pennsylvania and Texas together:) The cases of Pennsylvania and Texas are a bit different. The constitutions of those states specify that no believer can be disqualified for public office. They do not expressly say that unbelievers may be disqualified, but the fact that they specify such a protection for believers and not for unbelievers certainly implies that the latter have no such constitutional protection.

Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania Constitution, article 1, section 4: No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

Texas:

The Texas Constitution, Article I, 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.

A legal case from South Carolina pertains to a question that I raised in a previous post, about whether state constitutional provisions found to be in conflict with the US Constitution remain on the books: it appears that they do!

In 1993, Herb Silverman, a college professor, along with the ACLU brought forward a case of discrimination. Professor Silverman was rejected from being a notary public. It took 4 years for the case to be decided and had to go to the State Supreme Court. In 1997, the South Carolina State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the law was unconstitutional.

But even though the SC State Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, it is still on the books!

[ Edited: 13 December 2009 01:17 PM by Kritikos ]
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Posted: 13 December 2009 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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If I recall correctly, such a provision was considered with respect to the U.S. Constitution, but rejected.

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Posted: 14 December 2009 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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For any who can read spanish, my good friend Luis Alfonso Gámez has put up a blog post in his Magonia blog about this issue. Read it HERE.

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Posted: 14 December 2009 02:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Well, times are mature to reform the Constitutions of these seven medieval States.

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Posted: 15 December 2009 09:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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There are more religiously based laws than just the ones about
holding office, there are laws affecting people’s everyday
activities.

Ireland has a “Campaign for a Secular Irish Constitution”
that is very concerned that this year “The Defamation Bill,
which reforms the State’s libel laws, provoked an outcry over
its inclusion of a charge of blasphemous libel.”

The CFI reports “Pakistan Pushes Irish Blasphemy Law Language at the UN”

USA Today summarizes some recent western world prosecutions
on free speech.

Blasphmy is illegal in Massachusettes.

The worst recent updated law associated with religion,
of course, being the unbelievable Uganda sodomy law
allowing for punishment by death (when sodomy is HIV
positive, or sodomy with a disabled person, as I hear).
Sodomylaws summarizes the world situation, there is
good and bad news both, the USA is much improved since Lawrence
v. Texas, but not the whole world, the worst being Mauritania,
Nigeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United
Arab Emirates, Yemen, (according to SodomyLaw) and
now Uganda.

[ Edited: 15 December 2009 10:06 PM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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Posted: 15 December 2009 10:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Uganda is debating a new law next week.  It is an anti-gay law allowing (in extreme form) for the execution of Gays found guilty of “trying to make others Gay”.  Rachel Maddow (see her Facebook link) has been discussing this for a week on her CNN program.  American churches have been associated with the development of this law as well as members of the Senate who belong to a group of fundamentalist Christians and churches in California whose leader read Obama’s installation prayer (or whatever its called) whose ownership of a piece of property in Washington D.C. has been associated with three Senators who have recently had affairs. (I forget their collective name, but there is a new book out about them). The whole thing looks really nasty.

http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/rachel-maddow-show-us-ties-ugandan-anti
http://www.mediaite.com/tv/meet-the-press-plays-softball-with-rick-warren/

Sorry, I had to print this article in its entirety otherwise important processes would have been lost:

MADDOW: The government of Uganda is considering passing a law to execute gay people. Execute as in by hanging a, quote, “serial offender” or an HIV-positive person who commits same sex act. If enacted, this law would also impose a three-year prison sentence on anyone who knows of a gay person in the country but doesn‘t report that gay person to the government within 24 hours.

Who is supporting and promoting this legislation? Well, one of the proponents is a minister named Pastor Martin Ssempa. He was a familiar face to American conservative Evangelicals, because Mr. Ssempa has been a frequent guest of Pastor Rick Warren at One Saddleback Church in California.

Do you remember Rick Warren? Him being selected to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama‘s inauguration was the little black cloud that crawled inside the silver lining that day for a lot of Americans who support gay rights.

Given with Rick Warren‘s deep involvement with Pastor Ssempa on matters including gay rights and AIDS issues in Uganda, “Newsweek” magazine asked Pastor Rick Warren his opinion of this proposed “kill the gays” law in Uganda.

Mr. Warren responded by distancing himself from Martin Ssempa, but also by refusing to condemn the proposal saying, quote, “It is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

In a moment, we‘ll speak with Jeff Sharlet who has written extensively about the secret of Evangelical religious organization called The Family. We first started discussing The Family on this show when it emerged as a player in, not two, but three Republican sex scandals - those of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Nevada Senator John Ensign and the alleged sex scandal involving former Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering.

The Family, among other things, provides well-below market rent housing for a select group of members of Congress at its, until recently, nearly tax-exempt church on Capitol Hill - a house called C Street.

Jeff Sharlet is now reporting that there aren‘t just ties between American Evangelical Rick Warren and the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda. He reports that, in fact, the president of Uganda and the legislator who introduced the “kill the gays” bill are more than just supported by American Evangelicals. They are both members of The Family.

Joining us now is Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” He is also a contributing editor to “Harper‘s” magazine. Jeff, it‘s nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

JEFF SHARLET, AUTHOR, “THE FAMILY”: Good to be back, Rachel. Thanks.

MADDOW: So who introduced the “kill the gays” bill and what‘s his connection to The Family?

SHARLET: It‘s a member of parliament named David Bahati who has been very involved with a sort of conservative Evangelical revival in Uganda, very involved with a lot of American Evangelical groups and has also taken a leadership role in The Family‘s Uganda operation through something called the African Student Leadership Program at the Uganda‘s National Prayer Breakfast, which is an offshoot of the prayer breakfast The Family hosts every year here in the United States.

So he‘s got this leadership role that puts him not just at the sort of the margin of things, but functioning as one of their key men on the ground in Uganda.

MADDOW: In the big picture, why is The Family interested in Uganda? Why are they interested in operating there? And what are their goals there?

SHARLET: Well, The Family has always viewed its religious outreach, its worldwide spiritual offensive, as they describe it, in very clear geopolitical terms. Uganda, right now, is an incredibly important country for world politics. It‘s functioning in many ways as a U.S. proxy with Sudan, with Congo, with Rwanda.

There‘s oil in that general region and The Family needs to have a presence out there. They‘ve had that presence in Uganda since 1986 when they sent over a man to recruit Museveni who was then the new leader. Didn‘t look like a bright Democratic spot in African leadership. And they recruited him to be one of their main brothers, as they put it, for the whole continent.

MADDOW: So President Museveni in Uganda - he‘s not explicitly backing this horrendous bill. But it is thought that he tacitly supports it, at least as far as I can tell, and that the ethics and integrity minister in his government is vocally in favor of this thing. You‘re saying he has Family connections that go back decades.

SHARLET: Yes, to 1986. And it‘s hard to call it passive support when he‘s coming out there and saying that homosexuality is a plot that‘s sort of being imposed on Africa by Europe and that this is a time for Africans to rally together against sort of the foreign influence of homosexuality.

Now, Museveni is - the thought in Ugandan politics is that he‘s sort of letting other guys take the lead on this. But through his ethics minister, who is the main organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast in Uganda and it‘s his right-hand man - he‘s got a direct involvement.

And just last week, in fact, Museveni responded to questions from Uganda‘s main newspaper, is he a part of The Family. And his press secretary said, “Well, I can‘t answer that.” But it certainly sounds like an organization the president would like to be a part of but only if they really, really hate homosexuals.

MADDOW: Wow. That bastardization of that Groucho Marx quote is running through my head right now. Back in July, Jeff, you uncovered a video and we played it on the show, of Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a Republican senator in the United States. He‘s got admitted association with C Street and The Family.

We played video that you found of him talking about his trips taken to Africa on the urging of leaders of The Family. I just want a real quick clip to remind folks here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM INHOFE (R-OK): If you‘re a member of the United States Senate, in Africa, they think you are important, so you can always go to see the kings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You always get in to see the kings. Is Sen. Inhofe or any other American politician powerful enough among Ugandan politicians that they could derail this legislation if they wanted to?

SHARLET: Well, working with colleagues, I‘ve reached out to Inhofe‘s office and he refuses to say a word about it despite the fact that he likes to boast of his incredibly close relationship with Ugandan politics.

He‘s attended the Uganda National Prayer Breakfast. He says, in fact, he has adopted the nation and he regularly travels over there in behalf of The Family. Yet, he‘s refused to condemn it.

Does he have the influence? We don‘t know because he‘s not exerting it. It‘s just like Rick Warren. Could Rick Warren, who has designated Uganda a purpose-driven nation, make a difference?

We don‘t know because they‘re not trying. And I think that‘s the kind of the bottom line with the American involvement. There‘s been a lot of American support for the guys who are promoting this bill and no pushback against this incredibly hateful piece of violence put in the legislation.

MADDOW: Jeff Sharlet is author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” Thanks, as always, for joining us, Jeff. I really appreciate it.

SHARLET: Thanks, Rachel.

Transcript via MSNBC.

Tags: Barack Obama, C Street, C-Street, David Bahati, David Gregory, Gay Issues, Gay Rights, James Inhofe, Jeff Sharlet, jim demint, Martin Ssempa, MSNBC, Pastor Rick Warren, Rachel Maddow, Rick Warren, The Family, The Rachel Maddow Show, Uganda

[ Edited: 15 December 2009 11:41 PM by Fat Man ]
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Posted: 15 December 2009 10:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame! - 15 December 2009 10:07 PM

Uganda is debating a new law next week.  It is an anti-gay law allowing (in extreme form) for the execution of Gays found guilty of “trying to make others Gay”.  Rachel Maddow (see her Facebook link) has been discussing this for a week on her CNN program.  American churches have been associated with the development of this law as well as members of the Senate who belong to a group of fundamentalist Christians and churches in California whose leader read Obama’s installation prayer (or whatever its called) whose ownership of a piece of property in Washington D.C. has been associated with three Senators who have recently had affairs. (I forget their collective name, but there is a new book out about them). The whole thing looks really nasty.

You are talking about “C” Street and “the family”. Thanks to Rachel Maddow, senators and Rick Warren have finally stepped up and made statements disavowing involvement and speaking against this new policy. It is getting wider attention, and the senators and ministers don’t want their names attached to the policy.

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