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American Atheists Barred from holding Office

 
 
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 05:44 am
In at least seven U.S. states, constitutional provisions are in place that bar atheists from public office and one state, Arkansas, has a law that bars an atheist from testifying as a witness at a trial, the report said.
(Reported by Robert Evans)

Do any legal minds reading this know if such provisions could be successfully challenged in a court of law?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 17 • Views: 4,290 • Replies: 59

 
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 07:24 am
@edgarblythe,
What is the timeline of these seven states adopting these discriminatory provisions? Have they all been recently adopted? Or have they been long established? If they're relatively new, I expect that the ACLU or other similar political activist foundation will be taken this challenge to task.

I suspect these laws could be challenged under the constitutional definition of the first three clauses of the first amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech...." But of course that's the straight forward and direct route to challenge these laws.

BTW: Has anyone ever challenged the constitutionality of a law using the 9th Amendment?
Quote:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/ninth_amendment
maxdancona
 
  -1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 07:27 am
@tsarstepan,
Atheism is not a religion. These laws are Constitutional.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 07:55 am
@maxdancona,
Are you saying they're constitutional because:
1. they have already stood constitutional challenges?
2. you're a constitutional lawyer arguing for these laws to remain on the books;
3. or you're completely biased for the fascism of religion/monopoly on belief?


Part of the first amendment is freedom of speech. Implied in this legal notion is the ability one has not to be forced into saying anything AKA no forced oaths of loyalty (that and the fifth amendment). Atheism is a system of beliefs and can be interpreted as a religion or even an areligion and still be protected under the first amendment's establishment clause.
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 08:19 am
@edgarblythe,
Thank you for starting this thread, EdgarB.

Some atheists simply have no belief in a god or gods. Some actively believe there aren't any gods.

In either case, these seven laws - which I haven't read yet - effectively maintain that you have to have a religion to run for public office. On the face of it, that seems to me to be unconstitutional.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 08:22 am
@tsarstepan,
#3. Yeah it's definitely #3.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  6  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 08:35 am
@maxdancona,
You're obviously not familiar with how the Supremes have ruled in matters of religion, such as laws in Arkansas and Louisiana which mandated the teaching of creationism. They struck down those laws as an establishment of religion. Without claiming to be a legal scholar, i suggest to you that you've missed the point. Laws which prohibit an atheist from participating in the public workplace can be construed as an establishment of religion.
0 Replies
 
wmwcjr
 
  4  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 08:57 am
@edgarblythe,
I am a Christian, but I don't believe in persecuting people who don't happen to share my beliefs. It's wrong. In fact, I'm absolutely appalled by these laws. Not only are they unconstitutional; they're ridiculous and immoral. Let me add "stupid" as well!

One final comment: Yes, this has been a religious country; but have we ever been short on crooks holding public office?
wmwcjr
 
  3  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 09:45 am
@wmwcjr,
My last sentence is poorly written and fails to express what I was trying to say, which is this: On an individual level there are honorable atheists and corrupt believers, and vice versa. People are going to do what they want to do. It all depends on the individual.
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edgarblythe
 
  3  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 01:01 pm
Not that I plan to run or testify, but it would be nice to know the laws could be overturned.
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 01:05 pm
@edgarblythe,
I would like to see how they mean test this condition to see if someone qualify for holding office. Does the person who plans on running for office need to publicly take a fealty oath to a church? Take and pass a religious exam? Be part of a urinalysis or blood test?

Would a Satanist be allowed to hold office? Or how about a Zen Buddhist who doesn't believe in any deities?
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 01:08 pm
Ah, that's where I first read about this - Reuters.com.
(last paragraph pertains to the U.S.)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/10/us-religion-atheists-idUSBRE8B900520121210
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 01:37 pm
@edgarblythe,
I am not a legal mind, but I think the way it would work is that you run for office as an out-of-the-closet atheist, have the election commission refuse to accept you as a candidate for that reason, and then fight the commission in court. In practice, that probably won't happen for political and legal reason. The political reason is that voters won't vote for atheists anyway, so barring you from office isn't worth the trouble. The legal reason is that the no-religious-test clause of the US constitution, applicable against the states through incorporation by the 14th Amendment, voids such provisions in the state constitutions. You'd have to find an election commission willing to violate the US constitution.

For your amusement, you may want to check out Herb Silverman's Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt. The title says it all. And if I remember correctly, he did try to challenge the anti-atheism clause in his home state of South Carolina.
ehBeth
 
  3  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 01:46 pm
@Thomas,
so someone who didn't really want to run, but wanted to challenge the state laws, would have to run

I nominate Thomas.
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 01:56 pm
@ehBeth,
I second Thomas' nomination.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 02:00 pm
The thing to do it seems to me is to first get elected and then announce one's atheism.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 02:12 pm
@Thomas,
Thanks. That makes clear nonsensical sense to me, and I'm not fibbing... a reason for no action.

I may need to find that book. I've been known to grow fond of jewish atheists.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 02:15 pm
@edgarblythe,
Or edge in with buddhist tendencies.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  3  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 02:18 pm
@ehBeth,
Thanks for the vote of confidence (I guess), but Joisey is atheist-friendly. (Heck, we're so liberal we don't even have capital punishment anymore --- pussies!) The Bible Belt would have to tempt me with BBQ or something. Fortunately, though, I'm famous for my power to resist culinary temptations.
Setanta
 
  3  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 02:25 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
Fortunately, though, I'm famous for my power to resist culinary temptations.


You'll got to Hell for lyin' too, Boy.
0 Replies
 
 

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