Pharyngula

It’s an ugly little open secret that Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have constitutions that explicitly forbid atheists from holding state office. These laws are archaic and unenforceable in principle — they were all ruled unconstitutional in 1961 — but of course they’re still in effect across all 50 states in practice, since public opinion makes it almost impossible for an atheist to get elected to high office.

Now, though, a representative in Arkansas has submitted a bill to amend the Arkansas constitution and remove the prohibition of atheists. This could get very interesting, or it might not. If the Arkansas legislature does the sensible thing and simply and efficiently removes an old law that can’t be enforced anyway, I will be pleased, but there won’t be much drama.

Since when are legislatures sensible, however? I can imagine indignant Christians defending an unconstitutional law and insisting that it be kept on the books as a token of their contempt. It is an awkward situation for the Christianist yahoos, because their constituencies might get inflamed, but on other hand, do they really want to go on record defending the indefensible?

I’m looking forward to it, and kudos to Rep. Richard Carroll of North Little Rock for poking a stick into this nest of snakes and stirring it up.

Comments

  1. #1 www.10ch.org
    February 18, 2009

    It reminds one of the Test Act: the bad side is that it is just bad, period. The good side is that it is never enforceable.

  2. #2 Dennis
    February 18, 2009

    As a strange side note- Rep Carroll is the highest ranking member in office for the Green Party, I didn’t expect that.

  3. #3 boom
    February 18, 2009

    It augments my faith in humanity that someone actually has the spine to confront this. Should make for some amusing drama….

  4. #4 Brownian
    February 18, 2009

    But, but, I thought it was the Christian majority in the US that’s always getting shat upon by the <1%* of non-Christians. Now you’re saying there’s a law against the <1% ever gaining power in some states?

    * Remember, the universe God made is frought with paradoxes as evidence of his existence and perfection. For instance, the population of Christians in the US is as near to 100% as possible without going over, according to the average email PZ gets from creationist keyboard-mashers, and yet at the same time they are a tiny outraged minority being continually assaulted (morally, at least) by the society-crumbling powers of the abortionists, pornography-peddlars, and scientists who turn away from God in their hearts even though they all know God is real. It’s one of them mysteries, or miracles, or whatever it is priests call it when they lie.

  5. #5 bendyball
    February 18, 2009

    These laws are example of how christian nazis will treat us given half a chance. The rest of the time they demand respect and understanding and fairness.

  6. #6 JWC
    February 18, 2009

    Natural selection as applied to residency: smart people will be more likely to move outta batsh** crazy states like these.

  7. #7 EricLR
    February 18, 2009

    “do they really want to go on record defending the indefensible?”
    I’m going to go with “yes”, because they regularly do it on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, religion in public schools, etc.

  8. #8 Glen Davidson
    February 18, 2009

    Next thing you know, they’ll be teaching evolution in their schools.

    Nah, just kidding, they’ll ignore it as usual.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  9. #9 Voltaire
    February 18, 2009

    The ending of the linked news article is priceless. It discusses another bill recently passed:

    “Meanwhile, in a related story, the Arkansas House passed a bill Wednesday allowing people to bring their guns to church.

    “Due to many shootings that have happened in our churches across our nation, it is time we changed our concealed handgun law to allow law-abiding citizens of the state of Arkansas the right to defend themselves and others should a situation happen in one of our churches,” said state Rep. Beverly Pyle.

    The bill doesn’t say whether atheists can bring guns to church.”

    Comedy gold.

  10. #10 RationalFuture
    February 18, 2009

    Well of course they will defend the indefensible…

    they’ve been doing that for the past 2000 years !

  11. #11 omar ali
    February 18, 2009

    The idea that people (even sensible people) move in large numbers because of such issues (“smart people will be more likely to move outta batsh** crazy states like these”) is not supported by any data that I know of. IF total crazies come to power and enforce pre-enlightenment levels of thought policing, that should gradually make smart people move away, but most evangelicals are not batshit crazy in that way (yet…its a moving target).

  12. #12 jj
    February 18, 2009

    @#5
    Godwin’s law in effect, eh?

  13. #13 Kyoseki
    February 18, 2009

    Did you notice that atheists aren’t allowed to testify in court either?

    I wonder if that’s a good way to get out of jury duty? :)

  14. #14 raven
    February 18, 2009

    That representative is pretty brave. Doubt if it will pass.

    I wonder how much hate mail and death threats he will get? If the past holds true to form, more than we can imagine.

  15. #15 Jafafa Hots
    February 18, 2009

    “Did you notice that atheists aren’t allowed to testify in court either?”

    As I understand it, if you don’t want to swear on the bible, you’re allowed to just “affirm.”

    Of course, as soon as you tell whoever you’re testifying on behalf of’s lawyers that you plan to do that, they’ll probably tell you not to bother coming, because the jury would probably think “aha! an atheist is testifying in his defense! He MUST be guilty!”

  16. #16 littlejohn
    February 18, 2009

    Article six of the Constitution bars any religious test for public office or any public action (i presume this would include jury duty). These laws have been blatantly unconstitutional for a couple of decades.
    I however, hate jury duty, and will continue to announce that I am an atheist to avoid it. So sue me.

  17. #17 Alyson Miers
    February 18, 2009

    but on other hand, do they really want to go on record defending the indefensible?

    Given that Arkansas is where they recently made it illegal for gays and in fact all unmarried couples to adopt children, I’d say all signs point to the affirmative.

  18. #18 Science Bear
    February 18, 2009

    As a point of clarification, having lived in AR the majority of my life (ages 2-25):

    They might remove the ban, but that does not mean that an atheist will ever be elected. I cannot tell you the number of religious themed commercials one is exposed to during elections.

    Secondly, most political offices no longer use a bible when “swearing in” for testimony, and instead you simply raise your hand, repeat and affirm–no book is used.

    Being an atheist in Arkansas is no easy task, and you wouldn’t believe the number of conversion speeches people have wasted on me. I do think this is a great turning point that the state would even consider changing this, because it WILL be met with great resistance once the churches tell their followers they should be outraged.

  19. #19 Screechy Monkey
    February 18, 2009

    But how could this measure not pass? All those religious moderates I keep hearing about will surely vote to repeal a nasty and plainly unconstitutional law. Or will they all stay home and refuse to vote because an atheist once said something rude on the internet?

  20. #20 John Emerson
    February 18, 2009

    Rep. Volstead of the Volstead Act, who probably represented PZ’s district lost the Republican nomination for Congress, but was reinstated because his opponent, Rev. Ole Kvale, had falsely accused him of atheism. Two years later Kvale ran against Volstead on the radical Farmer-Labor ticket and defeated him. Kvale was apparently “pro choice” on alcohol, though dry himself. Kvale and his son represented the district for 16 years.

  21. #21 Science Bear
    February 18, 2009

    @ #17

    Exactly my point, and those not from the state did not get the pleasure of hearing the religious themed support for this proposition. When Huckabee was governor they also made passed an additional proposal where people could “testify” the sanctity of marriage by obtaining a marriage that is much more difficult to dissolve (in hopes to lower divorce rates)… One of the many reasons I no longer live there.

  22. #22 Cannabinaceae
    February 18, 2009

    Maybe other states will follow suit, and a marginal news item will become less marginal, temporarily.

  23. #23 DaveL
    February 18, 2009

    I would argue that defending this ban is exactly the kind of pablum politicians flock to when catering to the Christianist Right. No reasonable person wants to live in a society where the zealots make the rules, so politicians just love to introduce legislation benefitting the former when:

    1) It offers religionists nothing but flattery, or perhaps a gratuitous insult to secular people;

    2) It cannot possibly pass; or

    3) It cannot possibly survive a court challenge.

    Therefore I predict that most legislators will oppose amending the state constitution, no matter how logically or legally indefensible, because it allows them to pander without consequences.

  24. #24 Sastra
    February 18, 2009

    Over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton is trying to see if anyone will take his bet:

    I’d be willing to wager that one of two things will happen: either the legislature will refuse to pass the bill and put it on the ballot, or it will go on the ballot and the voters of Arkansas will reject it.

    Not many are going to take that bet.

    Even though it can’t be enforced, he figures that there’s no way they’re going to remove it, because it symbolizes the superiority of theists over atheists.

    As I pointed out there, many theists actually think that this law should be enforced, that it doesn’t fail under the “no religious test for office” clause — because belief in God is not a religious belief.

    As they see it, God’s existence is a fact, and belief in God is necessary in order to understand “where our rights come from.” No God, no Constitutional Democracy. Religion is only about HOW to think about and worship God. Religion is “man’s way.” God is … God.

    We actually have to make arguments that references to “God” are religious. That’s why they like to call it “acknowledgments of God.” They think that means they’re avoiding any matters of faith.

  25. #25 Charlie Foxtrot
    February 18, 2009

    Had a look at that link to the State Legislature site, and noticed the flag on the top right corner…ummm…
    Is that the state flag of Arkansas?
    Is that “Arkansas” written across it?
    Doesn’t that kind of undermine the purpose of a flag? You know – symbols and stuff?

    …I’m so swamped with possibilities for snark I’ll just have to leave it hanging…

  26. #26 Cujo359
    February 18, 2009

    It is an awkward situation for the Christianist yahoos, because their constituencies might get inflamed, but on other hand, do they really want to go on record defending the indefensible?

    This must be a rhetorical question. As you’ve documented here many times, there are Christianist yahoos who live to defend the indefensible.

  27. #27 hgc3
    February 18, 2009

    Just for the record, the provision in the South Carolina Constitution was declared unconstitutional (under the US Constitution) in 1997.

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=SC&vol=24622&invol=1

    The law evolves too. And this clause remains, much like a vestigial organ.

  28. #28 Cujo359
    February 18, 2009

    Sastra @ 24 – I wouldn’t bet against him, either. While I hadn’t thought through what that course might be, I assumed that the likely course of action on the part of the Arkansas legislature would be to ignore this thing or pass the decision on to someone else. Ed Brayton’s suggestion does just that.

  29. #29 Holbach
    February 18, 2009

    Amending the Arkansas constitution to allow atheists to run for office is a joke, as it may be permissable but will never happen in practice. People are not going to put away their lunatic religious feelings to vote for an atheist who represents a source of constant rebuke to their unreason.

  30. #30 Tom
    February 18, 2009

    There is one very big problem with all this… presumably in order to run for office in Arkansas you would have to live there.

  31. #31 Robert Madewell
    February 18, 2009

    I am an atheist in Arkansas. I’ve always said that if I am called to testify in court, I’ll refuse, using the state constitution as justification. It’s my right as a non-believer to not testify. Of course, it’d be a different story if I was testifying on my own behalf.

    Well, it’ll be good to see the state constitution amended.

  32. #32 tripencrypt
    February 18, 2009

    As a southerner and an atheist, this makes me proud. I hope the amendment passes and that other southern states follow suit.

  33. #33 Laurie
    February 18, 2009

    I work in the court system. Smart lawyers swear in every witness by asking, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm . . .” with no reference to God. That way no one can tell which witnesses are atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or regular ol’ Christians.

  34. #34 Libeqrat
    February 18, 2009

    PZ:

    These laws are archaic and unenforceable in principle ? they were all ruled unconstitutional in 1961

    Indeed, but we must also realize just how close we are to overruling that interpretation. Many do not understand that the Bill of Rights, even as currently interpreted, does not directly limit the actions of the individual state governments. It only directly limits the actions of the federal government. Over the course of the last century, many — but importantly, not all — of the rights contained in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution have been deemed by the Supreme Court to have been “incorporated” against the states via the Fourteenth Amendment. However, there is more than one conservative jurist on the Court who would dramatically scale back this incorporation.

    I do thank goodness that the Democratic Party won the last presidential election. What with Justice Ginsburg’s current state of health, and Justice Stevens’ advanced age, their replacements could so easily have deemed the First Amendment inapplicable against the states.

    Since when are legislatures sensible, however?

    Well, the do have their moments. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s were, after all, drafted by legislatures. Hell, the Declaration of Independence was written, amended and signed by the Continental Congress, and the Constitution itself was written by one legislative body, and ratified by many others. :)

    I can imagine indignant Christians defending an unconstitutional law and insisting that it be kept on the books as a token of their contempt.

    I fear you underestimate them, Dr. Meyers. I think they’ll use this as an opportunity to argue that the laws are actually Constitutional, invoking an insidious jurisprudence that, believe me, would find a welcome audience among many on the bench!

    do they really want to go on record defending the indefensible?

    Are we talking about the same people? American theocrats? Of course they want to.

  35. #35 John Squire
    February 18, 2009

    It’s informative to read Article IX of the Tennessee State Constitution in its entirety:

    1. Clergy; eligibility to serve in legislature

    Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

    2. Atheists holding office

    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.

    3. Duelists holding office

    Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, fight a duel, or knowingly be the bearer of a challenge to fight a duel, or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this State, and shall be punished otherwise, in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe.

    Despite the stated rationalization for excluding clergy, I believe that the founding fathers of Tennessee really wanted the clergy to keep their clerical fingers out of our government.

    As for duelists… well, apparently they didn’t foresee Yu-Gi-Oh.

  36. #36 Libeqrat
    February 18, 2009

    Before anyone might catch me in this, I now realize that it’s not really the Incorporation Doctrine that applies to this Constitutional matter. :) Dumb mistake, but hey, it’s tangentially relevant anyway. ;)

    Yes, it’s Article VI of the Constitution that forbids religious tests for office. Notably, though, the text reads:

    no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. [emphasis mine]

    There is an argument to be made that the clause applies only to offices of the government of the United States (i.e. the federal government), and not to the individual states.

    And yes, as there are many anti-incorporationists, there are judges who would seriously entertain that argument.

  37. #37 Jason A.
    February 18, 2009

    As an atheist in arkansas, this makes me happy.

    I know that the people aren’t going to get behind it. The fact that it’s being challenged at all, by an elected official, is an indicator of the progress we’ve made (and the progress we still have to make).
    One step at a time…

  38. #38 Libeqrat
    February 18, 2009

    John Squire @ 35,

    Wow, thanks for that information! I’ve never had occasion to read the Constitution of Tennessee, but since my father is currently lives there, I suppose I should get to know it. (My poor dad is a pediatrician and atheist. Imagine his daily interactions with his patients’ parents.)

    What insanity to exclude either members of the clergy or atheists. Even if your understanding about the framers’ actual intent is correct. No one should be excluded like that per se.

  39. #39 John Squire
    February 18, 2009

    Libeqrat, re: Tennessee’s Wacky Constitution

    …and in complete contradiction to the above-quoted Article IX language, we have the following in Article I:

    4. Political or religious test

    That no political or religious test, other than an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and of this state, shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state.

    Who says you can’t have it both ways?

  40. #40 Libeqrat
    February 18, 2009

    Jack Squire @ 39:

    Who says you can’t have it both ways?

    Heh, American jurisprudence excels at having it both ways. I remember reading arguments in law school, all apparently serious and written by legal scholars, to the effect that excluding atheists from holding office does not actually violate the religious test clause, since the original intent of the clause was merely to prevent discrimination among the varying sects of Christianity. It was never, they would explain, intended to apply to people who have no religion altogether.

  41. #41 Snopester in Exile
    February 18, 2009

    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.

    That doesn’t technically ban atheists, does it? It looks to me like it only forbids banning theists.

  42. #42 bobxxxx
    February 18, 2009

    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.

    Acknowledging the existence of a supreme being would not be a problem for the atheist U.S. Rep. Pete Stark.

    Stark, who is a Unitarian, is the highest-ranking American politician to openly declare that he is nontheist. Although Stark denies a belief in a god, he was quick to note that the Stark family does recognize a supreme being: Mrs. Stark.

  43. #43 Cujo359
    February 19, 2009

    John Squire @ 39 – Looks like Tennessee’s constitution is badly in need of some editing.

  44. #44 Autumn
    February 19, 2009

    I just e-mailed Mr. Carroll and thanked him for sponsoring this resoloution. I figure he can use as many positive responses as he can get in the face of what is sure to be an avalanche of odium.

  45. #45 Bacopa
    February 19, 2009

    “No athiests” laws are also in the books in MD and MA. But as a practical matter I can assure yall this kind of stuff never come up in the larger counties of Texas. When I was a loss prevention agent I was never asked to swear on a bible when I testified in court . We had a generic oath or affirmation before the trial started and were not asked to say “so help me God” at any time.

  46. #46 clinteas
    February 19, 2009

    It’s an ugly little open secret that Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have constitutions that explicitly forbid atheists from holding state office.

    See this,even after years on Pharyngula,never ceases to astonish me ! I was not taught in school that the US society in terms of holding public office, was built on privilege for religionists,and that there was actually laws banning people that dont subscribe to the ruling theocratic theory from public office.
    Its astonishingly medieval and archaic,and shocks me again everytime I read something like that.
    Anachronistic BS.Unbelievable.

  47. #47 Walton
    February 19, 2009

    See this,even after years on Pharyngula,never ceases to astonish me ! I was not taught in school that the US society in terms of holding public office, was built on privilege for religionists,and that there was actually laws banning people that dont subscribe to the ruling theocratic theory from public office.

    Since the Supreme Court ruled a similar provision in Maryland law to be unconstitutional in 1961 (Torcaso v Watkins, 367 U.S. 488), these rules are almost certainly unenforceable. This is, therefore, an academic question; getting rid of them would be more symbolic than anything else.

  48. #48 Walton
    February 19, 2009

    Btw, in Torcaso the Maryland law was held to violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. They expressly did not decide it on the basis of Article VI (no religious test), since it has never been authoritatively determined whether this applies to state as well as federal offices. (On its wording, it would appear that it doesn’t, as some people have pointed out above.)

  49. #49 Peter Ashby
    February 19, 2009

    Heh! don’t beat up on yourselves too much over the pond there. Your Republic hasn’t been around long enough to have a properly gruesome history you have to live down. In his Brief History of Disbelief TV series Jonathon Miller shows us the law that used to be in action here in Westminster making it illegal to be an atheist.

    That was why all those aristocrats defined themselves as being Deists, they weren’t restricted by an inability to properly counter the Argument from Design. They didn’t want to go to gaol. So much got cast off in 1777. Be proud of that.

  50. #50 clinteas
    February 19, 2009

    getting rid of them would be more symbolic than anything else.

    Walton,

    there is laws,and there is public perception of atheists in the US,the latter being of baby-raping amoral heathens that cant be trusted.
    So even if you change the laws,for the forseeable future,unless to pander to the religionists,you will as an atheist not in fact be able to be voted into public office by the looks of it.

  51. #51 Matt Heath
    February 19, 2009

    The “atheists can’t possibly get elected in America” claim has come up here. Are you sure it’s true? Maybe, as a foreigner, I’m underestimating the strength of feeling but the reasons people give never seem convincing.

    People always point to that one nationally opinion poll that shows more people would refuse to vote for a professed atheist than a list of other groups, but you don’t do most elections nationwide. I suspect “Socialist” would have scored even worse, but the people of Vermont elected one of those. An atheist (if they were clearly the strongest candidate in other ways) couldn’t get elected in Vermont? In San Francisco? What if Steven Chu (who as far as can find any reference to has no belief in the supernatural) was a great success as Energy Secretary, then ran for Congress in the district containing the Berkeley campus? Would he have no chance?

  52. #52 clinteas
    February 19, 2009

    Matt,

    youre right of course,I do not know this for a fact,its what I have deduced from reading this blog and other sources…Maybe it is possible for an atheist to get elected,but it would certainly be much more difficult than for a confessing religionist,no matter what their political views are,I imagine.

  53. #53 Walton
    February 19, 2009

    That was why all those aristocrats defined themselves as being Deists, they weren’t restricted by an inability to properly counter the Argument from Design.

    Well, I actually am a deist; it’s not merely a form of equivocation. I used to be a Christian, but am now sceptical of the truth of “revealed” religions. They make extraordinary claims (Jesus was the Son of God and resurrected from the dead, Mohammed was a prophet who transcribed the Qu’ran from the word of God, Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon from gold plates given to him by an angel, etc.), without producing sufficient historical evidence to support these claims. And while one can certainly believe historical claims without solid evidence if one so wishes, this begs the question of where to stop; how can one know that the religion in which one was brought up happens to be the right one, and that all the others are wrong?

    By contrast, I don’t think the claim of a generic, non-interventionist deist God is such an extraordinary claim. It’s different from a theistic religious claim; theistic religions make claims of material fact (Jesus was resurrected from the dead, etc.) which are in principle empirically testable, whereas deism makes no such claim and is therefore empirically untestable both in principle and in practice.

    But, as I understand it (and I realise that any physicists here will probably tell me my understanding is very simplistic), the nature of the universe is such that, if any of the fundamental physical constants and laws of nature were slightly different, the universe would consist 100% of either hydrogen atoms or energy. Accordingly, there are only two real possibilities: that there are many universes and we happen to live in the one which can support complex matter, or that our universe was created by the intervention of a creator. Presumably, since both theories are completely untestable, one must simply arbitrarily choose to believe one or the other, and I find the “God” viewpoint more elegant and poetic than the “multiple universes” viewpoint. (This is simply what I’ve picked up from general reading, so if any physicists are reading this, please tell me if I’m talking complete rubbish, as I might well be.)

    Alternatively, I could put it in even more watered-down terms; since my “God” is not a personal or interventionist entity, one can see “God” as merely a poetic synonym for the power of the universe itself (in the way that Einstein used the word, perhaps).

    Of course, it doesn’t make any difference in practice; since I don’t believe in an interventionist God or in revealed religious truth, I don’t believe we can actually know what God wants or doesn’t want, so my belief in God cannot make any difference to my moral or philosophical approach to life. So I’m functionally equivalent to an atheist. But the difference is that, because I do believe in a “God” – albeit a very attenuated concept thereof – I’m happy to sing “God save the Queen”, take oaths “before God” where required, etc. It’s just that what I mean by “God” is very different to what theists mean by “God”.

    Does that make any sense, or have I just wasted hundreds of words on idle philosophical ramblings? :-)

  54. #54 Wowbagger
    February 19, 2009

    Walton wrote:

    By contrast, I don’t think the claim of a generic, non-interventionist deist God is such an extraordinary claim.

    It is an extraordinary claim, but – as you say later in your post – it isn’t one we’ve any way of testing; the point is kind of moot. I suppose it’s only important if you’re sure that believing in the deist god isn’t having any adverse impact on how you live your life – or influencing you to have an impact on the lives of others in a way you perceive as being what that god wants. That would, of course, probably not count as deistic if that was the case.

    Does that make any sense, or have I just wasted hundreds of words on idle philosophical ramblings? :-)

    I don’t think words are ever wasted; at worst you’re helping clarify things in your own mind, which is important. I find a lot of the time I’ll put a long, rambling post together and work for a while on getting it to make sense, and then just delete rather than post it.

  55. #55 Peter Ashby
    February 19, 2009

    Does that make any sense, or have I just wasted hundreds of words on idle philosophical ramblings? :-)

    Well since my mention of Deists was clearly wrt those in the 18thC in Europe and not present day hand waving varieties, yes you did waste hundreds of words. I can hear them crying . . .

  56. #56 Peter Ashby
    February 19, 2009

    Actually Walton having read your stuff you just sound like someone who took Pascal’s wager far too seriously then couldn’t be bothered actually deciding which version of religion to follow. Oh and while we haven’t found single changes in the fundamental parameters that would give stars etc modelling has shown that if you tweak multiple parameters you do. So your ‘god’ is just yet another weak god of the gaps in your understanding. Though doubtless you will now flee to another one.

  57. #57 eric
    February 19, 2009

    I’m of two minds about bills like this (though I’m not a resident of Arkansas, so my angst is largely theoretical). On one hand, I totally agree with the bill’s purpose. OTOH, I see symbolic gestures as a waste. We pay these folks’ salaries. Stop wasting my money on symbolism and do something practically useful like, oh, passing a budget on time for a change.

    Perhaps a good solution would be to try and fix all the unconstitutiona/unenforcible bits in one single bill. At least that way the legislature squabbles over one pointless vote instead of squabbling over many pointless votes.

  58. #58 Rick Pikul
    February 19, 2009

    The bad news is that these laws are not unenforceable, at least as late as the 1990s Texas actively prevented atheists from taking office.

    They defended themselves against court action by dragging their feet, making each stage of the case take as long as possible. By the time it reached the point that a USSC appeal could be made, (Texas courts having ignored the US Constitution), the cases get dismissed as moot as the elected term has expired.

    I know about his because of one guy who kept trying to have the provision overturned, the one time he actually got things to the USSC he was turned down on the grounds that “notary public was not an office”. He then switched over to dogcatcher, (which in at least some Texas towns is an elected office).

  59. #59 Bill Dauphin
    February 19, 2009

    Snopester (@41):

    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.

    That doesn’t technically ban atheists, does it? It looks to me like it only forbids banning theists.

    Actually, to me it looks like an attempt to redefine “religious test” from any test regarding any religious belief (including nonbelief) one holds to something more like any test regarding which religious belief one holds. It doesn’t seem to ban atheists per se, but it does shelter any ban on atheists from “religious test” arguments… or so it seems to me.

  60. #60 littlestripes
    February 19, 2009

    there is laws,and there is public perception of atheists in the US,the latter being of baby-raping amoral heathens that cant be trusted.
    So even if you change the laws,for the forseeable future,unless to pander to the religionists,you will as an atheist not in fact be able to be voted into public office by the looks of it.

    clinteas, do you not know that a space goes after a comma? Like I did after your name. And, here. A SPACE GOES AFTER COMMAS.

  61. #61 marilove
    February 19, 2009

    The “atheists can’t possibly get elected in America” claim has come up here. Are you sure it’s true? Maybe, as a foreigner, I’m underestimating the strength of feeling but the reasons people give never seem convincing.

    Does anyone know if there are any current OUT atheists in office? Because, if there aren’t, then I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that they can’t get elected here, no? Now, there may be atheists in office already, but I am willing to bet they aren’t out and proud.

    Considering, during this last election, atheists were called “Un-American” on numerous occasions — and seriously — an out, proud atheist being elected is likely a long shot.

    An atheist president? NEVAH GONNA HAPPEN.

  62. #62 ConcernedEducator
    February 19, 2009

    It is my belief that we will have an asian, female, lesbian, transgender Scientologist as president before we EVER even get close to an atheist president.

    Meh, or maybe I’m just a pessimist…

  63. #63 ConcernedEducator
    February 19, 2009

    It is my belief that we will have an asian, female, lesbian, transgender Scientologist as president before we EVER even get close to an atheist president.

    Meh, or maybe I’m just a pessimist…

  64. #64 astrounit
    February 20, 2009

    It is plainly clear that such a law nakedly exposes religious supporters of it as anti-democratic.

    What other description can there be of limiting the potential choices available to voters?

    What better method of taking the vote AWAY from a particular and legitimate sector of the voting population – without overtly appearing to deny them the “right” to vote – by conveniently supplying them with candidates they cannot avoid voting for?

    Since very few if any non-religious people appear to be in favor of these state laws, it should be obvious that anti-democratic and therefore unpatriotic, anti-American sentiment on this particular issue (at least) is to be found almost exclusively within the religious sector.

    If that isn’t a plausible statement, where are the equal number of states that have laws restricting religious candidates? If there is no truth to the statement, where are all the attempts by non-believers to keep believers out of office?

    If the statement isn’t so, surely many states must have SOME record of such attempts.

    No, all we do in fact find are actual laws – actually enacted – in at least 7 states. They weren’t put there by atheists. They were put there by ANTI-DEMOCRATIC, UNPATRIOTIC ANTI-AMERICANS: the religious crowd.

    What is all that noise they keep making about what true American patriotism is again? And how if you don’t love it you should leave it?

    It’s power-mongering, pure and simple. It’s the behavior of the insecure childish brat who whines, “THIS IS MINE!” expressed on a national scale.

    The most amazing part of it is that few of them ever stop to think that such tactics don’t favorably recommend their convictions as anything but insecure: they have to CHEAT their way through life.

  65. #65 Sunfell
    February 26, 2009

    #25- Yes, Arkansas’ flag has the word ‘Arkansas’ on it. Several other states have words on their flags, too. I remember that some hysterical conservatives thought that Ohio’s flag was Obama’s ‘personal’ flag when they saw it in the background at a campaign stop. Ohio’s state flag has a stylized “O” on it, and is not rectangular, but instead a ‘swallowtail’ Burgee style.

    As for atheism and the AR Constitution, our constitution hasn’t had an overhaul since ’79, and probably won’t have another for the foreseeable future. (I think the governor is too chicken to call for a constitutional convention.)

    I figure that Arkansas’ severe term limits will introduce the sort of religious entropy into the system that will admit non-believers into office before too long. I mean, we now have our very first Green Party member- and no one thought that would ever happen.

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