Roy Torcaso, "sort of difficult, very firm in his beliefs, or nonbeliefs," R.I.P.

Roy Torcaso, 96, fought for the right to serve in public office without declaring his religious beliefs:

Mr. Torcaso, who said he was an atheist, was a bookkeeper by profession. He worked for a Bethesda construction company when his legal challenge started in 1959. He had been urged by his boss to become a notary public.

At the Montgomery County Circuit Court, he refused to swear to a state oath given to notaries public that made them profess the existence of God.

"The point at issue," he said at the time, "is not whether I believe in a Supreme Being, but whether the state has a right to inquire into my beliefs."

In 1961's Torcaso v. Watkins, the Supreme Court held that the requirement that he swear an oath declaring his religious faith was un-constitutional. "Neither [state nor federal government] 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," wrote Justice Black.

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Good thing this case wasn't brought before the current Supremes. Maybe someday we'll be back to normal. The American way. The way the Founders envisioned it. Not the way ideological wingnuts see it.

Although I'm not a big fan of the current SC, I doubt they would find differently. The constitution is pretty clear on no religious tests to hold public office.

By Sam Lewis (not verified) on 28 Jun 2007 #permalink

True, we all have our own beliefs about the existence of God and each individual has the right to abide by what he believe is true and just. No other person can judge him for being different just because the other person thinks otherwise or has a different view about the existence of God.