Along with 7 other states, North Carolina has a provision in their state constitution that prohibits atheists from serving in public office. Article 6, section 8 of the NC state constitution says: “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”
However the US constitution clearly states that no religious test shall ever be required to hold any public office, AND that in all matters the US constitution trumps the individual states’ constitutions if there is ever a conflict between them.
But the fact that US federal law makes this specific state law worthless, is not stopping critics of Cecil Bothwell from attempting to remove him from his elected office. Despite being democratically elected, and federal law on his side, bigots, I mean opponents, worked for months to have him removed from office.
“I’m not saying that Cecil Bothwell is not a good man, but if he’s an atheist, he’s not eligible to serve in public office, according to the state constitution,” said H.K. Edgerton, a former Asheville NAACP president.
This shows quite clearly this is not about the best interests of the state. This is not about “states rights”. This is about bigotry, plain and simple.
Now I know this story is old (originally from December), and it has slipped from the minds of many since it was originally on Rachel Maddow, in the blogosphere, etc. But we can’t allow this type of open bigotry to slip through the cracks. We need to push these states which still have this on the books (Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas) to fix their laws and remove open bigotry from their state constitutions.
We can’t sit back because we “won” one battle, while the issue is still able to be brought up in the future due to arcane and draconian laws. We must keep fighting to make a real change…
Well enough of my ranting (for now), since I mentioned her earlier, I’ll leave you with Rachel Maddow’s thoughts on the topic: