Unbelievers Unwelcome

Today the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reminded the Arkansas legislature that "the free expression of religious belief, together with what James Madison called 'the full and equal rights of conscience,' should apply to people of all religious traditions—including atheists." It added that "government should no more penalize a person for professing atheism than for professing a belief in Christianity, Buddhism or Islam." You might wonder why this lesson in tolerance was necessary in 21st-century America. It turns out that Arkansas is one of the few states whose constitutions still bar nonbelievers from holding government jobs or testifying in court. According to the Becket Fund, the others are Tennessee and Texas. The Washington Post counts twice as many states in this category, but it does not name them. 

Last week Rep. Richard Carroll (G-North Little Rock) introduced a bill (PDF) that would amend the state constitution to remove the anti-atheist rule, which says, "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." Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar Maryland ban in 1961, Becket Fund National Litigation Director Eric Rassbach notes, "it is unlikely that these laws will ever be enforced." Still, he says, repealing them "signals to U.S. citizens and to the rest of the world that the freedom and sanctity of conscience—including the right to believe there is no God at all—is a fundamental right for all people."

In 2007 I noted how Mitt Romney (remember him?) tried to get ahead by dissing atheists.

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  • Warty||

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  • Fabian Socialist||

    "it is unlikely that these laws will ever be enforced." Still, he says, repealing them "signals to U.S. citizens and to the rest of the world that the freedom and sanctity of conscience-including the right to believe there is no God at all-is a fundamental right for all people."



    You think.

    The two steps back will come from all the other shit that gets amended.

  • Mad Max||

    The Becket Fund is saying that atheists should have the right to be elected or appointed to public office or to testify in court.

    So if the voters elect an atheist to the Arkansas legislature, that person has the same right to serve as if he were, say, a Baptist.

    This principle *doesn't* mean voters have to elect atheists to office, or that when they enter the ballot box they have to close their eyes to a candidate's religious beliefs. Romney is entitled to appeal to the voters on religious grounds. Voters are free to ignore him - or at least to apply their religious grounds to *other* candidates, not him.

  • cuernimus||

    I really wonder how many people would even know about these laws existence if this Becket Fund didn't bring them up. It makes me think of someone discovering this in an Indiana Jonesque fashion.

    (Indiana Jones picks up ancient clay tablet, blows off thick layer of dust before tracing fingers over writing)
    Jones:"It appears to be written in some sort of ancient Southern Baptist dialect...No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State...Only he who handleth the serpent and partake of the cyanide shall be deemed worthy."
    (Stereotypical bad dude wearing khaki fatigues and wielding a Luger grabs stone tablet and makes for the exit only to be bitten on the dick by a viper. Proceeds to froth at mouth and convulse in the agony of death).
    Jones: "It just had to be snakes..."

  • ||

    I should get upset about the blatant discrimination against atheists that pervades our society and elected officials encourage.

    I couldn't get elected without lying. That's why ~75 members of congress lie about their non-belief.

    It sucks. Not a whole lot, but it does. I speak truth and am discriminated against because of it. Still, I won't be starting or joining any atheist advocacy groups. There are far too many professional victims and I refuse to join the pity me parade.

    I must admit, I would love to see a bible belt prosecutor move to prevent a witness from testifying over it.

  • ||

    I'm sure Mad Max would have the same mild response if Romney dissed Catholics.

  • the innominate one||

    Mad Max - no shit, and we are free to criticize Romney for being superstitious and guilty of ad hominem arguments

  • Michael P.||

    I couldn't get elected without lying. That's why ~75 members of congress lie about their non-belief.

    Is one of the "practical" justifications for preventing atheists from holding office the notion that the bible serves as some kind of gold standard against which one can be sworn to honestly uphold their duties? Just wondering.

  • ||

    OK Warty, I give up. Is that ASCII art of a donkey humping a chick dressed like Madalyn Murray O'Hair? Wait, maybe it's a Rorschach test and I just gave myself away. Shit.

  • Naga Sadow||

    *reads Episiarch's comment*

    *takes another look at Warty's . . . art*

    You know. Now that you mention it Epi . . .

  • Kolohe||

    It's a sailboat.

  • Dave||

    "nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court".

    So, couldn't a bunch of atheists really screw up the courts by demanding that they enforce this rule whenever they are called to be witnesses?

    "Hoist by their own petard" comes to mind.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Dave, I was thinking the same thing. Used selectively, it could be an enjoyable tactic.

  • ||

    It's a sailboat.

    Is there a man in the boat?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Rep. Richard Carroll (G-North Little Rock)

    BTW, what the hell is a "G"? Green?

  • ||

    That's why ~75 members of congress lie about their non-belief.



    Only 75? Out of 535? I suspect it's much higher.

    The elites have a way of thinking that ye oldtyme religion is good to keep the masses in line. Naturally, they do have to pretend, else the hoi polloi might catch on.

    Hell, I'd not be the least surprised if half the famous evangelists weren't closet atheists.

  • MAX HATS||


    The elites have a way of thinking that ye oldtyme religion is good to keep the masses in line.



    I think you have it exactly backwards.

  • Kolohe||

    Is there a man in the boat?

    Is Locutus still a man?

  • Elemenope||

    The elites have a way of thinking that ye oldtyme religion is good to keep the masses in line. Naturally, they do have to pretend, else the hoi polloi might catch on.

    Seneca sez: "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."

  • Taktix®||

    Mad Max - no shit, and we are free to criticize Romney for being superstitious and guilty of ad hominem arguments

    Don't forget about the special Jesus underpants...

  • Gregory House||

    Religion is the placebo of the masses.

  • MNG||

    Mitt Romney was one of the lowest forms of life to ever run for political office in my time. There was little this man would not say, and no tone with which he would not say it, in order to be elected to office. When this man was repudiated by the electorate, it was one of the greatest days to be an American in my life.

    The guy was the emptiest of empty suits...

  • Shorter and More Honest Mitt||

    "To the extent you and I agree on religious matters, consider it big time when you vote! And to the extent we disagree on those matters, please ignore under the principle of religous freedom! Oh, and damn those evil athiests! Carry on."

  • Hugh Akston||

    "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."



    No buddhists in them foxholes either, I imagine.

    Also, Warty, my heartiest congratulations on finding a new way to drive the level of discourse on this blog even further into the turlet.

  • Brian||

    @Episiarch,

    It's a version of this ...

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    Also known as *facepalm*

    http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Not_This_Shit_Again

  • VM||

    BakedPenguin | February 17, 2009, 8:26pm | #
    Rep. Richard Carroll (G-North Little Rock)

    BTW, what the hell is a "G"? Green?



    why, "fucktard", of course.

  • Naga Sadow||

    This is too much. First Stevo's bizarre "Is dancer (link) turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?" picture messes with my head now this shit.

  • Naga Sadow||

    I think you got the wrong article, VM.

  • ||

    Mitt Romney was one of the lowest forms of life to ever run for political office in my time.



    His father, on the other hand, was an exceptionally decent man. The kind that might make you think there was something to this Mormonism after all.

  • ||

    MNG-

    Romney, IMO, in many ways, is a fraud. One of the reasons may not upset you, but when he came into office as governor in January of 2003, his administration promptly raised the filing fees for just about everything-from incorporating a business to divorce. Some fees tripled and quadrupled. Courtesy of a guy committed to "tax cuts".

    Oh, but there is so much more. Typical born on third base and thinks that he hit a grand slam. But, there are a lot of those guys in the democrat party, too.

  • MNG||

    libertymike
    I don't like growth in government expense for no good reason, so that's an extra reason to hate Mitt for me. File it under reason 1,213.

    And, you might be suprised how many "guys in the democrat party" I despise. If I have to think of of my favorite Democratic federal officials my list is thus: Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Jack Reed, Byron Dorgan...That is all.

  • Nathan A. Stine||

    Mr. Penguin,

    Yes, the G stands for Green.

    Funny story. No Republican ran for the seat and the Democrat who ran was corrupt. Part of his "bargain" was that he wouldn't run again and in turn they let him finish out his term.

    Well he decided to file on the day of the deadline. The AR Democrats threw him off the ballot, leaving only our friend from the Green Party.

    Lovely isn't it?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Nathan, I have to admit, I'm surprised by a Green in AR, even in Little Rock. Although your story reminds me of when David Duke was running against Edwards in LA. A racist vs a felon. I was pissed that the Libertarians couldn't field a warm body to say "hey, I'm not a thief or a Klansman"

    He still would have lost, but probably would have gotten a decent percentage.

  • ||

    When, Lord?! When do I get to see the goddamn sailboat?

  • ||

    Although your story reminds me of when David Duke was running against Edwards in LA. A racist vs a felon. I was pissed that the Libertarians couldn't field a warm body to say "hey, I'm not a thief or a Klansman"



    BakedPenguin, that couldn't happen. You see, Duke and Edwards finished in the top 2 of Lousiana's open primary. What happened is that, roughly, the sane candidates split the normal vote, but the Klan and crook votes each only had one guy to vote for. The incumbent governor, Buddy Romer (IIRC) finished third. Duke and Edwards were the runoff.

    It's the same way that Le Pen made it through the first round in France, which uses a similar system as their former colony.

    On the one hand, the open primary did mean that a libertarian always could choose to run. But not in the runoff.

  • ||

    Buddy Roemer, actually. Messed up the spelling.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Nick,

    When you get over your claustophobia and buy a snorkel.

  • ||

    Roemer (a Republican) had massively pissed off the teachers union, which played a large role in his downfall. The teachers were glad to vote for the crook if it meant that they got theirs.

  • ana casuncad||

    At first, I couldn't believe it but when I read about "Arkansas is one of the few states whose constitutions still bar nonbelievers from holding government jobs or testifying in court", I started to.

    Can't imagine myself being one of those barred for this. It's still not a case is it? Anyway, it's always nice to know that there are places on earth like Arkansas. I'm from the Philippines, BTW.

    Ana

  • Jonas||

    I just want to say how much I love the Becket Fund.

  • Jeff P||

    I thought it was a picture of a priest's hand stroking the head of an alter boy...

  • ||

    "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."

    A "god" huh. So conceivably I could choose to worship the flying spaghetti monster and that would pass?

    And if not then who gets to define what is and isn't a "god"?

  • ||

    Warty? Is the 2nd one Cthulhu vomiting into a ball pit at Chucky Cheese?

  • Abdul||

    Romney tried to get ahead by dissing atheists? Outrageous! It's not like any politicians or pundits tried to get ahead by dissing his religion, or Obama's preacher, or Palin's fundamentalism, or Huckabee's. . .

  • Some Guy||

    Hell, I'd not be the least surprised if half the famous evangelists weren't closet atheists.

    If they actually believed in Hell, there's no way they'd act the way they do.

  • Todd Frye||

    The Tennessee state constitution does not bar atheists from public office. These two items are right near the top:

    Section 3. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Al-
    mighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no man can of
    right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain
    any minister against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.

    Section 4. 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.

  • Warty||

    I don't know what the second one is, SugarFree, but it turns me on just a smidgen. The first is Picard, of course, who should turn everyone on.

  • Zubon||

    I bet there are a great many civil servants and witnesses who would deny the being of Thor, Eris, and/or Crom. These people are failing to believe in whole pantheons of gods. Let's see some enforcement here.

  • Guy_Smiley||

    I say that the right to religion includes the right from religion necessarily.

    Of course, this implies that the right to life includes the right to die, which nobody seems to understand.

  • Abdul||

    this implies that the right to life includes the right to die, which nobody seems to understand.

    I understand. I keep trying to waive my right to die, and no one gets that either.

  • ||

    Wow, I think you might be on to something here dude!

    RT
    www.anonymity.eu.tc

  • ||

    Mr. Smiley, self ownership me not understand.

  • ktc2||

    This could get you out of jury duty though right?

  • ||

    ktc2,

    As would insisting on swearing on The Necronomicon.

  • ||

    I couldn't get elected without lying.

    That seems to be true regardless of your religious beliefs.

  • ||

    It seems to me that the problem is not the Belief in a Supreme Being but the doctrine of organised religions which appears to be of a low moral and ethical standard and more about politics, raking in the cash and the self aggrandisement of the hierarchy than about goodness.It is possible to believe in a Creator because the world is extraordinary but Genesis is clearly derived from the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Enuma Elish, Mesopotamian Myths which vastly predate the Bible and there is overwhelming proof that these are the source because of the thousands of points of comparison, yet these are about multiple Gods and do not include Jehovah or Allah. But don't believe me because I have written it, look it up,study the real historical provenance, not the spin, have a look at the Codex Siniaticus and the conclusions of Prof Tischendorf.Don't be a rubber stamp,look for yourself and then decide who you will employ and why.

  • LarryA||

    Too bad we can't just enforce the U.S. Constitution. From Article VI:

    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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