Monday, December 14, 2009

An Open and Shut Case

The religious types in Ashevile, North Carolina are raising a ruckus over a matter that they really can't expect to win. Recently an atheist (the horror) was elected to the Asheville city council, and people are claiming that he is barred from serving by the North Carolina constitution.

The specific section of the North Carolina constitution that they are referring to is Article 6, section 8 which is as follows:
The following persons shall be disqualified for office:
First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.
Second, with respect to any office that is filled by election by the people, any person who is not qualified to vote in an election for that office.
Third, any person who has been adjudged guilty of treason or any other felony against this State or the United States, or any person who has been adjudged guilty of a felony in another state that also would be a felony if it had been committed in this State, or any person who has been adjudged guilty of corruption or malpractice in any office, or any person who has been removed by impeachment from any office, and who has not been restored to the rights of citizenship in the manner prescribed by law.
Naturally, it is the first of those conditions that is being cited in this case.

The answer to this claim that an atheist is ineligible to serve comes in two parts and comes straight from the grand old US constitution.

First we have Article VI, Section 3 that states
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.
It is pretty clear that under this section that requiring people to believe in any god to be able to get a job in any level of government, elected or otherwise, is not on.

So now we have to ask, given directly contradicting clauses between the US and North Carolina constitutions, who wins. The answer is again in the US constitution. Article VI, Section 2 states
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
Clearly, this states that the US Constitution beats the North Carolina Constitution.

And so it is now, and has been for many years (decades even), clear that yes an atheist can be an elected official (regardless of what a pesky state constitution might say), and so all that is left is to say "Well done, Cecil Bothwell, and make sure you do a good job."

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