Saturday, January 06, 2007

State Constitutional Mandates on Religion

Keeping the previous post in mind I have to ask: in this supposedly free country where we so proudly proclaim our commitment to both free speech and protecting the rights of all minorities, why is it that this man:
The Reverend Fred Waldron Phelps Sr. of the aforementioned Westboro Baptist Church, may seek to hold public office but in at least eight states an Atheist may not?

Arkansas, Texas, Massachussetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Maryland all have state constitutions containing language expressly barring non-theists from holding public office. Some contain language also barring many non-Christians of other faiths.

In a few states whose constitutions include the text of the oath of office, the candidate must swear an oath to God. Such an oath would prevent ethical non-theists from taking office. Of course, non-ethical non-theists would have no problems with such an oath.

However, now that these Constitutions include discriminatory and intolerant language, the states are probably stuck with it. The passages will forever affirm that people who follow some minority religions were considered unreliable second- class citizens of questionable morality -- at least at the time that the state constitutions were written. They could only be removed through constitutional change; this requires at least a majority vote of the citizens of the state. With the present political leadership and religious climate towards non-theists in many of these states, this is simply not going to happen.

Kind of blows the equality and freedom image to bits doesn't it? I'll allow that at least some of these states would likely not attempt to enforce this issue but anyone want to place bets on South Carolina not using every weapon at their disposal to club any non-Christians over the head?

More to the point, I think it highlights a larger issue. The fact that a non-Christian, Atheist or Agnostic would not stand a snowball's chance in hell of being elected in most states. Don't even try it in a Red state unless you enjoy hate mail and death threats. Think that's an exaggeration? Try it and let me know how it works out for you, I dare you.


pesu said...

How can the hate mongering toward an identifiable group be OK in any society? Just because the devious deeds are done under the "convinience flag" of a religion should not matter. Even if they should be allowed to do so because of the rights quaranteed under the Constitution, they should not be allowed to do so with the support of the taxpayer's money. You do grant some sort of tax freedom for the religious institutions, don't you? If you so desire, spread the hatret but don't forget to pay the bills! Fully!

Women on the Verge said...

Reason enough why I'll deal with the snow in order to stay in true blue New York.

Not Your Mama said...

Yes, churches operate tax-free. Of course for a few dollars almost anyone can become an "ordained minister" of any sort of church they can think up.

WotV, I hear you. Better half and I are both lifelong westerners and HATE the cold but getting to the point we're considering ANYWHERE BLUE. Voting record will be our first consideration when we finally get ready to move. That eliminates at least 40 or so states.

pesu said...

You might have to do better than that, Mama, if what I think is true. Somewhere, not a long ago, I read a study about America becoming totally devided into the red and blue and differently than before. The author claims, that it's not a state based phenomenom any more but it goes down into a community level. In other words, people are willing to isolate themselves from the "other" guys by only reading certain papers, listening certain radio stations, associating with like minded people and living in the same communities with them. Based on your comments, the author might be right.

beepbeepitsme said...

It's pretty sad that everything nearly everyone says in the states, or so it seems to me, has to be punctuated with god's approval. And many americans call muslims nutz because they are always going on about allah?

In the states, a goal is kicked and everyone thanks gawd. Someone blows their nose and thanks gawd for the supply of soft tissues. Wanna sell something? Suggest that gawd recommends the product. It seems like complete insanity to me.

Not Your Mama said...

Pesu: truth there. I lived in California for 20 years and contrary to popular myth it is NOT a "wildly liberal" state. The further you get from the coast the more you find yourself in jesusland. Inside the coastal belt you find red holdouts also but these are more related to wealthy people not wanting to pay taxes or look at less-than-wealthy people than to do with San Diego which is famed for keeping out "undesirables".

Same could be said of Oregon and Washington, along the coast mostly liberal to moderate, move inland and you're back in jesusland.

Texas is the heart of redneck jesusland but then there's Austin, an oasis of sanity.

beepbeepitsme: more on Jesus-wants-you-to-buy-this later ;).

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