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Monday, August 02, 2010

That's some sour irony right there.

So I'm surprised I hadn't heard about this previously, but it turns out that last December there was a discussion about whether a newly elected Asheville city councilman could be seated. The reason? He's an atheist:*

North Carolina's constitution is clear: politicians who deny the existence of God are barred from holding office.

Opponents of Cecil Bothwell are seizing on that law to argue he should not be seated as a City Council member today, even though federal courts have ruled religious tests for public office are unlawful under the U.S. Constitution.


Article 6, section 8 of the state constitution says: “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”


In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Maryland's requirement for officials to declare belief in God violated the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Additionally, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution says: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Now, given that this is such an old story, the controversy has been resolved and Bothwell has been seated. So what struck me about the story now? Yeah... just this:

“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. [emphasis added]

So, just to recap: a former president of a group formed to safeguard the rights of a disenfranchised minority is now saying that we should disenfranchise a minority. Granted, Edgerton is a tad... unusual... but it's still more than a bit striking.

I guess it just strikes me as a bit sad.

* In fairness, Bothwell seems to be inconsistent in his self-identification, sometimes calling himself a "post-theist," though he does assert that he does not believe in a deity. As such, I think it's safest to consider him as part of the "atheist, agnostic, and free-thinker" group even if his particular beliefs are somewhat unclear. Having said that, however, if the voters in Asheville chose him (and they did) I don't see that his religious views matter.

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Blogger Practicing Idealist said...

It IS sad.

Monday, August 02, 2010 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Cecil Bothwell said...

I used to self-label, to the extent that I used a label at all, as "post-theist" because I feel I grew up in a post-theist era: we no longer need God as an explanation for anything, and I don't think the question of God or gods existence is meaningful.

Nuance is lost in the media, of course, and I have now accepted the label "atheist." While that is linguistically accurate, the term does seem to carry some unhelpful baggage. Better, I think, is the label attached to me by a local political cartoonist, "The Village Atheist."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010 12:17:00 AM  

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