Remember Cecil Bothwell? He was an atheist who ran for public office in Asheville, NC. He wanted to become a member of the City Council.
Last month, we learned he won his race and earned one of three open seats.
When I heard there was an update to the story, I figured it had to be something bad…
“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.
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.”
It’s true — There are several state constitutions which hold such provisions: Arkansas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and North Carolina.
But none of these laws are truly enforceable. They’re all (obviously) unconstitutional.
Edgerton may not even be the bad guy here. He’s just pointing out what the state law says:
“If they go ahead, then the city of Asheville and the board of elections could be liable for a lawsuit,” Edgerton said.
Maybe someone filing a lawsuit would be a good thing. Let someone fight over the law. Bothwell’s side should win the case (and I would think he’d have pro bono help from a group like the ACLU).
Furthermore, a lawsuit like this would expose the open discrimination that still exists against atheists and educate people that atheists can be good public servants for all people.
(Thanks to Brian and Deanna for the link)