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Atheists and Public Office

The vast majority of believing Americans and even some atheists are a bit too complacent about the remnants (and new intrusions) of religion into the public sphere. No atheist is safe from the ire of religious conservatives so long as unjust laws remain on the books... even those found to be unconstitutional.

As we saw with the Dover trial, there will always be someone looking to revive old issues that have already been decided in the slim hope that they will be able to overturn policies of fairness that prevent them from discriminating against those they despise. And do not be fooled by their claims to the contrary; they do despise atheists.

A case in point is a recent story out of North Carolina where the citizens of Asheville duly elected an atheist to the city council--and I am extremely proud of the citizens of Asheville for doing it--but now his opponents wish to challenge his election in court, saying that he can't be sworn into office because the North Carolina constitution requires a belief in god, explicitly.

It doesn't matter to these people that the Supreme Court ruled these provisions unconstitutional, superceded by Article VI that forbids religious tests for office. It does not matter especially that they probably have little chance in court... they know this. Rather, they seek to make it that much harder for atheists to serve the public. Heaven forbid that they might be shown to be just as moral as believers (or more so) in the performance of their public duties.

It doesn't matter if they lose, it will still cost the city thousands in legal fees, and if they get a sympathetic judge to rule against them or have a wealthy backer, still more. This may be enough to discourage voters in struggling cities to not elect atheists in the future, fearful that doing so will force money to be paid to lawyers to defend their city official, rather than, say, beat cops.

It is a war of intimidation, nothing more.

I will not be intimidated, but unfortunately, for something like this, it's not only up to me.

But keep your eye on this guy from North Carolina, Cecil Bothwell, the man at the heart of this controversy. He was elected as an open atheist in North Carolina. That's really something.

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