Atheists suffering from the ban on holding public office applied by Maryland and six other states say it’s time to get rid of such bans which they feel is discriminatory, offensive and unconstitutional.
Fifty-three years ago, an atheist called Roy Torcaso refused to declare that he believed in God in order to serve as a notary public in Maryland. His case found its way to the Supreme Court, and in 1961 the court ruled unanimously for Mr. Torcaso, saying they and the states could not just have a religious test on people.
The root to the ban is found in Maryland’s constitution, along with six other states (Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas), which all believe that a person to public office needs to be a believer in God.
Now, an increasing number of secular Americans believe that these bans must be removed, and such discrimination should end.
Todd Stiefel, the chairman and primary funder of the Openly Secular coalition, said: “If it was on the books that Jews couldn’t hold public office, or that African-Americans or women couldn’t vote, that would be a no-brainer. You’d have politicians falling all over themselves to try to get it repealed. Even if it was still unenforceable, it would still be disgraceful and be removed. So why are we different?”
Another group supporting the cause is Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Rob Boston, the Director of Communications said: “Right now we hear a lot of talk from conservative Christians about their being persecuted and their being forced to accommodate same-sex marriage. But there’s nothing in the state constitutions that targets Christians like these provisions do about nonbelievers.”
Fifty-three percent of Americans would not vote for a presidential candidate if they knew he was an atheist, according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. Pew also found out that half of americans wouldn’t accept a family member that was an atheist.
State senator Jamie B. Raskin, the Democratic majority whip, who is also a professor of constitutional law at American University, is finally listening to the cause. In an interview he said: “In the breathtaking pluralism of American religious and social life, politicians have to pay attention to secularists just the same as everybody else.” He added: “If a Mormon can run for president and Muslims can demand official school holidays, surely the secularists can ask the states for some basic constitutional manners.”
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