Sunday, April 16, 2006

Tennessee's Second Class Citizens

I don't think anyone was surprised when a national survey pointed out that atheists are America's most distrusted minority. But really, we atheists, along with other minorities, shouldn't complain too much. After all, it's not like we don't enjoy equal rights and equal opportunities under America's laws. Right?

. In Tennessee, the state constitution prohibits anyone from holding public office that "denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments". This doesn't just discriminate against atheists. Also many eastern religions are banned from holding public offices.

And it doesn't stop there. It also dicriminates against clergy even in the religions it would allow:

Whereas ministers of the Gospels are by their profession, dedicated to the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospels or priest of any denomination whatever shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

Thus, to hold office in Tennessee, you must be a Christian or Muslim and not be a member of the clergy. I would say I expect a constitutional challange at some point, but given America's religiophobic attitude towards non-Christians, it's so rare that they would even get nominated by their parties that no challange to the law could foreseeably occur.

However, were there ever to be a constiutional challange of this law, I have a good feeling it would be found unconstitutional under the precedent set forth in Torcaso v. Watkins.

1 comment:

The Ridger, FCD said...

There probably won't be a challenge, because the law isn't in force. It's been overridden by the Constitution. It's still on the books - like many others - because it would be expensive and time-consuming to get it off.

Plus, of course, that it would be a circus in the Tennessee Legislature - which is enough of a circus already. As I know to my sorrow, being born and raised in Tennessee.

Of course, it would be an encouraging gesture towards equality. But we are talking about the Tennessee Legislature, so I wouldn't hold my breath.