How should we report about Justin Bieber, Kanye West and other cases of well-known personalities who are considering the Christian faith?
The U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed equality for all citizens long ago, but secularists ask constitutions to be changed because atheists are portrayed as “second-class citizens”.
Atheist citizens in the USA are asking several states to modify articles in their constitutions which bar non-believers from access to public office.
Atheists have pointed lately to Tennessee’s Constitution, which says:
Article 9, Section 2: No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.
ATHEISTS SEE THEMSELVES AS “SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS”
Although these legal instructions are not applied anymore, groups like “Openly Secular” now advocate for their removal because they're demeaning and can be used as political fodder, according to Todd Stiefel, chairman of the organisation.
“They basically tell people that they're second-class citizens in their state (…) These are right there in the laws for everybody to read that our government doesn't like you.”
SUPREME COURT GUARANTEED RIGHTS FOR EVERYONE DECADES AGO
Activists point out that these legal provisions are “old and unconstitutional” because the US Supreme Court made it clear in 1961 that states and the federal government are not allowed to require any kind of religious test for eligibility to hold office.
In addition to Tennessee, a “Openly Secular” report also called for changes to the provisions in the Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas constitutions for banning secular residents from certain civic roles such as serving on a jury, holding office and testifying in court.
“Their presence in the constitution is troubling because it is a symbolic form of discrimination”, American Civil Liberties Union’s Weinberg said.
POLITICIANS NOT INTERESTED IN CHANGES
Will these old-fashioned legal texts be changed? Experts think politicians have other priorities.
“Whether you're Democrat or Republican, you don't want conservative Christians to be mad at you for removing religious language from your state constitution or laws”, reflected Hudnut-Beumler, an American religious history professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School. “So they have very little interest in striking down what appears to be God-friendly laws.”
MINISTERS, ALSO EXCLUDED
Interestingly, the Tennessee constitution not only bars non-believers from administration, it even does so with Christian ministers:
Article 9, Section 1: Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.