Some people in Asheville, North Carolina are up in arms about a man just elected to the city council. No he is not corrupt or an adulterer. Those are virtually qualifications in today’s politics. The problem is not what Cecil Bothwell is but what he is not: God-fearing. Opponents are opposing his election on the basis of a provision of the North Carolina Constitution that bars atheists from public office. One is the former head of the NAACP. It is clearly unconstitutional and would make for a wonderful (and educational) challenge for North Carolina.
H.K. Edgerton, a former Asheville NAACP president, does not appear disturbed about discriminating against people on the basis of faith as opposed to race: “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.”
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.”
We have previously seen candidates opposed for their belief in creationism (here) or their lack of belief in God (here). I am not sure why atheists are viewed as inherently disqualified. At least with an atheist, you know that he is not hoping for something better later. This is it. Indeed, Mr. Bothwell should have run on the slogan: “Vote for Me: This is All I Got.” If you do not believe in an afterlife, you really want to make this heaven on Earth. It is the same reason it may be an advantage to have pilots who are atheists: they have nothing to look forward to if they crash, here.
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution says: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The Supreme Court clearly ruled that such requirements are unconstitutional in Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961).
Bothwell acknowledges that he is an atheist on his MySpace page, though he wrote in an online post last week that he prefers the term “post-theist.” At the moment, many are trying to keep him a pre-council member.
For the full story, click here.