Many Push For Tennessee To Remove Anti-Atheist Article From State Constitution

| by Tony Tran
article imagearticle image

The constitution of the state of Tennessee has been criticized for its more outdated language that has recently come to light.

For one, the language reads plainly that atheists are not allowed to hold office in the state.

In Article IX, Section II of the volunteer state's constitution, it states the following: "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."

An attorney of constitutional law, Dale Conder has commented on the matter, decrying the article as unconstitutional.

"Essentially what it's saying is that atheists can't hold office in the state of Tennessee," he told reporters. "In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court had a case of challenging a very similar provision in Maryland's constitution."

In fact, Tennessee and Maryland are not the only states to include such language. Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas also include the provision that bars atheists from holding office.

Still, Conder dispelled the hope that the constitution would be changed anytime soon.

"Some states carry these forward, and they're there," he told reporters. "They're unenforceable. They're unconstitutional, but they're there."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation -- a widely known atheist organization -- argues that even though these types of laws are not enforced, they "still suppress atheists," according to local station WBBJ 7.

"It is a relic of another age," said Andrew Seidel, a lawyer for the organization. "It is unconstitutional, and they absolutely should be removed because as long as they're there, it's a signal to people that atheists are less than full citizens in the state of Tennessee. "

Even several church leaders in the state have even come forward to state their disapproval of the article, saying that although it's unenforceable, its existence alone does not help anyone.

"I think we forfeit even being able to have a discussion about God with them if we're persecuting them because they don't already believe in God," pastor Paul Riddle said. "In the history of the church we've been discriminated against, and now that we might have a majority in a particular society, we can't turn around and become the persecutors."

The controversy over this article comes at the heels of a Tennessee lawmaker recently trying to pass a resolution that would say that all liberty comes from God, as well as legislation that would officially make the Holy Bible the state book of the volunteer state.

Source: WBBJ Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons