Imagine you want to run for public office. Maybe the state senator for your district just went to jail for corruption charges, or has resigned amidst a scandal. Or maybe you are just sick and tired of listening to the incumbent gas-bag who always votes party line and refuses to collaborate with his or her counterparts in the legislature.
You have an impressive CV – B.S. and Masters of Science degree, decades of business experience, student government positions, volunteer work. Your platform? You are pro-choice, support paycheck equality, increasing education funding, investing in infrastructure and emerging markets, diversifying energy supply, protecting the environment, push for Medicaid and Medicare reform, preventing religious instruction in public schools, protecting religious freedom & etcetera. You get all the necessary signatures, file all the necessary papers, build a website, rent a headquarters, shake a zillion hands, kiss a thousand fat-cheeked babies and……
But WAIT! You are an atheist, meaning you do not acknowledge the existence of a god.
And then someone files a lawsuit to block your candidacy on the grounds you do not believe in their god. The Constitution of the United States of America states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” The Supreme Court of the United States of America also reaffirmed in Torasko v. Watkins that the states cannot require a person “to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.”
But that may not matter. Your candidacy could be rejected or your appointment or election to public office revoked. And then could follow the court battles.
It’s a simple equation. While laws affirming religios tests exist in state constitutions and laws, the subversion of atheists’ rights prevails. Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas all prohibit atheists from holding public office. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.
We are not free.