Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

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Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Sun Apr 17, 2011 4:12 am

ASHEVILLE — North Carolina's constitution is clear: politicians who deny the existence of God are barred from holding office.

Opponents of Cecil Bothwell are seizing on that law to argue he should not be seated as a City Council member today, even though federal courts have ruled religious tests for public office are unlawful under the U.S. Constitution.

Voters elected the writer and builder to the council last month.

“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,” said H.K. Edgerton, a former Asheville NAACP president.

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.”

Rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution trump the restriction in the state constitution, said Bob Orr, executive director of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law.

“I think there's any number of federal cases that would view this as an imposition of a religious qualification and violate separation of church and state,” said Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice.

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Maryland's requirement for officials to declare belief in God violated the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Additionally, 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.”

Bothwell's campaign treasurer, Jake Quinn, said everyone should be entitled to their own beliefs.

“The test occurred on (Nov. 3),” Quinn said. “It was called an election.”

Fliers mailed before the election criticized Bothwell over his atheism and his book, “The Prince of War,” which denounces evangelist and Montreat resident the Rev. Billy Graham for pushing what Bothwell says is a theocratic agenda.

Now, denizens of Internet message boards and the blogosphere are arguing over whether he can legally serve.

Edgerton said City Council should hold off swearing Bothwell into office until a constitutional question can be resolved.

“If they go ahead, then the city of Asheville and the board of elections could be liable for a lawsuit,” said Edgerton, who is known for promoting “Southern heritage” by standing on streets decked out in a Confederate soldier's uniform and holding a Confederate flag.

Bothwell didn't respond Monday to requests for an interview, but he wrote in an e-mail to the Citizen-Times: “I am not ‘an avowed atheist.'”

He has told the Citizen-Times in the past he believes in the Golden Rule, not a deity.

Bothwell labels himself an atheist on his MySpace page, though he wrote in an online post last week on fellow incoming councilman Gordon Smith's blog, Scrutiny Hooligans, that he prefers the term “post-theist.”

Bothwell added: “I don't ‘deny the being of Almighty God;' I simply consider the question of denial or acceptance irrelevant.

“Could make for a very interesting court case, seems to me.”

http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20091208/NEWS01/912080327/Critics-Cecil-Bothwell-cite-N-C-bar-atheists
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by TexasBlue on Sun Apr 17, 2011 7:50 am

They got a case here.


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“I’m not in favor of fairness. I’m in favor of freedom, and freedom is not fairness. Fairness means somebody has to decide what’s fair.” - Milton Friedman
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by kronos on Sun Apr 17, 2011 10:42 am

Sounds like NC has an unconstitutional state constitution.

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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by dblboggie on Sun Apr 17, 2011 5:03 pm

kronos wrote:Sounds like NC has an unconstitutional state constitution.

It does, without question. The Constitutional cite in the article above is incomplete, and when you read the entire relevant portion, it is even more clear that NC's constitution is out of line.

Here's the full cite:

Article VI: (3rd para) The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

It is quite clear that this prohibition extends beyond federal positions and applies with equal force to all state offices.
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by TexasBlue on Sun Apr 17, 2011 5:06 pm

dblboggie wrote:It is quite clear that this prohibition extends beyond federal positions and applies with equal force to all state offices.

State law nor state constitutions can trump federal law nor the US constitution.
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Mon Apr 18, 2011 3:53 pm

dblboggie wrote:
kronos wrote:Sounds like NC has an unconstitutional state constitution.

It does, without question. The Constitutional cite in the article above is incomplete, and when you read the entire relevant portion, it is even more clear that NC's constitution is out of line.

Here's the full cite:

Article VI: (3rd para) The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

It is quite clear that this prohibition extends beyond federal positions and applies with equal force to all state offices.
As this has been in their state Constitution for the best part of 150 years, makes you wonder why it is becoming an issue now.
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by TexasBlue on Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:05 pm

The_Amber_Spyglass wrote:As this has been in their state Constitution for the best part of 150 years, makes you wonder why it is becoming an issue now.

No law can be overturned until it's brought to a suit with the relevant court(s).
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:26 pm

Makes sense if no open atheist had ever been in that position, or if they chose to keep their mouth shut and pretended to believe.
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by TexasBlue on Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:35 pm

The_Amber_Spyglass wrote:Makes sense if no open atheist had ever been in that position, or if they chose to keep their mouth shut and pretended to believe.

There's always the chance that nobody paid attention to that clause either (didn't know it was there).
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by dblboggie on Mon Apr 18, 2011 7:30 pm

You'd be amazed at the number of arcane and completely outdated laws that are still on the books of counties, cities and towns around this country. Some of them are truly hysterical.
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Tue Apr 19, 2011 12:01 pm

Yeah, we started a thread on that last year.

Whereas most of the laws in the thread above are bizarre, how many are there that are discriminatory in this fashion?
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Re: Critics of Cecil Bothwell cite N.C. bar to atheists

Post by dblboggie on Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:57 pm

The_Amber_Spyglass wrote:Yeah, we started a thread on that last year.

Whereas most of the laws in the thread above are bizarre, how many are there that are discriminatory in this fashion?

It's hard to say, but it's quite likely there are more than a few that are discriminatory on the basis of race, religion and sex.

There were even some in that earlier thread that were discriminatory against American Indians, women and those not Christian (no work on Sunday).

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