Saturday, 6 December 2003

Discrimination against atheists in the Tennessee Constitution

Mike Hollihan at Half-Bakered has a post on discriminiation against atheists in the Tennessee Constitution. The relevant paragraph is Article IX, Section 2, which reads

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.

Earlier, however, in Article I, Section 4, the Tennessee Constitution declares

That no political or religious test, other than an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, shall never be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this State.

Now how exactly can requiring that someone not deny the existence of God, or “future state of rewards and punishments,” not amount to a religious test? It would seem to even exclude Christian Universalists, who hold that everyone will be saved and no one will go to Hell.

And I wonder how broad the phrase “any office in the civil department of this State” is supposed to be. Are atheists not allowed to be Tennessee State Troopers?