Are Atheists Permitted to Hold Public Office in Every U.S. State?

Seven U.S. states -- Maryland, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas -- have clauses in their state constitutions that prohibit people who do not believe in God from holding public office. In various legal challenges, state and federal courts have ruled that there can be no religious test for holding public office and that the practice is unconstitutional and discriminatory, but none of the states has demonstrated the political will to remove those lines from their state constitutions.

It says so in the Constitution:

  • In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Roy Torcaso, who refused to say that he believed in God in order to serve as a notary public in Maryland, and ruled in his favor.
  • State bans have rarely been invoked since 1992, when Herb Silverman was denied a position as a notary public in South Carolina. He prevailed in a 1997 decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
  • Article VI, paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
More Info: The New York Times

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