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7 US States Require Belief in God as a Qualification for Public Office

I was watching Rachel Maddow last night and she had a segment about seven US states which have Constitutional provisions requiring a belief in God as a Qualification for public office. I was shocked. I started doing some research. The states are: North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

At first I thought this was no big deal because any such clauses in a State Constitution will be overridden by the US Constitution:

US Constitution Article VI Clause 3

"... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

However, after going through and reading each of the State Constitutional clauses stipulating the "religious" qualifications for public office... I'm a little worried.

Each of the State clauses for disqualification from public office do not discuss religion as a disqualification. They merely discuss lack of belief as a disqualifier. I think it is absolutely wrong to deny access to public office because someone is an atheist but I think the religion/belief separation is a legitimate distinction. We hear it from all sorts of people on a regular basis. "I'm spiritual, not religious." While it shouldn't be a disqualifier it looks as though there may be a legal argument which can uphold these clauses. Texas and Maryland explicitly contrast the ideas of religion and belief which is where I think the strongest arguments are to be found. By explicitly agreeing with the US Constitution on the issue and then stating a separate belief issue then they might legally be able to uphold these as Law.

This could get ugly. Rachel Maddow's segment discussed an atheist man who has just be placed in a public office and enraged anti-atheist people are gearing up for a lawsuit to remove him from office. I figured this wouldn't be a big deal because they were obviously in the wrong according to the Constitution... but I no longer think that. I think these State Constitutions have a very good legal (but not ethical) argument for upholding their discriminatory clauses. Hopefully the anti-discriminatory laws will be able to triumph here. *fingers crossed*

North Carolina
Article 6 Section 8

"Disqualifications of office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."

South Carolina

Article 4 Section 2

"No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being; ..."


Article 37 (pdf)

"That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God;"


Article 1 Section 4

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."


Article 19 Section 1

No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.


Article 14 Section 265

"No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state."


Article 9 Section 2 (pdf)

"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."

Interestingly though, the Tennessee Constitution also disqualifies Priests and Ministers from serving specifically in the Legislature while allowing service in the Executive:
Article 9 Section 1 (pdf)

"Whereas ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature."


Pennsylvania also mentions God in their discussion of disqualifications, but only holds that having a belief in God cannot be used against you.
Article 1 Section 4

"No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth."

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