Monday, December 14, 2009

A Good Constitution is Hard to Find

Cecil Bothwell isn't just a name you'd expect for a character in a Flannery O'Connor story, it's the name of a man recently elected councilman in Asheville, North Carolina. Bothwell does not believe in god, and the rest writes itself almost as plainly and grimly as anything in O'Connor. Bothwell's election has

riled conservative advocates, who cite a little-noticed quirk in North Carolina’s Constitution that disqualifies officeholders “who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” The provision was included when the document was drafted in 1868 and was not revised when North Carolina amended its Constitution in 1971.
Apparently this "quirk" is not "little-noticed" enough -- however quirky, actual passages of text in state constitutions tend to get noticed sooner or later.

When things like this happen, it makes me wish that the framers of the US Constitution, good country people all, had possessed the foresight to ensure that religious tests are never permitted as qualifications for public office. On the off-chance I had forgotten or misremembered some or other little-noticed quirk of the US Constitution, I checked, and as if by a stroke of good fortune, I came across Article VI:
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 a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Remember your constitutions -- the rights you defend may be your own.

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