Laws and other rules against atheists and agnostics

Laws and other rules against atheists and agnostics


It should be noted that in some cases, the constitutionality of these statutes may have yet to be tested. Regardless, the citations herein clearly show the extent to which non-theists are un-ambiguously, actively and aggressively discriminated against.

Organizations

  • Atheists cannot be Boy Scouts
  • Freemasons require that members "believe in a Supreme Being."
  • The Fraternal Order of Eagles requires that members believe in god.

United States

Arkansas

  • Arkansas Constitution bans atheists from holding office or being a witness in court.
    Constitution Of The State Of Arkansas Of 1874.

    Article 19. Miscellaneous Provisions. § 1. Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness.
    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.

Maryland

  • Unable to hold public office in Maryland
    Article 37 of the Declaration of Rights of the Maryland Constitution 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; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.

Massachusetts

  • Take the lord's name in vain? Criticize religion? Spend up to a year in jail.
PART IV. CRIMES, PUNISHMENTS AND PROCEEDINGS IN CRIMINAL CASES

TITLE I. CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS CHAPTER 272. CRIMES AGAINST CHASTITY, MORALITY, DECENCY AND GOOD ORDER Chapter 272: Section 36. Blasphemy Section 36. Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.
  • Special protections for theists that are not afforded to atheists
    Massachusetts' State Constitution, Article 3 "Any every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law."

Mississippi

  • No atheists can hold any office in the state of MS
    Mississippi State Constitution: No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.

North Carolina

  • Unable to hold public office in North Carolina
    North Carolina State Constitution, Article VI, Section 8:

    Sec. 8. Disqualifications for office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office:
    First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

Pennsylvania

  • Specific protections for religious people
    "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."

South Carolina

  • Unable to hold public office in South Carolina
          South Carolina State Constitution, Article VI, Section 2: No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.

In 1993, Herb Silverman, a college professor, along with the ACLU brought forward a case of discrimination. Professor Silverman was rejected from being a notary public. It took 4 years for the case to be decided and had to go to the State Supreme Court. In 1997, the South Carolina State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the law was unconstitutional.

Tennessee

  • Unable to hold public office in Tennessee

    The Tennessee Constitution, Article IX, Section 2 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.

Texas

  • Unable to hold public office in Texas

    The Texas Constitution, Article I, 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.
     

Note

All laws against atheists holding office were ruled unconstitutional and unenforceable by the 1961 Supreme Court case Torcaso v. Watkins on a first amendment basis.

Last updated by Nelson Mar 4, 2009.

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