Atheist and want to hold Public Office? GO FOR IT!

Fortney Hillman "Pete" Stark, Jr. (born November 11, 1931) is an American politician from the state of California. A Democrat, he has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1973 (37 years), currently representing California's 13th congressional district in southwestern Alameda County. Currently he is the sixth most senior Representative as well as 8th most senior member of Congress.


United States Constitution
Article VI
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
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.

Why is this part of the Constitution?
Why did the Founding Father’s have this as part of the Constitution?
The answer is very simple:
George Santayan’s famous quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” was published in 1905.* The Founding Fathers were well ahead of their time but they knew their history.
Sadly many today do not wish to study history or learn from it’s lessons. These are the lessons of mankind. Our successes, achievements, follies and failures. The good, the bad and yes, the ugly.
At first the United States was organized as a Confederation. The result was a weak Federal government. While there were some productive measures taken, overall the “Confederation” form of government was not working. A stronger form of government was needed by the young country.

The country needed a government that could guarantee stability. “On the same sheet of music.“ Some issues the country was facing were: order, property rights, lack of economic stability, state taxes and problems with foreign trade.

Then there was Shays’ Rebellion. The country was for the lack of a better term, in a “recession.” In New England it was worse. High prices, high taxes and veterans who’d never been paid. Many feared debtors prison, losing all they had and forced to become tenant farmers.

In short, a new form of Government was needed. This lead to the Continental Congress convening and writing the Constitution completed in September 1787. By July 1788 New Hampshire ratified the US Constitution which created the new government and the scheduling of an election. In March 1789 the 1st Congress was held and Washington was inaugurated that April.

Ok. So what does this have to do with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the Founding Father’s were closer historically to the rule of countries by Kings and Queens. Where the Pope or a religious leader could bring a country to its knees by a papal decree. Or where wars could be started for no other reason then for personal glory of the crown.
The Founding Father’s knew and understood that they had the ability to free themselves and the people of the United States from such tyranny. They were also well aware of the war between Catholics and Protestants.

And the uses and abuses of Religious Tests that had been applied in England and other countries.
Remember the story of the Pilgrims? Why they left England and eventually settled in America? For Religious Freedom. They were escaping from a national religion, the Church of England.
And then there is the subject of Churches subjecting people to taxes.

So the Founding Father’s made sure that no religion or church enjoyed any advantages or disadvantages because of an established “National” religion. Religion had no relevance in a person’s citizenship, the right to vote or hold office and therefore no political privilege or discrimination.

This is potent stuff. This is the stuff that makes religions and its leaders back off. The “teeth” that religion and religious leaders had were pulled out. In other words, religion could not be used against the United States as a weapon or a tool for extortion or blackmail.

You see, in the 1600’s and the 1700’s in England, they had “Religious Tests” to exclude anyone who wasn’t a member of the Church of England from holding office. In other words if you were Catholic, nonconforming Protestants or Jewish, you were not going to hold office.

Now, just how long do you think it would take for someone like Mike Huckabee or Mit Romney to start screaming bloody murder if they had to take such an oath? Or were denied office? Or not even allowed to run for an office? These are two American politicians who are very religious and let you know they are. They attempted to run for President representing the Republican Party in the 2008 elections but lost to John McCain. McCain lost to Obama.

There are six states: Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas that have laws on their books that essentially do no allow atheists to hold office.
Nice try guys.
No go.
Constitution of the United States says there isn’t a religious test.
And, as we all know from our government classes, the US Constitution cannot be superseded by a State’s Constitution.

And the icing on the cake is the case of, Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961) was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court reaffirmed that the US Constitution prohibits States and the Federal Government from requiring any kind of religious test for public office.

So the next time some yahoo whose been listening too much to “talk radio” or some talking head on “Fox,” just remember that the Founding Father’s had their heads on straight. They foresaw that one day, some religious half wit would try to use religion to force their way of life on you and they created the “No Religious Test” clause of Article VI.

*George Santayana, The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress: Reason in Common Sense, Chapter XII, "Flux and Constancy in Human Nature"

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