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Cecil Bothwell on Atheists Talk

Note: Amanda Knief was originally scheduled to be on the air today, but she used up her voice on the Secular Student Alliance conference and got laryngitis. Cecil Bothwell kindly stepped in at the last minute.

Every once in a while, someone will point to the fact that a large number of states in the U.S. still have laws on the books to prevent atheists from holding political office. Then someone else will inevitably point out that these laws have been found to be unconstitutional, so we don’t need to worry about them.

This Sunday’s guest today may have a different opinion. When Cecil Bothwell was elected to the Asheville, NC city council, he faced a challenge based in North Carolina’s religious test. Today he joins us to talk about that, about how North Carolina’s current political situation is influenced by theists, and about his new novel, She Walks on Water.

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Comments

  1. gwen says

    I enjoyed the episode and will be getting both books listed here. Great job for such a short notice!

  2. Rieux says

    Good guest. In response to the “these laws have been found to be unconstitutional, so we don’t need to worry about them” rejoinder, it might be worthwhile to point out that anti-miscegenation laws were found unconstitutional in 1967 in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia. At that point, numerous states still had such laws in their state constitutions and/or statute books. Post-Loving, said laws were explicitly unconstitutional, so—following precisely the same logic—presumably those of us in interracial marriages didn’t “need to worry about them.”*

    …And yet thousands of people mounted a decades-long campaign to get anti-miscegenation provisions out of state law anyway. Shockingly, in that instance, even though Loving had been decided, people thought that bigotry codified into law was problematic.

    It took until 2000, when Alabama finally removed the anti-miscegenation policy from their state constitution, for the last Loving-invalidated law to bite the dust. Of course, taking as given the yawning “we don’t need to worry about that” apathy from certain parties, one wonders why anyone bothered.

    BTW, Torcaso v. Watkins, the Supreme Court decision that invalidated atheists-can’t-run-for-public-office laws nationwide, was decided in 1961—six years before Loving. The Maryland statute that the Torcaso Court invalidated is still on the books. So are (as Bothwell well knows) similar provisions, or even worse ones (like Arkansas’s), in several other states. Hey, apathetics: at what point are we allowed to think that’s a problem?

    (* Okay, I’m in an interracial marriage that began almost 40 years after Loving was decided, in a state in which interracial marriage was never illegal. Still, it’s harrowing to know that the differences in time and place wouldn’t have had to be that severe in order to put us on the wrong side of some very ugly laws.)

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