Richard Carroll, Hero to Atheists in Arkansas.

In Arkansas, atheism, Law on February 18, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Lots of people don’t realize this, but the Arkansas state constitution has specific wording in it to keep people who don’t believe in God out of public office (and from testifying as a witness in court). In Article 19, Section 1 it states:

“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.”

Well, if Richard Carroll of North Little Rock, a member of the Green Party and a Catholic gets his way, the constitution will be amended. He has introduced house resolution 1009: AMENDING THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION TO REPEAL THE PROHIBITION AGAINST AN ATHEIST HOLDING ANY OFFICE IN THE CIVIL DEPARTMENTS OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS OR TESTIFYING AS A WITNESS IN ANY COURT.

Of course, the U.S Supreme court ruled provisions such as the one in the 1874 Arkansas Constitution unconstitutional back in 1961 in a ruling in a Maryland case.

This Maryland religious test for public office unconstitutionally invades the appellant’s freedom of belief and religion and therefore cannot be enforced against him.

And Arkansas apparently isn’t alone in this, there are about a dozen other states with similar provisions lurking in the depths of their constitutions. Perhaps bringing to light these provisions might be a good tactic for atheists to let people know that we should be afforded the same religious protections as any other citizen.

  1. Great post — You’ve got me wondering about my own state’s laws…

    Although, if I can’t legally be a witness, would that be a way out of jury duty? (just kidding!)

    Seriously though, this is the sort of thing that should be brought to our attention. I’ve enjoyed stopping by your blog from time to time. I hope you don’t mind that I started following it through Networked Blogs.

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