Above is a screenshot of North Carolina’a state constitution, article 6. Section 8 flat out says, “You can’t run for office because you’re an atheist!” Section 7 requires the individual to swear, “so help me God.”
And it’s not just North Carolina. The list on thehumanist.com also lists Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.
Tennessee, my old home state, even stated that an elected official must believe in both God’s existence and a “future state of rewards and punishments.” I seriously doubt that many public figures adhere to believing in eternal punishments these days (but few would say so publicly, even if their public actions say otherwise).
This isn’t fair and it’s completely unreasonable. The assumption appears to be that a public official is more likely to behave if he think’s God is going to hold him accountable after death. But why hasn’t belief in God stopped individuals from cheating on their spouses, commuting tax evasion, shooting their neighbors, or even raping innocent people? You can still believe in God and do terrible things. The same goes for atheists. Both believers and nonbelievers of God have the potential for good and evil.
And any church-going southern evangelical Christian will tell you that it’s not the belief in God that counts, it’s the relationship. But again, that has never completely deterred all sorts of evil.
These constitutions must be amended in this new millennium, in the next decade even. People need justice systems and political systems to be fair in order to respect them.