Goodbye to Roy Torcaso June 12, 2007

Goodbye to Roy Torcaso

While I’m on the AU blog, here’s one more posting. A sadder one.

Rob Boston tells the story:

More than 40 years ago, Roy Torcaso was appointed a notary public in Maryland. When it came time for the swearing in, Torcaso refused to take the oath because it contained a reference to God. Torcaso, an atheist, said that would violate his freedom of conscience.

Maryland officials pointed to their state’s Constitution, which said public officials had to declare a belief in God.

Torcaso sued and won in a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court.

Torcaso passed away June 9 at the age of 96.

As Rob mentions, Torcaso shows you the difference one person can make. And while seven states still have the “belief in God” clause in their constitutions, they’re pretty meaningless thanks to cases like Torcaso’s.

One more thing that stands out about his case. Time magazine wrote about Torcaso in 1961 after the unanimous decision was announced. They write this about the two year time period that his application was denied:

[Torcaso] has got three antagonistic phone calls—one calling him a “dirty Communist,” another an “atheistic bum.” the third insulting his wife.

In the AU posting, Rob also mentions the case of Herb Silverman, whom I’ve mentioned on this blog before.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Rob Boston, Roy Torcaso, notary public, Maryland, God, Supreme Court, Herb Silverman, Time, Communist[/tags]

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  • The following concise statement by Justice Hugo Black is excerpted from his opinion in Torcaso v. Watkins. Writing for a unanimous Court, Black said :

    We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person “to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.” Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.

    This quote ought to be required reading for all elected officials and political candidates.

  • great post – brings a tear to my old Irish eyes. I’ll have to post something on him myself.