FOXNews Asks Whether Atheist Councilperson Should Step Down December 14, 2009

FOXNews Asks Whether Atheist Councilperson Should Step Down

Cecil Bothwell is the newly-elected city councilperson from Asheville, North Carolina. Because of an archaic law in the NC books, atheists aren’t allowed to hold public office in the state, even though this is completely illegal and wouldn’t hold up in court.

FOXNews Channel wants to know what you think:

Picture 1

At the moment, the “No” votes are winning, but not by a huge margin. Might as well nudge it in the right direction

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Laws should be done to serve the public, not the other way around. Especially when it’s of such bigotry that could only be thought of centuries ago.

    Yet, people who watch Fox News aren’t able to reason enough to get to that conclusion.

  • Grook

    The sad thing is that the only reason “No” is winning at all is that PZ & co. hit this poll earlier today. It was skewed far in favor of “Yes” before that.

  • Tony

    Slightly disingenuous of Faux News to put in two “No” options so that if it doesn’t go their way they can simply use only one of the “no” options when reporting the poll.

    I wonder if the middle option will be the one they cite.

  • The comments are stunning. It’s shocking that some people STILL don’t know the origins of Christmas! And, those people are the smart ones.

    I’m so happy you have to register to comment on that story. I really don’t need any more burning crosses on my lawn – my fire extinguisher bill is getting a little out of hand.

  • Where’s the “The law is unconstitutional, so it’s irrelevant” option?

  • Brian Westley

    There really isn’t a right direction, since none of the answers are correct. Article 6 of the US constitution forbids religious tests for public office, so this part of the NC constitution is null and void.

  • alex

    I agree with Kaessa. It is 2009 (about to turn 2010), but that has nothing to do with it. NC’s constitution is in conflict with US constitution. Guess who wins.

    Oh, and yes, it is appalling to see all those ridiculous comments like “if he doesn’t like the law, he can get the hell out”. Kind of ironic, too.

  • Jonas

    Maybe. I can’t say that religion – or lack of it – should deter fitness for public office because it **opens the door to all sorts of beliefs.**

    Interesting defn. of Maybe. Religious Tolerance might lead to the belief pediophilia is ok, murder, cheating on taxes. … (anything else offensive)

    A few comments on the inappropriateness of this law: It’s 140 years Old., Younger than the
    US Constitution, which rules it unconsitutional.

  • Tom Woolf

    The ridiculous part of the poll is that it is NOT the law. Yes, it is part of the NC Constitution, but those types of restrictions have been overturned by the US Supreme Court. I mean, I can have a note on my deed that states the buyer of my house can only sell to whites, but just because it is on the deed does not make it enforceable.

    Why am I even getting upset – it is Faux News, after all.

  • Jeff B

    time to stand up boys and girls. If by now you are not an active member of a humanist/atheist/agnostic group in your community…then…

  • I’m with Kaessa! Even the “yes” option is worded so I don’t want to vote for it (though I will)!

  • JD

    Given the poor showing of “yes”, I think it’s more likely that Fox commentators may well just ignore the poll because it didn’t go the way the would prefer.

    It’s pretty convenient that the poll doesn’t say that the US constitution wins over a state constitution.

  • oops, and I misread the poll above. Good thing I realized it before I actually voted. Disregard the second half of my last comment, please! :S 🙂

  • Liudvikas

    They forgot one option:
    “No, USA constitution trumps states constitution, bitches, so suck on it”

  • Why don’t the voters for option 1 “Yes. The law may be inappropriate, but if it’s in their constitution, it IS law. Step aside, councilman.” realise that the law is created and modified by the representatives of the people for the people and not conjured from some perfect godlike being. The law can be wrong.

  • Miko

    No, the option they forgot is:

    No, the law is irrelevant, since, in the words of Thoreau, “Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.”

  • keddaw

    Until the NC Supreme Court (or US Supreme Court) rules this law is unconstitutional then it is not for legal experts like the people on this site to determine that fact, however obvious it may be.

    Unless you vote YES then you are saying all laws are subject to your personal feelings and should only be obeyed if you think they are valid. Sorry, but anarchy lies that way. The law is the law, even the unfair ones, until a higher court says otherwise or a legislative body votes to repeal it.

    While someone usually has to take a stance against an unfair law (Rosa Parks or Cecil Bothwell in this case) what they do is technically illegal and they often have to go to court to prove the law is wrong not them. We cannot judge that as we are not legal experts or sitting judges and don’t have all the evidence (although how much you need for this case is negligible.)

  • Eupraxsophy

    This looks like a job for the FFRF and ACLU.
    Clearly a violation of the seperation of church and state. All I can say is; “Give it to them Dan Barker!” Then again maybe all the religious organizations in North Carolina can start paying back all the taxes that are due for the past 140 years if they don’t what a seperation of church and state. Thus loosing their tax exempt status.

  • Liudvikas

    keddaw, let me present you the evidence:
    1. “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” -USA constitution

    It sounds clear to me.

  • keddaw: 1961. Torcaso v Watkins. Language such as the language in the North Carolina constitution is a violation of the first and fourteenth amendments and is invalid.

  • keddaw

    @Liudvikas and MikeTheInfidel

    I entirely agree this is unconstitutional and should be taken off all constitutions asap and would never hold up in court.

    However, until it is ruled on (there is no ruling on belief in God being a religious test afaik, which it technically isn’t…) then it is still law. Also, the constitutional problem being ruled on was whether there was an oath required to anything other than the constitution, a belief in God in no way constitutes an oath to do what that God may or may not want.

  • keddaw

    Unless you vote YES then you are saying all laws are subject to your personal feelings and should only be obeyed if you think they are valid.

    I think that that is essentially the case. The unstated assumption that you are making is that a law that I believe to be invalid could be ignored without consequence. It is the consequences of breaking a law that give it power. If I believe a law is invalid for whatever reason, and I act on that belief by breaking that law, then I must deal with the consequences if and when I am proven wrong. I am not given a pass just because I thought the law was invalid. In that sense, breaking a law because I think it’s invalid is no different than breaking a law because I am drunk. The only true difference is if I’m proven right about the law being unjust. Only then are the consequences waived leaving me free to continue. So yeah, I think all laws are subject to my personal feelings and should only be obeyed if I think they are valid. However, I don’t think that absolves me of any responsibility if I turn out to be wrong.

  • keddaw,

    This issue was settled in 1961. The US supreme court struck down the Maryland law, and by extension all of the others. When the supreme court or other court strikes down a law, the law doesn’t disappear from the books. It just becomes unenforceable. Only the legislative branch of the government can remove the laws.

    Also, if the supreme court rules on one law or case, they don’t have to rule on all of the other cases that are similar. In this case, the overturn of the Maryland law, overturned the North Carolina law, although no one ever brought a case against the North Carolina law specifically.

    I think I understand your point, which is unjust laws are still laws. I do not subscribe to that point of view. But neither of our positions is relevant to the issue at hand. These articles are not unjust laws, because they are not laws. These articles haven’t been enforceable laws since Kennedy was president.

  • keddaw


    It not being my country I cannot claim to be an expert on constitutional matters, but in this instance (okay it gets pedantic but it’s what the other side will play) the Article VI was never ruled upon, instead the 1961 Maryland case being decided upon the 1st and 14th Amendments.

    This case is somewhat different as it refers to a belief in a God, no oath to that God, no specific religion required therefore no establishment clause violation (not exactly anyway). It is completely unconstitutional but the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on it as I don’t think the Maryland Constitution and the NC one are directly comparable, identical might be a better word.

    Hope I’m wrong and the lowest level judge that sees this throws it clean out of court having barely looked at it.

  • SASnSA

    It’s funny that Faux News left off the correct reason for the “No” answer; that it opposes Article VI of the US Constitution which always supersedes state constitutions. They of course used an argumentative explanation on the “No” answer that can be considered wrong by people that don’t know better.

  • sc0tt

    Eupraxsophy Says:

    December 15th, 2009 at 6:25 am
    This looks like a job for the FFRF and ACLU.
    Clearly a violation of the separation of church and state. All I can say is; “Give it to them Dan Barker!”

    Right on! Pick a state with the most absurd language and sue them and then make headlines in the papers and do the talk show circuits. Make the legislators go on TV and look stupid trying to defend it. How hard can it be to get illegal language taken out?

    I do have a friend with an unenforceable restrictive covenant on the deed to his house that prevents him from selling to any non-whites or non-Christians and he tried to have it taken out but the estimate on legal fees got exorbitant. So principle is limited by capital.

  • goddamnathiest

    It’s actually a moot point. Back in the early 1960s this issue was put to rest. The 7 states that have this on their law books cannot enforce it.
    Sorry campers. A State Law cannot supersede a Federal Law. Same with a State’s constitution. It cannot go against the United States Constitution.
    If some clown wants to file a suit, let them. It’ll get thrown out and they’ll have just waisted their money.

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