The Columbia Free-Times (South Carolina) ran a brief article last week criticizing the governor and a state senator for getting into an online spat online over the religious beliefs of a possible political appointee. The article included this line:
Last time we checked, there was no religious litmus test for holding public office, and we hope there never will be.
Just one problem: South Carolina is one of the few states where there actually is a law in the state Constitution banning atheists from holding office.
It forced the alt-weekly to run this correction:
That correction isn’t exactly right, either.
It’s true that South Carolina is one of more than half a dozen states where these kinds of laws are still on the books:
But let’s be clear: none of the laws are legal anymore thanks to a 1961 Supreme Court ruling (Torcaso v. Watkins), but they’re still technically in those states’ Constitutions and they’re a stark reminder that atheists were, at one point not very long ago, forbidden from holding public office in some states.
The legal barrier may be gone now, but we still face an uphill battle in terms of public perception.
(via Jim Romenesko)