Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/23/17: Banning Atheists from Office

Eight states still possess constitutional prohibitions against atheists from holding public office: Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. While these provisions still exist, they cannot be enforced under the 1961 decision of Torcaso v. Watkins, in which an unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the requirement of a religious test for public state or federal office violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Interestingly, Tennessee’s constitution unenforceably bars both atheists as well as ministers from public office, the latter as they “ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions.”


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