Monday, January 14, 2019

It's True - Honest Atheists Cannot Hold State Office In Pennsylvania

You see a lot of graphic memes online.  Often, they are not true.  But...sometimes they are.

A graphic showed up on Facebook today, showing the seven states where atheists could not legally hold state office.  One of the states was Pennsylvania.  I thought it might have been a phony meme, bud I did a quick scan of the Pennsylvania Constitution and saw this (ignoring the obvious sexism that it still uses "man" and "men" instead of "person" and "people"):

  § 3.  Religious freedom.
        All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship
     Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences;
     no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any
     place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his
     consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control
     or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference
     shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or
     modes of worship.
 
  § 4.  Religion.
        No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future
     state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his
     religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or
     place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.
 

Anyone else note the collision of these two sections, which are at the very beginning of the Pensylvania Constitution? 

So, I did what any other voting/tax-paying Pennsylvanian would do - I wrote to the governor:


Dear Gov. Wolf,

I have just read that the Pennsylvania Constitution says I cannot hold state office.

We'll ignore the fact that the Constitution still uses "man" instead of "person" everywhere.

It says this:

  § 4.  Religion.
        No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future
     state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his
     religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or
     place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

I am an atheist.  Therefore, I do not believe in God, Heaven, the Devil or Hell..  So, according to the state Constitution, I cannot run for office, despite being a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen of the state for about half of my life.

Wouldn't the federal Constitution which says that there can be no religious tests to run for or hold public office supersede this?

I realize the state legislature is owned by Republicans, but can anything be done to amend this?


Laurie Mann
McDonald, PA


I encourage other Pennsylvanians who sees that this is in direct conflict with the "no religious tests" part of the federal Constitution to drop the governor a line.

I have been an atheist for most of my life.  I am polite when I am in a religious establishment and I do like to sing so I might look like I'm a believer but as I am a guest there I don't make an issue of my atheism.  But secular life is a wholly different issue.  It is obscene for a state to have its Constitution state that I would not be eligible for public office because I don't share in ancient beliefs.  


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