Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Maryland, my Maryland?

As many may know, there are seven states that actually have rules in their Constitutions that disallow non-believers from holding public office. Obviously, these are laws that can't be enforced since they violate the United States Constitution. But why are they still on the books? And surprisingly, why is my home state one of them when we at are traditionally a pretty liberal state as a whole?

The seven states are Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and as I mentioned prior, Maryland. Though Pennsylvania comes pretty close by stating that no one can be disqualified from serving in office based on religion as long as the believe in God, Heaven and Hell.

In Maryland, the chief section here is Article 37:
That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.
So I can't run for office in my home state according to the Maryland state Constitution because I can not truthfully declare belief in God. Well... I could hold office because, as I've stated, this prohibition is unconstitutional, and therefore unenforceable.

Surprisingly, that's not the only thing that Maryland Constitution prohibits me from. Article 36 also says: 
That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for his religious practice, unless, under the color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others in their natural, civil or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent, or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain, any place of worship, or any ministry; nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come. 
So according to this, my being an atheist means that I can't be considered a competent witness or even serve as a juror? That's just insulting! Sure, the idea of having an option for getting out of jury duty is attractive since being paid about the equivalent of an hour's worth of work a day doesn't make much financial sense. But it still amazes me that these laws are still on the books. If these laws said that Jews couldn't hold office, be a juror or a witness, lawmakers would be tripping over themselves to get the repealed.

But because it's non-believers that are targeted by these laws, the course of action it to just pretend they don't exist since they can't be legally upheld. But just pretending they aren't there isn't good enough, which is why one group is calling for these laws to be removed. But that's where things get really weird...

In response to the notion that these anti-atheist laws be repealed, Maryland Republican, Christopher B. Shank has this very curious thing to say:
I think what they want is an affirmation that the people of the state of Maryland don’t care about the Christian faith, and that is a little offensive.
Looks like Shank has quite the Christian persecution complex. The measure to cleanup the Maryland Constitution has nothing to do with Christians or Christianity. It would do nothing to prohibit Christians running for office. The only thing it does is change to law to treat atheists like anyone else. To allow us (to the letter of the law) to run for office, be a witness or a juror without having to going around the Maryland prohibitions by citing the US Constitution. Nothing about this threatens Christianity, unless Shank thinks Christianity means treating everyone else like sub-human second class citizens. And if that's what his faith is to him, it's not one that deserves protecting. Sorry Shank, but equality is about everyone having the same rights, not you crying about not always getting your way.


-Brain Hulk

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