An atheist trapped between two constitutions 5

From the Citizen Times, Asheville, North Carolina:

North Carolina’s constitution is clear: politicians who deny the existence of God are barred from holding office.

Opponents of Cecil Bothwell are seizing on that law to argue he should not be seated as a City Council member today, even though federal courts have ruled religious tests for public office are unlawful under the U.S. Constitution.

Voters elected the writer and builder to the council last month.

“I’m not saying that Cecil Bothwell is not a good man, but if he’s an atheist, he’s not eligible to serve in public office, according to the state constitution,” said H.K. Edgerton, a former Asheville NAACP president.

Article 6, section 8 of the state constitution says: “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

Rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution trump the restriction in the state constitution, said Bob Orr, executive director of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law.

“I think there’s any number of federal cases that would view this as an imposition of a religious qualification and violate separation of church and state,” said Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice.

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Maryland’s requirement for officials to declare belief in God violated the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Additionally, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution says: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Bothwell’s campaign treasurer, Jake Quinn, said everyone should be entitled to their own beliefs.

“The test occurred on (Nov. 3),” Quinn said. “It was called an election.” …

We aren’t very perturbed for Cecil Bothwell who seems to be a lefty sort of guy. But it will be interesting to see how the constitutional contradiction is resolved.