Attempt To Throw NC Councilman Out Of Office For His Atheism
Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell (right) doesn’t believe in God, and his opponents say that’s a sin making him unworthy of public office. They want to take him to court, even tough the North Carolina’s requirement that officeholders believe in God is in violation of the US Constitution.
Bothwell ran this fall on a platform that also included limiting the height of downtown buildings and saving trees in the city’s core, views that appealed to voters in the liberal-leaning community at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. When Bothwell was sworn into office on Monday, he used an alternative oath that doesn’t require officials to swear on a Bible or reference “Almighty God.”
That has riled conservative activists, who cite a little-noticed quirk in North Carolina’s Constitution that disqualifies officeholders “who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” The provision was included when the document was drafted in 1868 and wasn’t revised when North Carolina amended its constitution in 1971. One foe, H.K. Edgerton, is threatening to file a lawsuit in state court against the city to challenge Bothwell’s appointment.
“My father was a Baptist minister. I’m a Christian man. I have problems with people who don’t believe in God,” said Edgerton, a former local NAACP president and founder of Southern Heritage 411, an organization that promotes the interests of black southerners.
The head of a conservative weekly newspaper says city officials shirked their duty to uphold the state’s laws by swearing in Bothwell. David Morgan, editor of the Asheville Tribune, said he’s tired of seeing his state Constitution “trashed.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 1961 that there can be no religious test for public office. But groups like the American Family Association insist that this should apply only to federal offices, and that states should have the right to insist on a believe in God for public officeholders.Click here for reuse options!
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