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article imageWill atheists finally be allowed to run for office in Arkansas?

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Feb 21, 2009 in Politics
February 11th, 2009, a bill was introduced to repeal the prohibition against atheists holding any civil office in Arkansas. Will atheists finally be allowed to run for office?
A remarkable bill went largely unnoticed in the mainstream media, in spite of it being most definitely an important piece of legislation, although its symbolic and legal value is probably a lot greater than its actual practical value.
Atheists are not allowed to hold public office in Arkansas, they are explicitly banned by its constitution:
Section I. Article 19:
ยง 1. Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness.
No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.
A bill designed to delete this piece of discriminatory legislation, known as Bill HJR1009, was submitted by state Rep. Richard Carroll of Little Rock, Arkansas.
It was introduced on February 11 and has been referred to the Committee on State Agencies & Governmental Affairs. No further action is planned at this time.
Introducing a bill is not quite the same thing as having it passed, and it will certainly be interesting to see what will happen to it.
How important is this bill in practice? Probably not very important. Atheists, defined as people denying the being of a God, are an extremely tiny part of the atheist spectrum. The vast majority of atheists do not believe in deities, but do accept the possibility of their existence, however unlikely they deem it to be.
On the other hand, when one sees the fervor with which most people trying to run for office in the US are exclaiming their adherence to the Christian deity, it seems obvious that scrapping this discriminatory piece of legislation will have little or no effect in practice, at least not in the short run.
More about Arkansas, Atheists, Constitution