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article imageAsheville NC threatened with lawsuit over atheist council member

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Dec 13, 2009 in Politics
Asheville City, North Carolina, is being threatened with a lawsuit for accepting Cecil Bothwell as a council member because he is an atheist.
Cecil Bothwell was raised to be a Presbyterian, but he started questioning Christian beliefs and considered himself an atheist when he was 20 years old. He was sworn into office on Monday as a council member of Asheville City using an alternative oath that did not require him to swear on the Bible or to make reference to the Almighty God.
According to Associated Press Writer Alysia Patterson, this has led to outrage in the religious camp. David Morgan, the editor of the Asheville Tribune said that he is tired of seeing the constitution of his state "trashed".
The constitution of North Carolina is indeed clear enough: someone who publicly admits to being an atheist is not allowed to take up public office. However, this restriction is unenforceable because the United States constitution makes it quite clear that religion cannot be used to bar anyone from taking up public office.
Religious groups in the US -usually Christians- can be quite vocal, even aggressive, and some of them either ignore what the constitution says, or consider themselves exempt from its restrictions.
Even though the constitution has generally been upheld by the Supreme Court, this has not prevented the religious from harassing atheists with lawsuits. This may also be the case here, since the city is now being threatened with a lawsuit by H.K. Edgerton, a former local NAACP president and founder of Southern Heritage 411, an organization that promotes the interests of black southerners. Says Edgerton:
"My father was a Baptist minister. I'm a Christian man. I have problems with people who don't believe in God,"
Alysia Patterson quotes Herb Silverman, an avowed atheist who had to fight an eight year court battle to gain the right to be appointed as notary, as saying that there are lots of other atheist politicians that are afraid to "come out of the closet".
More about Asheville north carolina, Cecil bothwell, Atheist religion christianity
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