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Group Wants Unenforceable Ban on Atheists Holding Office Removed from Miss. Constitution

JACKSON, Miss. – If you are an atheist, you cannot hold office in Mississippi. It is outlined clearly in the state’s constitution:

Article 14, section 265 : “No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this State.”

Similar laws are also on the books in other states including Maryland, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Currently, Ohio based group, the Openly Secular coalition is trying to get those provisions changed. Chairman Todd Stiefel says they plan to lobby to get those provisions removed from the states’ constitutions at the start of next year.

“These provisions are a slap in the face to anyone who is a citizen of these states who does not believe in God,” said Stiefel. “Anybody, whether they are Atheist, Jewish, or Christian should be able to get behind the concept that state constitution should treat the people of the state equally and fairly.”

Stiefel says a similar provision in Maryland was challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court in 1961 and was struck down, but the provisions still remain on the books.

“It is one of those things we will ultimately win in court, but it doesn’t stop them from occasionally being enforced, like in South Carolina, and in Texas, and in other places after that decision. We’ve had atheists who have been denied holding public office. – They have actually had to sue and go through the court system for years to win their rights.”

Stiefel says provisions like this have existed before, baring other people from civil rights.

“Frankly, legislators in these states are not putting in effort to get these kind of things changed. I fully expect to be met with great resistance. Why is that? Why would they fall all over themselves to get these things changed for other minorities? I assure you, if Jews, women, African Americans, had such provisions on the books people would be fighting over the chance to get them removed. Why are we different?”

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