The Raving Theist

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Off the Books

February 18, 2009 | 10 Comments

A move to remove anti-atheist language from the Arkansas state constitution is gathering steam. The provision states that “[n]o 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.” Because of 1961 Supreme Court decision declaring such clauses unenforceable, the proposed bill is largely symbolic.

Ed Brayton predicts that the legislature will refuse to pass the law, and that if it’s put on the ballot the voters will reject it. And thus yet another law that nobody ever read (like the Stimulus Bill) will remain on the books, gathering dust until someone re-discovers it and gets re-offended by it.

The publicity stunt does raise some interesting questions. Is it worth the effort to go around looking for obsolete laws to repeal? A special law in Florida, for example, prohibits unmarried women from parachuting on Sundays. Now, enforcement would obviously be impossible insofar as the law promotes discrimination based on gender, marital status and possibly religion, but I don’t see the value in expending tax dollars to reaffirm that point.

I am also wondering that if push ever comes to shove on the unrepealed anti-atheist Consitution, who would have standing to object to the unenforceable provision. Notably, its language only excludes atheists who affirmatively deny the existence of a God. Merely lacking a belief in God (the most traditional and inclusive definition of atheism) would not be enough. And I’m not sure if merely believing that God does not exist would be sufficient, to the extent that “denying” God’s existence could be interpreted as requiring the stronger affirmation that God’s non-existence can be proven. Note that in the Supreme Court case linked above, the Constitutional provision required “a declaration of belief in the existence of God” — something that no atheist of any stripe could truthfully announce.

In view of these vexing legal technicalities, I hereby disband the previously-convened committee to draft a blog-comments constitution.

Comments

10 Responses to “Off the Books”

  1. Melissa
    February 18th, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

    “And thus yet another law that nobody ever read (like the Stimulus Bill) will remain on the books, gathering dust until someone re-discovers it and gets re-offended by it.”

    LOL Sad but true RT!! Though, I thought Obama had vowed to have government transparency? I thought that since we are a so-called democracy, he was adamant about the government be responsible and disclosing their spending activities so that the public could view it. So much for that! And people called Bush a liar????? Pot callin’ the kettle black.

    What? No committee? :)

  2. Margaret Catherine
    February 18th, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

    I call coffee break for the committee.

  3. Margaret Catherine
    February 18th, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

    (Maybe that’ll bring UVJ back.)

  4. Skeptimal
    February 18th, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

    I think there’s a difference between a blue law still on the books and discrimination that’s encoded into a constitution. It will be interesting to see if Arkansas is still so hateful that it can’t even take this obvious mistake off of its constitution.

    Would you have the same attitude if this were a constitutional reference that made a black person 2/3 of a citizen? I’m thinking you’re more of a hypocrite than a racist. You must have absolutely hated yourself when you were an atheist.

  5. Datechguy
    February 18th, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

    its always worth repealing bad laws enforced or no.

  6. Christina
    February 18th, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

    The professionally offended class will never back down. It’s their freaking JOB to find things to be offended by and to literally make a federal case out of every Christmas carol and person saying “God bless you” when somebody else sneezes.

  7. Lily
    February 18th, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

    It is hard for me to see the point of making it legal for single women to go parachuting on Sunday. Shoot, I’ve been doing it for nearly 40 years and nobody has ever said squat to me about it. I DEMAND to be arrested. Unjust laws are unjust and must be resisted by every right thinking, liberty-loving patriot!

  8. Lily
    February 18th, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

    I used a /s tag above but, alas, like a fool I enclosed it in angle brackets and so it went to HTML heaven.

    Well, that’s what scofflaws like me deserve, I guess!

  9. skeptimal
    February 18th, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

    “The professionally offended class will never back down. It’s their freaking JOB to find things to be offended by and to literally make a federal case out of every Christmas carol and person saying “God bless you” when somebody else sneezes.”

    Let’s see how you feel about it when there are state constitutions disqualifying Christians from holding office. And don’t talk to the rest of us about the professionally offended class. Your brethren had control of all three branches of government for six years and you whiners STILL thought you were being persecuted for your faith.

  10. frustrated(mk)
    February 19th, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

    In view of these vexing legal technicalities, I hereby disband the previously-convened committee to draft a blog-comments constitution.

    Whew! God is kind and merciful.

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