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Separation of Church and State in USA?


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I just learned today that numerous American states actually require politicians to believe in God, or be precluded from holding office. Unbelievable. ::

Apparently such clauses are no longer enforceable, but what are these laws doing 'on the books' in the first place? Is this not the same country that claims to separate Church and State?

Typical language includes Article IX, Sec. 2, of the Tennessee constitution (engagingly titled "No Atheist shall hold a civil office"): "No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."

Article XIX, Sec. 1, of the Arkansas constitution is even more exclusionary: "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."

Article 37 of Maryland's constitution provides that "no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God" (emphasis added).

Article I, Sec. 4, of Pennsylvania's constitution is more insidious: "No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust under this Commonwealth."

Full story here...

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i've said it before, i'll say it again.

who's got my heady sub-etha thumb?

if US politicians are required to believe in God as a condition of getting work, then they really oughta just drop the "separation of church and state" thing and go for full on public fundamentalism.

i mean why not? it would at least be honest. give shrub one of them pointy pope hats, and let him communicate his message unbridled by speech writers and euphimisms.

thanks, stone mtn, for the enlightening yet disturbing read.

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That "separation" only really applied federally, the states dealing with it piecemeal afterwards; the phrase itself doesn't even figure in any offical documents, but comes up in a letter to a concerned congregation from either Jefferson or Madison. All they have to go on is the First Amendment, which can be turned pretty much any direction. A good resource here is Leonard Levy's *The Establishment Clause: Religion and the First Amendment* (MacMillan 1986), which gives a nice historical overview.

But hey, theocracies aren't hard to make, either. Just scare the hell out of people repeatedly, and you can manage to scare hell into them.

This whole thing sucks when I have to hunt for jobs in Religious Studies: the lion's share of the jobs available are at these little colleges in the US that force you to sign off on a statement of belief before they hire you, and then leave that hanging like a sword over your neck for the rest of your working life.

I did, though, know of one person who at least was allowed to cut, paste, and reprioritise one of those lists to everybody's satisfaction. I thought it might be simpler just to put the whole thing in quotation marks, but they might see through that.

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