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Looks like the Cecil Bothwell case is getting quite a bit of national attention. Bothwell is the newly-elected Asheville, North Carolina city councilperson… who also happens to be an atheist.

Some of the attention has been good…

One man from Brooklyn, N.Y., sent him a $50 campaign donation. And he’s just sold 19 copies online of his self-published book, “The Prince of War,” a criticism of world-famous evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, who lives in Montreat.

“I usually sell about two a month,” [Bothwell] said.

But most of it focuses on an unpleasant truth: Bothwell and the state of North Carolina will have to figure out how to deal with Article 6, Section 8 of the state constitution which forbids him from taking office:

The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

A lawsuit may be filed; Bothwell would likely win, as he should, since there can be no religious test for public office.

Many of these articles talk about the several other states which have similar laws in the books. Specifically, there are seven other states which discriminate against atheists.

How many were you aware of?

Arkansas, Article 19, Section 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.

Maryland, Article 37:

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; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.

Mississippi, Article 14, Section 265:

No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.

Pennsylvania, Article I, Section 4:

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 or profit under this Commonwealth.

***Update***: Reader Tim points out:

Note that it doesn’t say atheists can’t serve. It says that believers can’t be disqualified from serving.

South Carolina, Article 17, Section 4:

No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.

Tennessee, Article 9, Section 2 (PDF):

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.

Texas, Article 1, Section 4:

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

If you live in one of the 42 more enlightened states, more power to you. But if you live in one of the listed states, there’s a way to combat the bigotry. All we have to do is get more good atheist candidates running for public office. When a few of us get elected, it’ll help turn the tide.

Until then, we’ll keep watching how things go for people like Cecil Bothwell, who seems to have done everything right but is still in (a very small bit of) danger of losing his seat.

(Thanks to everyone for the link!)