Turtles all the way down

Atheists banned from serving in Arkansas

Posted by doctore0 on August 10, 2012

According to an Arkansas state law that dates back to 1874, no Atheists can hold an office or testify in court.

The law states that “no person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of the state nor be competent to stand trial.”

“I don’t think that we should have Atheists, because I believe we need some kind of religion to guide people to make the right decisions,” says one Arkansan.

“It seems to be almost unconstitutional, you know so, uh it seems it needs to be amended,” says another.

The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers is a secular group made up of people who are Atheists and Agnostics. It holds lectures and hosts social events. These Freethinkers champion reason over religion. They believe the law discriminates against them.

“It’s insulting, we realize and we’ve been told by several people it’s not enforceable and that may be the case but to have your name on the constitution as someone who is not competent to sit in a courtroom or public office, it’s rather insulting,” says LeeWood Thomas, with the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers.

We had to dig back into newspaper archives more than 80 years to find a case where that law was enforced.

That same provision says Atheists are not allowed to take the stand in court. In 1928, an Arkansas judge refused to allow a nationally known Atheist, Charles Smith, to testify in his own defense.

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