Now watch: the councilman's removal based on Article VI of the US Constitution will be overruled. The very SECOND that happens, a move will be sponsored by a bunch of right-wing religionists for a recall election! When that happens (I don't say "if" because, from where I sit, the likelihood very closely approaches certainty!), I think that atheists need to come out in support of the councilman and say, "Okay ... what's your justification for recall, other than this man's lack of religious belief?"
It may be time to confront this irrational fear of those of us who rely on critical thought rather than belief in an undemonstrated and unprovable deity, using this situation as the vehicle.
Such all laws have long been unconstitutional. The Supreme court incorporated the 1st Amendment "freedom of religion" by way of the 14th Amendment to include the states in a number of opinions, and held that this includes the right to hold pubic office. The only recent justice I know of who has dissented from the view that the "freedom of religion" clause prevents state endorsement of religion is Justice Thomas of course. To be honest, I don't really trust Justice Scalia when it comes to religion, but he is surprisingly reliable on issues that touch on free speech, and I'm confident he would find this law to violate the US Constitution by way of 14th Amendment.
Being a resident of one of the states with a "no one who doubts the Supreme Being" clause in its constitution, I am writing in embarrassment and as a member the Americans United for Separation of Church and State as well as the Council for Secular Humanism to say that it is time for some person in the State of Texas to stand up, run for office as a freethinker, agnostic, or especially atheist and allow the objectionable clause to become a constitutional issue. (Although the federal court condemned the state's anti-sodomy law, it stayed on the books for years. The problem there was equal protection, since straights could have oral and anal sex -- to say nothing of S&M, B&D, et al., one presumes -- but same sex couples could not.)
The "must believe in a Supreme Being" laws are blatantly unconstitutional, and even as their affront to the U. S. Constitution is made clear to Texas lawmakers, they will resist legislative efforts to consign the law to the scrap heap of delusional politicians' unwise ideas. So we must have a test case. We have at the moment no standing to prod our pols by court action, and probably could not be said to have it until we run for office and get told by the other pol or a third party (city secretary, secretary of state, attorney general) that one is barred from election due to his or her disavowal of the most absurd myth, the worst of the mass delusions in the history of mankind.
In most states, such an initiative would not win broad public support. The best way to defeat this measure is to run for public office and have someone who actually support the ban on atheists in office challenge your candidacy on the basis on the law. Then you would have standing in court to oppose the law. Keep in mind that courts do not hear friendly cases; you cannot ask another who opposes the law to challenge you simply for the purpose of overturning the law. The plaintiff must be a supporter of the ban who challenges you fitness by relying on the ban. Perhaps running for the local school board will be enough to bring out a supporter of this ban.
At any rate, such bans are unconstitutional, and most people realize this. However, should an atheist run for office, expect opponents to frequent comment on the fact the the candidate is atheist. Such statements are constitutional.
It would be lovely to do, if not for the fact that if you run as a known atheist, you will not be elected. Instead, you must come out of the closet on accident after being elected in order to stand a chance. And as it's Texas, finding a Republican atheist is not all that easy, as a democrat would be unlikely to win, as well. >.X
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