Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Does Your State Forbid Atheists From Holding Public Office?

Posted in atheism, politics, religion, Texas by allisonkilkenny on February 18, 2009

Pharyngula

the-atheist-eIt’s an ugly little open secret that Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have constitutions that explicitly forbid atheists from holding state office. These laws are archaic and unenforceable in principle — they were all ruled unconstitutional in 1961 — but of course they’re still in effect across all 50 states in practice, since public opinion makes it almost impossible for an atheist to get elected to high office.

Now, though, a representative in Arkansas has submitted a bill to amend the Arkansas constitution and remove the prohibition of atheists. This could get very interesting, or it might not. If the Arkansas legislature does the sensible thing and simply and efficiently removes an old law that can’t be enforced anyway, I will be pleased, but there won’t be much drama.

Since when are legislatures sensible, however? I can imagine indignant Christians defending an unconstitutional law and insisting that it be kept on the books as a token of their contempt. It is an awkward situation for the Christianist yahoos, because their constituencies might get inflamed, but on other hand, do they really want to go on record defending the indefensible?

I’m looking forward to it, and kudos to Rep. Richard Carroll of North Little Rock for poking a stick into this nest of snakes and stirring it up.

Mississippi students told not to say Obama’s name

Posted in Barack Obama by allisonkilkenny on November 8, 2008
mississippiRaw Story
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Friday November 7, 2008
A controversy has erupted at a Mississippi junior high school over allegations that a bus driver and a coach threatened students with punishment for saying Barack Obama‘s name. The incidents became public when outraged parents called the studios of WAPT news in Pearl, Miss. Some said their children were threatened by a bus driver with being written up and taken to the principal’s office,
others that their children were told by a girls’ basketball coach they would be suspended.

Reginald Simpson, a student at Pearl Junior High, explained that when students on the bus started saying, “Obama is our president,” the bus driver told them she didn’t want to hear his name. One kid said, “This
is history woman,” and according to Simpson, “She pulled over and kicked me and the kid off the bus.” They were left waiting at the high school and later taken to their own school.

“They feel like they afraid to say who our president is, cause they afraid they going to be in trouble,” Reginald’s mother Canishia told WAPT. “We teach our kids not to be racist, and here it is going on. I just feel hurt by it.”

The Simpson family is black. However, another mother whose son was on the bus and who also plans to confront school officials about the incident is white. “This is what the whole election was about,” Venus Neagu told WAPT. “It was supporting someone. And now that they’ve done it and they’re on the school bus, now they’re getting consequences for it.”

School officials reviewed video from the bus and promised that no students would be punished. The superintendent released a statement saying, “It appears that some persons, out of disappointment and disillusionment with the election may have been so frustrated that they said something inappropriate to students. We have taken appropriate steps with the bus driver and the coach.”