Monday, September 19, 2016

Should Those Holding Office in North Carolina or South Carolina be Forced to Proclaim Their Belief in “Almighty God”?

Church & State Question

Raise your hand if you knew that the Constitution of North Carolina states that youshall be disqualified for office” if you “deny the being of Almighty God. I’m not seeing too many hands raised.

How about a similar provision in South Carolina, hands up if you knew about it? No? “No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.” In fact, SC liked this requirement so much that it’s in two different places in The Palmetto State’s Constitution.

Cartoon illustrating separation of church and state in US government, politics, South Carolina, North Carolina, SC government, NC government
So shouldn’t we be forcing candidates for office to declare their belief in Almighty God and/or the Supreme Being? Thankfully, no.

The United States Constitution takes precedence over any state constitution. The U.S. Constitution states, in relevant part “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” This is referred to as the “No Religious Test Clause”. The No Religious Test Clause of the United States Constitution has been repeatedly determined to prevent enforcement of any contrary clauses anywhere in the United States. Here is a short legal opinion from the South Carolina Supreme Court as an example.

There are a handful of other states which have similar state constitution clauses requiring certain religious allegiances. All but one (Maryland) are in southern state constitutions, and they are all unenforceable.