Effort to Remove Atheist From City Council

From CBS News:

Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government – but he doesn’t believe in God. His political opponents say that’s a sin that makes him unworthy of serving in office, and they’ve got the North Carolina Constitution on their side.

Bothwell’s detractors are threatening to take the city to court for swearing him in, even though the state’s antiquated requirement that officeholders believe in God is unenforceable because it violates the U.S. Consititution.

“The question of whether or not God exists is not particularly interesting to me and it’s certainly not relevant to public office,” the recently elected 59-year-old said.

Bothwell ran this fall on a platform that also included limiting the height of downtown buildings and saving trees in the city’s core, views that appealed to voters in the liberal-leaning community at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. When Bothwell was sworn into office on Monday, he used an alternative oath that doesn’t require officials to swear on a Bible or reference “Almighty God.”

That has riled conservative activists, who cite a little-noticed quirk in North Carolina’s Constitution that disqualifies officeholders “who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” The provision was included when the document was drafted in 1868 and wasn’t revised when North Carolina amended its constitution in 1971. One foe, H.K. Edgerton, is threatening to file a lawsuit in state court against the city to challenge Bothwell’s appointment.

Comments

3 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Angry Sam,

    Even if he can’t force Bothwell out of office, Edgerton said he hopes a legal battle would ultimately force North Carolina’s Legislature to determine the legality of the article of the Constitution.

    “If the law is wrong, it is the obligation of the Legislature to say it’s wrong,” he said.

    Am I just naive to be shocked that a former local NAACP leader isn’t familiar with the foundations of U.S. government? It’s called judicial review, buddy.

    I’ll be interested to see what kind of constitutional claim this wingnut thinks he can bring in court.

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  2. Resident of Asheville here. There is no actual lawsuit, and as far as I know, none being seriously contemplated. HK Edgerton is indeed a former NAACP local leader. He also takes to walking the streets dressed as a Confederate Soldier, carrying the Stars’n'Bars. A colorful character, to say the least. It is both amusing and appalling how exaggerated and inflated this story has become.

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  3. Barbwire,

    The establishment clause of the Constitution would indicate that the state’s law is unconstitutional, IMHO.

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