A familiar topic has reared its head again this week — the Arkansas constitutional provision that prohibits atheists from holding public office or testifying in court.
Atheists have begun a movement to strip such prohibitions from the Constitutions of the seven states that still have them, one being Arkansas. Don’t hold your breath.
A 1961 case in Maryland said states could not impose religious tests for public office. To the best of my knowledge, the Arkansas prohibition has not been applied since — if ever. It’s reminiscent of the invalidated 1956 segregation provision of the Arkansas Constitution finally removed — barely — by popular vote after the legislature put repeal on the ballot in 1990.
I don’t think this legislature would put a repeal of the atheist provision on the ballot. It declined to do so in 2009. (The follow who proposed the idea was a one-term legislator, coincidentally.) The Arkansas legislature has also declined to adopt a resolution endorsing the separation of church and state. It defeated a resolution honoring Thomas Paine because he wasn’t God-fearing.
And you don’t want to cross these fellows. Because they do approve of guns in church.