The De Facto Religious Test for Office

Article 6 of the United States Constitution prohibits a religious test for office, yet the stigma of being openly nonreligious has imposed a de facto religious test on candidates for elected office. A 2015 poll conducted by Gallup showed that only 58% of Americans would consider voting for a well-qualified candidate for president if the candidate was an atheist.

While it is unconstitutional for a state to enforce a religious test for office, seven states have still failed to strike religious test language from their constitutions: Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

In 2016, the Secular Coalition for America facilitated the establishment of a Secular Caucus at the Texas Democratic Convention, where the party voted to incorporate into their official party platform our submitted language, which calls for removing the religious test for office from the Texas State Constitution.

Elevating openly secular candidates

The Secular Coalition for America does not endorse candidates for office, however a crucial component of our mission is promoting the visibility of, and respect for, nontheists. To that end, we are proud to highlight the increasing number of openly secular candidates across the country who are challenging the de facto religious test by proudly running for public office. To receive updates about openly secular candidates running in your state, sign up [HERE].

Congressional Freethought Caucus

At the Secular Coalition for America’s 2016 Annual Awards Dinner, U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) made a historic announcement: that he and three other Members of the U.S. Congress had established a Congressional Freethought Caucus. Rep. Huffman received our National Visibility Award this year and his fellow Caucus co-founder, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) had received the National Visibility Award in 2016 while serving as an open humanist in the Maryland state legislature.

 

Eliminating the Secular Stigma

The Secular Coalition for America’s lobbying team is working every day to educate Members of Congress and their staff about the secular community and the secular constituents they swore to represent. You can help eliminate the stigma of being openly secular by contacting your Members of Congress and letting them know that you are a secular constituent. (Rapid Response, Action Alert featured)

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