Archaic Values Still in Place?
By: Emily Rose Mitchell
The 21st Century is a time of progress when church and state are firmly held apart—or so many thought before realizing that under Tennessee law, atheists are banned from holding public office. Some legislators claim that Article 9, Section 2 of the Tennessee Constitution violates one of the basic tenets of the nation–freedom of religion. TISL Bill 165, which moved to amend the article, was passed with almost no debate in the House. Representative Jimmie Williams, the House's primary sponsor of the bill, stated, “If we're up here serving the people, why can't people who believe differently also serve?”
The proponents of the bill used the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, which recognized that the U.S. Constitution does not allow any state to have any religious test for a public office, to justify that this article is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment. One of the TISL congressional members called it an “archaic piece of text that is unenforceable.”