Tenn. lawmakers shouldn’t play favorites, FFRF’s Seidel contends in Nashville paper

1AndrewSeidelPresskitThe Tennessee Statehouse shouldn’t discriminate against atheists, FFRF’s Strategic Response Director Andrew L. Seidel urges in the Nashville newspaper.

A pending bill in the Tennessee Legislature seeks to one-sidedly modify the state Constitution by removing the bar against ministers holding public office while leaving intact a similar ban on atheists. Seidel asks lawmakers to act fairly.

The Tennessean, one of the most prominent publications in the state, has published Seidel’s op-ed, “Tennessee should end religious tests for public office impartially,” which begins:

Tennessee needs to clean up its Constitution in an even-handed manner.

Preachers and atheists are both banned from holding public office by the antiquated state Constitution. State Sen. Mark Pody’s proposal to amend the Constitution unjustly seeks to bar discrimination against ministers while leaving intact the equally pernicious prohibition against atheists serving the people of Tennessee. The Senate passed the proposal unanimously in mid-April.

Tennessee’s first Constitution, written in 1796, declared that “no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination” was eligible to hold public office. The next section did the same for any “person who denies the being of God or a future state of rewards and punishments.”

Both prohibitions are clearly wrong and unconstitutional in a nation governed by a secular Constitution that explicitly bars religious tests for public office. But Sen. Pody seems to care only about ministers of the gospel, since he is a Christian nationalist — a politician who mistakenly believes that America was founded as a Christian nation with a government based on Christian principles. Pody has even authored absurd unconstitutional bills, such as a proposal to adopt the Bible as the state book.

Seidel concludes: “The Legislature must correct past discrimination fairly and lift the anti-atheist prohibition. It’s long past time.” Read the complete op-ed here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation strives to focus and comment on important state-level developments across the country. Seidel’s commentary is part of that effort.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 450 members and a chapter in Tennessee. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement