States Can't Bar Person From Public Office for not Vowing Belief in God Hot

States Can't Bar Person From Public Office for not Vowing Belief in God

Herb Silverman

Dedided: Herb Silverman v. Gov. Carroll A. Campbell and Secretary of State Jim Miles — Herb Silverman cannot be barred from holding public office because he refuses to swear a belief in God or some supreme being, says Fifth Circuit Court Judge Thomas L. Hugh in a ruling against the state of South Carolina.

A College of Charleston math professor, Herb Silverman applied to become a notary public in 1992 but was denied by the Secretary of State and Governor Carroll Campbell because he struck out the word "God."

Since 1868, the South Carolina constitution has said:

"No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution."

Judge Hughston rejects this, writing:

"The state cannot require any religious belief including a call for 'God's help' as a requirement for appointment to office. ...

No religious test may be applied in considering this application including that of the Constitution of South Carolina ... since (its religious requirements) violate the Constitution of the United States.

The fact that Mr. Silverman struck the word 'God' from his application cannot constitutionally be a reason to deny his appointment."

Edmond Robinson notes: "This provision is fundamentally repugnant to our rights as American citizens."

Gov. David Beasley (R), a born-again Christian, will appeal the ruling and lose at the State Supreme Court in 1997.


Herb Silverman discusses his new book, Candidate Without a Prayer

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