Although the Supreme Court ruled it as unconstitutional in 1961, several states’ constitutions still contain (now unenforceable) laws that ban atheists from holding public office. A proposed voter referendum may repeal that archaic law in Arkansas.
Amendment 19 of the Arkansas Constitution says “No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this state, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court.” Green Party Representative Richard Carroll, a Roman Catholic, has filed a proposal that would let voters strike that language from the Constitution. Carroll’s proposed amendment is supported by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which says atheists should have the same civic rights as religious believers.
The state constitutions of Texas and Tennessee also bar atheists from holding public office. Other states have laws that imply that public office is reserved for Christians only.