Don't believe in God? Can't hold office.
December 8, 2009 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Asheville, NC City Councilman-elect Cecil Bothwell is scheduled to be sworn in today. But critics of Bothwell say he cannot hold office citing NC's constitution which states: "The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

One of Bothwell's critics cited in the article is H.K. Edgerton known for protesting with the Confederate flag.
posted by paulinsanjuan (72 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
seems like a pretty open and shut case. I'd be frankly shocked if anyone with any real authority tries to block him, the ensuring lawsuit would be so friggen short it's make heads spin.
posted by edgeways at 11:56 AM on December 8, 2009


"Mass every Sunday," Jack would moan, "for four years." - Gore Vidal, Palimpsest
posted by Joe Beese at 11:58 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well, critics of [insert name] say lots of crazy things. Fortunately for Bothwell, he has protection under the Constitution to serve and he will do so. Now, if they DO decide to bar him from holding office, then we'd have a story.
posted by billysumday at 11:59 AM on December 8, 2009


It probably goes without saying, but I think it is interesting that the linked article notes that federal law has ruled other states' religious requirements for holding office unconstitutional. Insofar as (according to the article) the specific law in NC hasn't been specifically struck, I suppose it rests on the books until tested. Edgerton seems to be of the opinion that allowing Bothwell to take action would result in a lawsuit; I can't imagine how he could think those legal actions would be resolved in favor of his (Edgerton's) views.
posted by bunnycup at 12:00 PM on December 8, 2009


Oh, I really really hope someone blocks him, because maybe the resulting lawsuit would be the one that finally puts an end to this nonsense for good.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:00 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


And, sorry to nitpick, but your post title is a bit misleading. Instead of "Don't believe in God? Can't hold office," it should be "Don't believe in God? Then some crazy guy will try to prevent you from holding office, but he won't be successful, and eventually you'll be seated."
posted by billysumday at 12:02 PM on December 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


This Edgerton guy is a lunatic:

And, [Edgerton] adds, after the North whipped the South and freed the slaves, what did the victors do for black folks, besides say, "You're free and on your own"? "Abolitionists would have us believe it was only about master and slave," says Edgerton. "But white folks and black folks were partners in the destiny of the South."
posted by brain_drain at 12:02 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hilariously unconstitutional. But then so are torture and warrantless wiretaps.
posted by DU at 12:03 PM on December 8, 2009 [11 favorites]


Did he deny the being of the Almighty God?

It seems like something that could be solved by some well-thought distraction anytime the question comes up.

"Hey, Bothwell, do you believe in the Almighty God?"
"Hm... it looks like it's going to rain today."

"Hey, councilman, are you an atheist?"
"Huh? What? Coming right up, mom!"
posted by qvantamon at 12:04 PM on December 8, 2009


Oh, I really really hope someone blocks him, because maybe the resulting lawsuit would be the one that finally puts an end to this nonsense for good.

The nonsense was put an end to in 1961. Just because some states have some bullshit on the books doesn't make the bullshit legal.
posted by exogenous at 12:04 PM on December 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Nonsense. Clearly, it's decent Christian Americans who are being oppressed by the forces of secularism.
posted by brundlefly at 12:05 PM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


From the Torscano link:

Torcaso, an atheist, refused to make such a statement, and his appointment was consequently revoked. Torcaso, believing his constitutional rights to freedom of religious expression had been infringed, filed suit in a Maryland Circuit Court, only to be rebuffed; the Circuit Court rejected his claim, and the Maryland Court of Appeals held that the requirement for a declaration of belief in God as a qualification for office was self-executing.

The Court of Appeals justified its decision:
The petitioner is not compelled to believe or disbelieve, under threat of punishment or other compulsion. True, unless he makes the declaration of belief, he cannot hold public office in Maryland, but he is not compelled to hold office.
Oh sweet, non-existent Jesus. I guess the good news here is that we haven't gotten any stupider over time.
posted by DU at 12:09 PM on December 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Even Iblis couldn't deny the being of Almighty God, so this is all quite moot.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:10 PM on December 8, 2009


Oh and from Everson vs Board of Education: The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.

The highlighted portion doesn't seem to be in force anymore either.
posted by DU at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2009


That law seems unnecessarily open ended, seeing as how it wouldn't exclude secret Muslim Kenyans.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:12 PM on December 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


I had no idea H.K. Edgerton was still around. He used to stand in downtown Asheville wearing a confederate uniform all the time back in the 90s. I'd say a black guy toting a Confederate flag around was the weirdest thing I've seen in Asheville, but I'd be lying through my teeth. Really, it's about par for the course.
posted by dortmunder at 12:16 PM on December 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is an almost perfect storm of idiocy. Asheville actually appears to me to be one of the more laid-back and do your own thing places in North Carolina. Maybe some of the mefites who actually live there can speak to that.

North Carolina isn't all this and Jesse Helms. Come visit us anytime and enjoy our beautiful mountains, beaches, and barbecue.
posted by marxchivist at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I feel we're still so close to being cavemen that it's a miracle we're not riding to work on the back of a Stegasorus and getting our music from a record player that uses some prehistoric bird as a needle.

Even when I'm optimistic, I still am not sure we're any further removed from the America of the Scopes monkey trial.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:29 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


It doesn't specify which Almighty God one needs to believe in, though. Why not just affirm a firm, strident belief in the Almighty God Jamie Hyneman, and his disciple, MetaFilter's own Adam Savage?
posted by explosion at 12:41 PM on December 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think we can take this one seriously yet. I moved to Asheville 2 years ago, and what you have to understand is that this place brings out the weird. The local Repubs are their own brand of crazy.

What's most ironic about this story is that I know Cecil because we go to the same church.
posted by rikschell at 12:42 PM on December 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


When a person is sworn in as a witness, she has to put her hand on the bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If that person chooses not to swear on the bible, then the judge will say something like the following: "Raise your right hand. Do you affirm that you will tell the truth in this matter under the penalty of perjury?"

One of our judges is also a minister. When someone refuses to swear on the bible -- and I swear I am not making this up -- he says the following: "Raise your right hand. Do you affirm that you will tell the truth in this matter under the penalty of perjury, so help you God?"
posted by flarbuse at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great, we're on the front page. Ignore the Citizen-Times, folks, we all do. This is really a tempest in a teapot; it's all being raked up because the recent city council elections got rid of one insane and annoying conservative and pulled in two progressives (both of whom I know and one of whom is a close friend, so I'll admit to some bias here.) That upset some of the local right wing commenting annoyances who live on the Citizen-Times forums. Then, things began to heat up when it was suggested that having a prayer before every council meeting was unconstitutional. You can find the Scrutiny Hooligans (that blog is run by my friend Gordon Smith, who is the other progressive new city council member) thread on that issue here and there's more on it here at the Mountain Xpress, which has become more or less the local paper of record, since the Gannett owned Citizen Times has laid off I think more than half their staff in the last two years. The Screwy Hoolie thread is where Cecil said he thought god was irrelevant, and that on top of the two progressive council people and losing the prayer made all the whack job conservatives begin to hyperventilate. Then they started in on this nonsense but frankly I wouldn't sweat it: I could be wrong but I am pretty sure Cecil is going to be sworn in today.

Asheville is a strange place. We're a very blue - sort of paisley, tie-dyed blue, with purple explosions and flowers and a vortex and banjos and stuff - oasis in a red state and sometimes the cultures clash. As for HK, well, HK Edgerton is a lunatic, yes, but he's our lunatic. I like HK and wish he would go back to standing on the Brevard Road overpass in Confederate uniform with his flag because I miss seeing him there, freaking out the incoming tourists. I think this sort of thing - indoor lunacy politics - is what he does when the weather gets too cold for flag holding.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


"...it's a miracle we're not riding to work on the back of a Stegasorus and getting our music from a record player that uses some prehistoric bird as a needle."

You say this like it would be a bad thing.
posted by Floydd at 12:45 PM on December 8, 2009


Which almighty god?
posted by four panels at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2009


Now that I know what Edgerton thinks of Bothwell, I've got to admit I'd like to know what the guy in the cowboy hat who sits in a wheelchair all day every day on Haywood Street drinking Listerine thinks of Barack Obama. I'll bet that would make for an interesting interview.
posted by dortmunder at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


when i read stuff like this i just get so bummed. and pissed. i'm sure asheville is wonderful and north carolina is lovely. but this paired with shit like the 2 senators from oklahoma, florida and texas executing everyone they possibly can, heartland teabaggers, socially regressive thought that seems to blanket most of the US, etc., and i want the NW secession movement to get rolling. fast. oregon and washington are far from perfect, and it's probably irrational and really knee-jerk of me to think this way, but i still do.
posted by rainperimeter at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"...it's a miracle we're not riding to work on the back of a Stegasorus and getting our music from a record player that uses some prehistoric bird as a needle."

You say this like it would be a bad thing.


Eh, it's a living.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


Confederates in Black:

"But Edgerton still has good things to say about the Klansmen with whom he chatted at a recent flag rally in Stone Mountain, Ga. — the place where the Klan was reborn in the 1920s — although he didn't know then they were Klan members.

"They were willing to shake my hand," he explains.

Well, kind of. At the Stone Mountain event, Edgerton reportedly invited a white woman onto the stage after speaking and gave her a kiss. Not long after, that infamous kiss was being relived on AlaReb, an invitation-only Internet discussion group for neo-Confederates.

"This is what happens when we choose to be inclusionists and integrationists," a woman named Dianne wrote. "If we ask Negroes to support our cause they will expect certain perks, one of which may be the privilege of hugging and kissing the white females in attendance at these events.""

[...]

"Edgerton was suspended from the NAACP in 1998 for non-compliance with the organization's rules after his Asheville branch fell into debt. But even before that, Edgerton had met in a controversial luncheon with Kirk Lyons (see In the Lyons Den), a white supremacist lawyer who has taken to defending the neo-Confederate cause of late.

At the luncheon, Edgerton, Lyons and Lyons associate Neill Payne clowned with napkins set atop their heads that were meant to look like Klan hoods. In that garb, the threesome posed for a photo that appeared in a local newspaper."

This dude is awesome in his utter insanity. I can't believe he was the president of the local NAACP, that's just perfect.
posted by Errant at 12:53 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


flarbuse : When someone refuses to swear on the bible "... Do you affirm that you will tell the truth in this matter under the penalty of perjury, so help you God?"

Actually, in a weird sort of way, I can almost make this one make sense in my head; if the person of a different faith was refusing to place their hand on a bible because it was a Christian bible it would not preclude their belief in a god to swear by, thus making the affirmation still somewhat sensible.

Still, it doesn't work for atheists.

I make all my affirmations to Dog. Because I'm pretty sure my pooch would help me out in a pinch, and I'm willing to say that before the court.
posted by quin at 12:55 PM on December 8, 2009


We're a very blue - sort of paisley, tie-dyed blue, with purple explosions and flowers and a vortex and banjos and stuff - oasis in a red state and sometimes the cultures clash.

I saw a hillarious example of this one time outside a Ween concert in Ashville. A cop was roughing up a drug dealer he'd caught and had him face down on the hood of a car out front of the show. There was a croud gathered around to watch. As he would reach into the suspect's pockets to pull out various baggies, he would put them beside him on the ground and turn back to search another pocket. People in the crowd would reach over and grab the baggie and walk away as his attention would turn. When he had searched all the dealer's pockets he turned to gather the evidence. As there was nothing left to gather he had nothing to charge the dealer with.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:00 PM on December 8, 2009 [37 favorites]


First and Fourteenth Amendments covers this quite nicely. Will be sworn in.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:14 PM on December 8, 2009


Which almighty god?

In Asheville, presumably this one. Thanks be to the smoked turkey sandwich. AMEN!
posted by fuq at 1:15 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


And, [Edgerton] adds, after the North whipped the South and freed the slaves, what did the victors do for black folks, besides say, "You're free and on your own"? "Abolitionists would have us believe it was only about master and slave," says Edgerton. "But white folks and black folks were partners in the destiny of the South."
We're partners in destiny! Partners! Destiny!

Now get back to the fields.
posted by Flunkie at 1:21 PM on December 8, 2009


Why not just affirm a firm, strident belief in the Almighty God Jamie Hyneman, and his disciple, MetaFilter's own Adam Savage?

Well, for one thing, I suspect that MetaFilter's Own Adam Savage would take issue with being characterized as the "disciple" of Jamie Hyneman.
posted by The World Famous at 1:22 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah yes, good old H.K. Edgerton... Asheville's unique social blend has given rise to many spectacles: don't forget Ukiah Morrison, who notoriously wore only a thong around downtown and ran for city council on a pro-marijuana-legalization platform. And the kid who got suspended from school for wearing an eye patch as a practicing Pastafarian. And the policeman who arrested the couple for flying a flag upside down, despite the fact that it wasn't illegal. And then there was the furor when mayor Leni Sitnick proclaimed "Earth Religions Awareness Week," and when the protesters marched she tried to add a "Lordship of Jesus Christ Awareness Week" but then gave up and dropped both. Good times.
posted by bitslayer at 1:23 PM on December 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Did he deny the being of the Almighty God?

It seems like something that could be solved by some well-thought distraction anytime the question comes up.

"Hey, Bothwell, do you believe in the Almighty God?"
"Hm... it looks like it's going to rain today."

"Hey, councilman, are you an atheist?"
"Huh? What? Coming right up, mom!"
Right! Also, gay people have just as much a right to get married as the rest of us. Sure, they have to do it with people of the opposite sex, but that's the same as the rest of us, too.
posted by Flunkie at 1:27 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, for one thing, I suspect that MetaFilter's Own Adam Savage would take issue with being characterized as the "disciple" of Jamie Hyneman.

I know, I know. He is definitely better characterized as "the Adversary," tempting Eve with the apple of SCIENCE. That, and testing the myth of whether a person can turn into a pillar of salt.
posted by explosion at 1:29 PM on December 8, 2009


Bitslayer,

You forgot to mention Sheriff Bobby Medford.
posted by dortmunder at 1:31 PM on December 8, 2009


Also, RE: North Carolina in general: We're not a solid blue state by any means, but don't write us all off as a bunch of Klan members. When visiting my in-laws in Concord (a combination rural town/suburb of Charlotte), we were happy to see the city park was being used by a more diverse populace than we were even used to in New York: black, white, Hispanic, South Asian, and more. The U.S. really has changed a lot, even since I was a kid 25 years ago. Buying into stereotypes, whether they be of minorities or Southerners (or Teabaggers, for that matter), is just asking for trouble. We should try to actually learn something from that last election, y'all.
posted by rikschell at 1:37 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


What do you think the Angel of Death does when it's too cold to stand outside of Frog Bar? I wonder if he has an opinion on the issue.
posted by greta simone at 1:43 PM on December 8, 2009


"North Carolina's constitution is clear: politicians who deny the existence of God are barred from holding office"

Pretty clear North Carolina's constitution is going to take a major ass kicking.

This is pretty hilarious though: "On his/her deathbed, no one is an atheist. We want to live like the devil, but be saved from death like an angel. It's okay. God knows how you feel..."

But some people, when they die, on their deathbed, they will achieve total consciousness as a result of excellent caddying. So they have that going for them. Which is nice.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:47 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why not just affirm a firm, strident belief in the Almighty God Jamie Hyneman, and his disciple, MetaFilter's own Adam Savage?

Well, after spending a week with my nephews and hearing their jokes, I would prefer to declare my belief in Almighty God Chuck Norris:

When Yahweh said "Let there be light," Chuck Norris responded "Say please."

There are no species, only creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.

Chuck Norris can split the atom...with his little finger.

Caesarean section was invented when Chuck Norris kicked his way out of his mother's womb.

etc.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:50 PM on December 8, 2009


We're not a solid blue state by any means, but don't write us all off as a bunch of Klan members.

My in-laws live on the N. Carolina coast where there are a lot of other retirees from colder areas. Some long-time residents have bumper stickers that say "We don't give a damn how you did it up north." I laughed hard the first time I saw one of these.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:53 PM on December 8, 2009


Bitslayer, I was going to mention Leni's Earth Religions fiasco. The City of Asheville is may be crazy But they're always underestimating the other kind of crazy that is the County.
posted by thivaia at 1:59 PM on December 8, 2009



What do you think the Angel of Death does when it's too cold to stand outside of Frog Bar?


He does spoken word with a bunch of fire eaters and follows Father Christopher around the streets of downtown muttering barbarous words of power. That, or he works in the produce department of Earth Fare and probably dates someone I went to high school with.
posted by thivaia at 2:02 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


When a person is sworn in as a witness, she has to put her hand on the bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I've been sworn in as a witness and a juror and was only ever asked to "affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that the testimony you are about to give..." or somesuch. No bible, no swearing.
posted by electroboy at 2:08 PM on December 8, 2009


I think it would be funny if he makes the Declaration of Belief or whatever, but then says it, like, reeeaaaally sarcastically.
posted by Tiresias at 2:11 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Your favorite state's unenforceable statutes suck.
posted by applemeat at 2:37 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


the Mountain Xpress, which has become more or less the local paper of record

Cecil wrote for the Mountain Xpress for thirteen years, including their first cover story, until two years ago when they sacked him.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:51 PM on December 8, 2009


Thanks for the Sheriff Medford song, dortmunder, I had not heard that one. I thought about including the sheriff in my list, but in the end I decided that corruption is a little bit too ordinary. But he was a character.
posted by bitslayer at 2:59 PM on December 8, 2009


The demons believe.

And shudder.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:41 PM on December 8, 2009


And shudder.

They're just having orgasms.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:48 PM on December 8, 2009


I think it would be funny if he makes the Declaration of Belief or whatever, but then says it, like, reeeaaaally sarcastically.

Ha! And he's making the pantomime jerk-off motion while he does it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 4:52 PM on December 8, 2009


Huh. I live in Asheville, and had no idea this was going on. Yay atheist politicians!
posted by lazaruslong at 4:54 PM on December 8, 2009


Oh man, do I miss 12 Bones.... They do NOT know how to do proper barbecue in the Pacific Northwest.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:19 PM on December 8, 2009


The demons believe.

What demons?
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 5:25 PM on December 8, 2009


Oh man. Demons. I'd almost forgotten.

Good thing I had my full armor of God in my backback. I had to get the extra-big pack just to fit the breastplate of righteousness in there, but it's totally going to be worth it now.
posted by pts at 5:41 PM on December 8, 2009


Well, it's a good thing he's not running for dogcatcher. He'd be unelectable.
posted by stet at 5:45 PM on December 8, 2009


Reeeeaaaallly sarcastically, making pantomine jerk-off motion with one hand and corkscrew-temple 'crazy' gesture with the other.
posted by box at 5:45 PM on December 8, 2009


the demons have pee shivers
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:05 PM on December 8, 2009


It took South Carolina until 1998 and Alabama until 2000 to officially amend their states' constitutions to remove language prohibiting miscegenation. Loving v. Virginia was settled in 1967.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:24 PM on December 8, 2009


Seriously, "believing in God" doesn't make someone automatically better. That was my point re the demons above. Demons certainly know there is a God but I don't plan on voting one into office anytime soon if I can help it. ;-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:24 PM on December 8, 2009


Demons. Honest-to-God, demons.
posted by box at 6:33 PM on December 8, 2009


Speaking of demons, If there's such a personage as Satan, his favored tool must be this constipated, constricted and twisted version of Christianity that is demonstrated so well in stories like this one, along with so many of the others that we hear about so often these days.

I suspect some of these idiots are worshiping the wrong god (assuming there's a right one at all.)
posted by metagnathous at 7:03 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered what kind of cognitive dissonance is required to, on the one hand patriotically stand for our national anthem with the line repeated four times containing the phrase "land of the free", and on the other hand try to deny someone office simply because they believe differently that you do (or in this case, have a lack of belief.) Do these people not realize what freedom means? FFS, it doesn't mean free as long as you agree with me, otherwise STFU foreigner/weirdo/athiest.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:18 PM on December 8, 2009


It took South Carolina until 1998 and Alabama until 2000 to officially amend their states' constitutions to remove language prohibiting miscegenation. Loving v. Virginia was settled in 1967.

Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment in 1995.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:43 AM on December 9, 2009


Do these people not realize what freedom means?

It's the freedom to do things I approve of or go back to Russia, commie.
posted by electroboy at 6:59 AM on December 9, 2009


I prefer daemons, they're much better for scheduling
posted by jtron at 7:04 AM on December 9, 2009


It took South Carolina until 1998 and Alabama until 2000 to officially amend their states' constitutions to remove language prohibiting miscegenation.

Yeah, but we settled out with atheists can holding office in 1993. Which got rid of my best excuse for getting out of jury duty...

Fun fact: The 13th amendment was ratified in Mississippi the year I moved there, and interracial marriage was "legalized" the year I moved to South Carolina. I'm apparently a one man progressive tide. I'm available on demand at very inexpensive terms if any other states want me to move there and shake things up.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:37 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


And Cecil is a fully fledged city council member today with a minimum of fuss and bother.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:17 AM on December 9, 2009


I'm apparently a one man progressive tide.

I wouldn't count on the Quicksilver being held in either place anytime soon.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:34 AM on December 9, 2009


Also, in the same legislative session that Mississippi debated the 13th amendment ratification, they were also debating this.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:47 AM on December 9, 2009


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