Monday, August 15, 2011

Cecil Bothwell: Reflections on the Separation of Church & State

On September 15, Cecil Bothwell will be offering us his reflections on the importance of the separation of church and state.  Mr. Bothwell is currently an elected member of the Asheville City Council, and is the author of  The Prince of War: Billy Graham's Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire.

Clearly, the secularism of the federal constitution is at odds with the NC State Constitution's discriminatory clause against non-theists. Yet this very clause was cited to oppose the election of Cecil Bothwell (an open atheist) to the Asheville City Council in 2009.  The former president of the Asheville NAACP, as one example, challenged the legitimacy Bothwell's election purely on the basis of religious identification: “I'm not saying that Cecil Bothwell is not a good man, but if he's an atheist, he's not eligible to serve in public office, according to the state constitution.”

Bob Orr, executive director of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law (and former state Supreme Court justice), has noted that North Carolina's Constitutional discrimination against non-theists is ultimately legally unenforceable: "the U.S. Constitution trumps the North Carolina Constitution... I think there’s any number of federal cases that would view this as an imposition of a religious qualification and violate separation of church and state."

So thanks to the secularism enshrined in our US Constitution (which is defended by essential organizations such as the ACLU and Americans United), Mr. Bothwell is not only serving in public office in the city of Asheville, but is now also running for US Congress (NC District 11).  

As an atheist who has been elected to public office, who has experience confronting both law and culture that discriminate against non-theists, his reflections on the importance of the separation of church and state are definitely something you don't want to miss!

The UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics are proud to host this event on our campus (UNC-Greensboro, Graham Building, Room 212), September 15 at 7pm.