North Carolina elected official controvery, retro version

There’s been a dust-up in North Carolina about Cecil Bothwell, a newly elected member of the Asheville city council, who is both an atheist or post-theist and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church there. Because the North Carolina constitution (VI.8) disqualifies as office holders “any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

Dan Harper (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist) and Chalicechick have written about this. And of course, it’s a void point with the supremecy of the United States Constitution and religious test clause and all.

This is not the first time Universalists and North Carolina have clashed in this area, as I recall in my never-finished-thesis research. In common law, a person who would not swear against the truth revealed on Judgement Day was not qualified to be a juror, and I believe, and office holder. (I’m a bit short of time this morning to check my citations and I don’t recall the exact phrasing for a review of Blackstone. I’ll revisit this in a few days and update.) In North Carolina and Georgia in the 1850s, this was used to inhibit Universalists, who denied judgement unto damnation. The Southern Universalist papers made causes célèbres — especially after an Oglethorpe County, Georgia murder case where the only two witnesses were a Universalist father and son. The Universalists were habilited in both states by statute, which I’ll cite when I find them.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. ***Because the North Carolina constitution (VI.8) disqualifies as office holders “any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”***

    I believe this would disqualify the average Buddhist, Christian theologian Paul Tillich (God is not a being, but the ground of our being), Confuscianists, Shintoists, Taoists, practioners of Ethical Culture, and perhaps many Wiccans. Interesting indeed! Let us give thanks to the US constitution, which protects all of us equally.

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