So here is the situation. My local representative on the School Board was a Republican and was caught stealing money from a charity. He was kicked off the School Board and so there was a vacancy. The current Board issued a call for people to replace him. There would be an interview with the Board and then the Board would vote. Since my son will be starting public school in this district, I decided to throw my hat in the ring.
The interview was on Monday night. Most of the questions were standard questions asked of all the candidates until the Republican Vice-President asked me about my atheism.
He started off talking about how we live in an internet age and how he Googled me. Then a few of the other Board members tried to hush him down, but he continued. He said that he saw that I write a lot about atheism, informed me that the Board says a prayer at the beginning of each meeting, and asked if I would be okay with that as an atheist.
I told him that it isn’t about me; it is about the U.S. Constitution. As a point of fact, prayers during meetings violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause and that the Board could either stop praying during the meeting or open the floor to other religions and non-religious viewpoints to give an invocation.
This clearly rattled some members of the Board as after my interview was over, they continued to talk about this issue quietly as part of the meeting. One Board member even said that she would stop praying at the beginning of meetings when they take “In God We Trust” off our money. Still, there was a Board member who pointed out that my interpretation of the Constitution was indeed correct. He even fielded objections made by other Board members.
So where does this stand now? Well, the vote was last night and I was unable to attend it live. However, I did receive a phone call from the Board’s President yesterday afternoon informing me that the unofficial vote suggests that I will not be the one filling the vacancy on the School Board.
There were two other candidates and I don’t know what the final vote was yet. However, clearly my atheism was a factor because if came up as an issue in the interview and at least two Board members took issue to my lack of belief in deities.
Despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” there may have in fact been a religious test for this School Board position.
Where do I go from here? Not only does this School Board violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause with prayer during public meetings, but they may have also violated Article VI Paragraph 3 of the Constitution itself. Thoughts?
- Atheists raising money for Boston Marathon victims (examiner.com)
- Liberal Talk Show Host Claims Atheism Is A Religion (skepticink.com)
- Bending The Democratic Party Toward Secularism (skepticink.com)
- 4 Things Atheists Should Be Doing (skepticink.com)