A bookkeeper named Roy Torcaso, who happened to be an atheist, refused to declare that he believed in God in order to serve as a notary public in Maryland. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1961 the court ruled unanimously for Mr. Torcaso, saying states could not have a “religious test” for public office.
But 53 years later, Maryland and six other states still have articles in their constitutions saying people who do not believe in God are not eligible to hold public office. Maryland’s Constitution still says belief in God is a requirement even for jurors and witnesses…
In an interview, Mr. Raskin said the constitutional provision was inconsistent with Maryland’s history as a refuge for Catholics fleeing persecution and a haven of religious tolerance. He foresees an attempt to remove the atheist ban as part of a broader overhaul and modernization of the State Constitution. But the next opportunity for a referendum on whether to hold a constitutional convention in which changes could be made is not until 2020, he said.
Paging through a copy of the State Constitution, he said the atheist ban was only part of the “flotsam and jetsam” that needed to be wiped from the document. “It’s an obsolete but lingering insult to people,” he said.