Not only are atheists unlikely to win elections, but they are actually banned from holding office under the constitutions of seven states (Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas), according to the American Humanist Association, even though this clearly violates Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
When the views of anywhere from 5% to 20% of the American people are not part of the debate in our legislatures, the laws that are passed may not fully reflect the will of the people or, at a minimum, take into account the opinion of a sizable minority. African-Americans are about 13% of the U.S. population and have a representation of about 10% of the members of the U.S. House. Imagine how people would react today if there were no African-Americans in Congress.
That admitted atheists are virtually unelectable is a mark of prejudice against them and it impacts the ways we formally educate the future leaders of this country. Consider the fact that Tennessee recently passed a law allowing teachers to tell their students that evolution and climate change are “scientifically controversial,” and that Ohio is considering passing a law that would enable the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution.
Why is it that we require our candidates to profess a religious faith, but not that they demonstrate even minimal scientific literacy? Our representatives in Congress make critical decisions on science policy and science funding, and yet are often hostile to the entire scientific enterprise. In 2012, Rep. Paul Broun, R-Georgia, while serving on the House science committee, famously said that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies from the pit of hell.”