Friday, March 5, 2010

The American Political Theology in a Nutshell

The Great State of Tennessee's constitution of 1870, still technically in force, albeit unenforceable under current jurisprudence per the 14th Amendment [Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961)]:


§ 1. Clergy; eligibility to serve in legislature

Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

§ 2. Atheists holding office

No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

§ 3. Duelists holding office

Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, fight a duel, or knowingly be the bearer of a challenge to fight a duel, or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this State, and shall be punished otherwise, in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe.


Holy rollers, moderns, and the generally quarrelsome need not apply. They're all threats to the polity. The Founding had no time for clergymen, always stirring up trouble about this dogma or that. Atheists, whatever. It's between you and your god or your no-God. Leave the rest of us out of it.

Duelists, well, they're a general pain in the ass, too, but fortunately most of them ended up dead before their time, law of averages. We get them once again on the internet these days, of course, except they're character assassins, mostly.
[Calling Brad DeLong.* Dr. J. Bradford DeLong.*]

Rather than pistols at dawn, for those folks, I favor Ben Franklin's "liberty of the cudgel":

"My proposal then is, to leave the liberty of the press untouched, to be exercised in its full extent, force, and vigor; but to permit the liberty of the cudgel to go with it pari passu. Thus, my fellow-citizens, if an impudent writer attacks your reputation, dearer to you perhaps than your life, and puts his name to the charge, you may go to him as openly and break his head. If he conceals himself behind the printer, and you can nevertheless discover who he is, you may in like manner way-lay him in the night, attack him behind, and give him a good drubbing."

[Italics are Franklin's.]

*This is a private joke between me & our blogchief Mr. Hart. I'll explain in a future post, but you can follow the link for the skinny. This post is about Tennessee's constitution, worthy to be discussed in its own right. They were on to something there. No time for the quarrelsome. Life's too short.


Phil Johnson said...

I have super religious relatives that came to Michigan from Tennessee during the 1930s.
My guess is that they were influenced by part of that constitution.
Seriously invluenced.
I wonder if the schools in Tennessee were affected much by their constitution.

Mark D. said...

These provisions, particularly the prohibition on clergy being able to serve in public office, are also unenforceable under the Supreme Court case of McDaniel v. Paty.

Justice Brennan wrote a fantastic and very powerful concurrence to that opinion, stating that religious beliefs and vocations may not, under the First Amendment, serve as a bar to participation in civic life. Well worth a read.