Today an interesting article discussing religious displays caught my attention. The article, published by Addictinginfo.org, talks about the intent of The Satanic Temple to place a religious display next to a display of the Ten Commandments outside of an Oklahoma courthouse. Addictinginfo.org provided a copy of the temple’s press release:
“The Satanic Temple, an established New York City-based religious organization, has offered to donate a public monument to Oklahoma’s Capitol Preservation Commission for display upon Oklahoma City’s capitol grounds. Described as an “homage” to Satan, the purpose of the monument is to complement and contrast the Ten Commandments monument that already resides on the North side of the building. The donation offer has been submitted and is currently awaiting the commission’s reply.”
Personally I’d rather no religious organization be allowed to display religious artifacts anywhere near a government building. Such displays are a barricade to participation by non-believers, sending a message that atheists and agnostics are to be severely ostracized by American society. Maryland’s constitution not only provides an example of ostracizing non-believers but introduces an irony in the relationship between America’s dominant religion, Christianity, and the ever controversial religion of Satanism.
Article 36 of the Maryland Constitution says this about a non-believers ability to hold political office in the Free State or give testimony in court:
Art. 36. That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for his religious practice, unless, under the color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others in their natural, civil or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent, or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain, any place of worship, or any ministry; nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come.
Nothing shall prohibit or require the making reference to belief in, reliance upon, or invoking the aid of God or a Supreme Being in any governmental or public document, proceeding, activity, ceremony, school, institution, or place.
Article 37 goes on to say about the holding of a state office or swearing an oath in the state:
Art. 37. That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.
Under Article 36, an atheist cannot testify because he or she does not have as a check on their testimony’s veracity; that check being accountability to a higher power. That a non-believer bases his testimony solely on his code for doing the right thing and their reliance on reason, evidence, and logic is not acceptable in Maryland. The state would rather take the testimony of an individual who, ironically, bases the veracity of their assertions on an entity the existence of which cannot be proven.
Imagine, a forum where evidence and reasonableness are the standards relying on testimony by an individual guided by visions, blind faith, and questionable accuracy of the philosophical texts that they follow.
A further irony is that given Christianity’s misgivings about the philosophical underpinnings of Satanism, an American court would reject the testimony of a non-believer before rejecting the testimony a Satanist all because the Satanist refers to a competing spirit as “God” or a supreme being. The same would also hold true for someone taking an oath of office, taking on the public trust.
The state should not be so irrational in its treatment of competing religions or deities. Rather than running the risk of equating the two, as Oklahoma may be getting ready to, this irony could be easily addressed by repealing Articles 36 and 37 of the Maryland Constitution.