June 20, 2004

May 23, 2004Meeting Report

June 4, 2004

Herb Silverman
The Candidate Without a Prayer

Herb SilvermanDr. Silverman is a Professor of Mathematics at Charleston College, in Charleston, SC, a board member of the American Humanist Association and of the South Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

South Carolina has had, since 1868, a constitutional prohibition against allowing atheists to hold public office. The United States Supreme Court had years ago invalidated a similar provision in the Maryland constitution in its Torcaso decision and Herb Silverman thought South Carolina’s provision was ripe for a legal challenge. So he did what seemed to be a practical thing to do. He ran for Governor! He also filed suit in the United States District Court in South Carolina. The judge ruled that the case was "not ripe" and that he would rule on it only if Silverman won the election. The chance of an open atheist being elected Governor of South Carolina is about zero.

Frustrated in his fight for the right to run for Governor, Silverman started Secular Humanists of the Low Country. He also filed an application to become a notary public. Certification as a notary public also required one to profess a belief in a deity. He crossed out the religious reference on the form and his application was rejected. He again filed suit. The State of South Carolina fought him all the way and a former governor filed an 86-page deposition in support of the constitutional provision. In August 1995 a judge ruled in Silverman's favor. The case was appealed by the State to the South Carolina Supreme Court. That Court, citing the precedent in the Torcaso decision, also ruled in Silverman's favor in May 1997. He finally received his commission as a notary public!

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, HAGSA Recorder

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May 23, 2004 2004 Meetings June 20, 2004