Does this candidate have a prayer?

“South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum,” observed Congressman James L. Petigru, shortly after South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860 and declared itself a republic. I’ve lived in South Carolina since 1976, and stories about our politicians no longer surprise me. The comedy group Capitol Steps takes its name from the escapade involving our former congressman John Jenrette, who had sex with his wife on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in the late 1970s. More recently, our former governor Mark Sanford was intimate with his “soul mate” in Argentina, which he mistook for the Appalachian Trail. Perhaps South Carolina is not too large for an insane asylum.

Some might argue that I’m also a candidate for this asylum. After all, why would a liberal, Yankee, Jewish atheist like me run for governor of South Carolina? Well, it wasn’t through blind ambition or unrealistic expectations, and certainly the devil didn’t make me do it. In 1990 a colleague at the College of Charleston, where I was a math professor, pointed out that the South Carolina Constitution prohibited atheists from becoming governor.

Since the U.S. Constitution bars religious tests for public office, I asked a local ACLU lawyer how this obviously unconstitutional provision could be removed. He said that to mount a legal challenge, an open atheist would have to become a candidate. And he added with a smile, “The very best candidate would be you-in a race for governor of South Carolina.”

After giving this surprising suggestion much thought, I agreed to run as a write-in candidate. I assumed, in my political naïveté, that state officials would consent to bring South Carolina into compliance with federal law. They didn’t. Governor Carroll Campbell said, “The South Carolina Constitution was fine as it was because this country was founded on Godly principles.”

Read more at On Faith, in the Washington Post.

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