Wingers threatening legal action to force Cecil Bothwell off Asheville City Council

Cross-posted at dKos

Back on Thursday, I mentioned the saga of Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell. Some fundies over there want to bounce him from office because he's an atheist--and cite a provision in the state constitution that requires you to profess belief in God in order to hold office. Never mind that this provision is unenforceable due to numerous provisions of the federal Constitution (Article VI, the Supremacy Clause and the 1st and 14th Amendments). The Asheville City Council didn't back down, and Bothwell was duly sworn in.

But yesterday, the fundies vowed to press on.

One foe, H.K. Edgerton, is threatening to file a lawsuit in state court against the city to challenge Bothwell's appointment.

"My father was a Baptist minister. I'm a Christian man. I have problems with people who don't believe in God," said Edgerton, a former local NAACP president and founder of Southern Heritage 411, a group that promotes the interests of black Southerners.

The only question here, in my view, is how soon a judge will tell Edgerton to go fly a kite.

I know that a lot of people may think that there aren't many judges in North Carolina who can throw this out and still keep their jobs. But assuming Edgerton (who is well known to be a fruit loop--see his Wikipedia article) has the stones to take this all the way to the federal Supreme Court, it's inconceivable that any judge will be willing to effectively gut the 14th Amendment.

The larger issue here, to my mind, is how embarrassing it is that we're even having this discussion in 2009. This provision was carried over from the 1868 state constitution into the current 1971 document--a full decade after the federal Supremes threw out a similar provision in the Maryland. It doesn't matter if it can't be enforced. The fact this clause is still there makes North Carolina look horrible. In fact, it's almost as bad as the few Jim Crow provisions that are still in a few Southern state constitutions even though it's common knowledge they can't be enforced.

The question here, as I see it, is whether anyone in the state legislature will have the backbone to either propose an amendment that would remove it. The only way to find out is if those of us here in North Carolina write our state reps and senators and demand action. I've never written my state legislators before, as admittedly I've been focused a lot on federal issues. But if there is ever a reason to do so, this is it.


Good luck with that

Seriously, write them ... but don't hold your breath.

This issue comes up almost every year and from what I've seen, the cowardly honorables never even consider doing anything about it. Some of them genuinely seem to enjoy the theater of being a national laughingstock, while others argue that opening this up for debate could throw a ton of other issues into the queue for consideration (TABOR, DOMA, and a host of other right-wing lunacies).

Atheism is the last frontier for political posturing in America. I bet most of the NC General Assembly would vote to keep this absurd requirement in place even knowing it is manifestly contradicting the US Constitution.

Thanks for the cross-post. You've had a good run at Kos lately!


PS I'm not sure what dragged me from a focus on federal issues to an obsession with what's happening here in North Carolina, but it's been an interesting transition over the past four years. You're always welcome to write or cross-post here.

Using the same logic....

Per Edgerton, "My father was a Baptist minister. I'm a Christian man. I have problems with people who don't believe in God."

Hmmm, using the same logic, I could proclaim:
"My father was a white man. I'm a white man. I have problems with people who aren't white."

After re-reading each statement a few times, I still can't tell which sounds more ignorant and hateful.

Why are they harassing Bothwell?

Perhaps it is just anti-atheist bigotry, but as one who has served time as a local government reporter, I do wonder if there are underlying conflicts having to do with strictly local matters.

Not between Edgerton and Bothwell specifically.

But this year's election brought a more progressive council than we've had in a few years. So I think that some of this is the agony of defeat, rather than generic religious intolerance.

If it were Chapel Hill

the local matter might involve interloping on the ... ahem ... southern part of heaven. Or in the case of John Denver, almost heaven in West Virginia.

I sort of hope you're right. It would be a tough pill to swallow if all this really were about a person's freedom from religion.

Bothwell's an alt journalist; Edgerton's nuts

Bothwell is a longtime alternative journalist, having nailed several local officials over the years for various crooked dealings; he also wrote a book about Billy Graham titled Prince of War. He's been a burr under the right wing's saddle in Asheville for a while, so now they're being petty and vengeful. Big surprise.
Edgerton is an odd case, and that's being pretty generous. He's the former head of the Asheville chapter of the NAACP, but at some point "saw the light," and now is affiliated with a "Southern heritage" group. Now and then he shows up on the square in Asheville wearing a Confederate uniform and waving a big rebel flag. And no, I'm not making this up.