Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean
By Holly Meyer
Sarah Green remembers feeling like she didn’t belong in her own state after discovering that Tennessee’s constitution bars people who don’t believe in God from holding public office.
“It was one of the things that made me realize how unwelcome it could be for an atheist, especially in the South,” Green said. “It pretty much informed my decision to stay closeted, if you will, for almost 15 years.”
The 30-year-old Hermitage woman came out as an atheist almost a year ago and is adding her voice to a national push to take provisions that discriminate against the nonreligious off the books. The effort is spearheaded by Openly Secular, which issued a report late last year finding that eight states, including Tennessee, had similar language in their constitutions.
While a U.S. Supreme Court decision gives such provisions few teeth, Openly Secular advocates for their removal because they’re demeaning and can be used as political fodder, according to Todd Stiefel, chairman of the organization.
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