The Republic of Texas Kept Preachers out of Congress

Years ago, I read that the constitution of the Texas Republic banned preachers and lawyers from their legislature.  I think that the thought on banning lawyers was that the profession had a vested interest in passing unclear laws . . . but as I look at our non-attorney legislators, I’m not sure that a law degree makes for a poorer legislator.

Then I look at Georgia, where we have a preacher and a football player neck and neck for the job as US Senator.   I listened to part of their debate – the preacher is definitely more articulate.  On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Herschel Walker could beat him hands down on a football field.  Still, I’m not overly convinced that either has the precise ability we need – there’s no spot in the Senate chambers where running or throwing a football is particularly appropriate, and experience preaching doesn’t necessarily translate into good governmental decisions. 

As I looked at the First Amendment Encyclopedia, I learned that it wasn’t just Texas.  Thirteen states (including New York) had constitutional provisions that prohibited the clergy from holding elected or appointed public office.  While most removed these from their constitutions before 1880, Tennessee’s prohibition was removed by the Supreme Court in 1978 (McDaniel v. Paty).

Maryland voters amended their constitution to get rid of it in 1978.  Apparently it is wrong to discriminate against preachers.

So the folks in Georgia get to choose between representation by a preacher or a football player.  It may not be a perfect choice – but it is a lot more choice than the single-candidate ballot offers us in Lincoln County.

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