The Texas Constitution says there’s no religious test for office holders – provided that “he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme being.”
So much for prohibitions on religious tests – not to mention female candidates.
The “supreme being” clause went unchallenged for years, until three decades ago. It was then Texas’ Attorney General agreed there’s no way to enforce any real or imagined constitutional ban on atheist office-holders.
Today, in Republican Collin County – home of such GOP stalwarts as Ken Paxton – a Democrat in the race has more than the usual uphill battle.
Cristin Padgett is running for a Texas House seat in District 33, representing Frisco and Rockwall – and she makes no attempt to conceal the fact that she doesn’t acknowledge the existence of a supreme being. She recently spoke with the Standard about her candidacy.
Why she’s declaring herself an atheist, even though she doesn’t want it to be part of her platform:
“I’m making an issue of it for starters, because the words ‘godless’ and ‘atheist’ have a very negative connotation and they make people want to run for the hills. When you look at religious freedom, I think that applies to everybody –and not just those that believe in your ethnocentric values and beliefs and that means, me too, so to speak.”
On why she’s decided to address atheism up front:
“I know that it’s going to be held against me – and I can imagine if I wasn’t as forthright as I am and headstrong as I am and determined as I am, it might have deterred me. And I can only imagine it’s going to deter other people.”
On the few atheists (only one thus far) who have run for office in Texas:
“Other than the person you’re speaking of, I am not actually aware of anybody else. And that’s due in large part because people don’t talk about their lack of religion. I mean, I grew up Catholic, I could have shown you a picture of my communion when I was eight years old … but that wouldn’t be who I am.”
On millennials not having a strong belief in any deity:
“The issue, though, is that those are not the people in power. That is not the establishment. The establishment is people like Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott, who go on national television and talk about their ethnocentric beliefs, as if that’s equal to Texas values, and then they push that on other people, as invalid as that is and that disenfranchises people.”