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First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, three times a week, Jeremy recalls the stories that have shaped America’s religious liberty, from the founding era to current legal battles and more. It’s an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people, and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.
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Sep 12, 2018

A long standing ban in the Tennessee Constitution prevented ministers from seeking elected office until 1977 despite an entire Civil War being fought to protect the rights of citizenship. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


In 1796, the State of Tennessee banned an entire class of Americans from running for elected office.The state’s founders even enshrined this prohibition in the very constitution of their own state. 

Perhaps by 1977, modern society would have come to its senses.  After all, an entire civil war had been fought over a state’s denial of the rights of citizenship to human beings.  But, evidently the state didn’t pay attention.  Some rationalized that, if the state lifted the ban, these people would exercise their powers to promote one group of people over another, violating the rigorous neutrality expected of any lawmaker.

So, given the opportunity, Selma Cash Paty filed a lawsuit to prevent Paul McDaniel from running.  Maybe Paty was just trailing in the polls and this was an easy way to win. Or, maybe, it was just the entrenched discrimination made infamous by the Deep South.

Either way, McDaniel, was an ordained minister of the Gospel and his position as pastor of a Baptist church in Chattanooga was enough to disqualify him from office, according to the Tennessee constitution.

But, the justices of the Supreme Court ended the almost two-centuries of discrimination when, in McDaniel v. Paty, the justices held that state constitution’s exclusion of ministers seeking elected office violated McDaniel’s free exercise rights under the First Amendment.

Well, I think we can all say “Amen” to that.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

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