If you reflect on the Silverman v. Campbell of 1996/1997 through the South Carolina Supreme Court case, and other notable and similar cases - especially those that lost, what is the silver lining in this and other cases? Other positives around even some of the negative issues that may emerge from this, e.g., the reinvigoration of religious fundamentalists to push harder than before.
Winning is good, but sometimes losing is better—especially when a loss leads to much bigger wins. I’ll illustrate with a personal example. In 1989, a colleague at the College of Charleston pointed out that our South Carolina Constitution prohibited atheists from becoming governor. While I’m no constitutional scholar, I knew this violated Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits religious tests as qualification for any public office. I went to the American Civil Liberties Union office to ask an attorney there how this obviously unconstitutional provision could be removed. The lawyer said, “The best way is for an open atheist to become a candidate.” He added, smiling, “In fact, the very best candidate would be you—in a 1990 race for governor of South Carolina.” After giving this surprising suggestion much thought, I agreed to run as the candidate without a prayer. I assumed, in my political naïveté, that the state attorney general would then simply consent to bring South Carolina into compliance with federal law, and that would end the matter. My lawyer knew better. When a reporter asked South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell what he thought of my candidacy and constitutional challenge, Campbell said, “The South Carolina Constitution is fine just as it is because this country was founded on Godly principles.”