Silverman v. Campbell

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Silverman v. Campbell, et al.
CourtSupreme Court of South Carolina
Full case nameHerb Silverman v. Carol A. Campbell, et al.
ArguedOctober 3, 1996 1996
DecidedMay 27, 1997 1997
Citation(s)326 S.C. 208 (1997) 486 S.E.2d 1 [1]
The Court held that the Constitution of South Carolina articles requiring belief in a supreme being to be in violation of the First Amendment and the No Religious Test Clause of the U. S. Constitution[1]
Court membership
Chief judgeErnest A. Finney, Jr.[2]
Associate judgesJean Toal, James E. Moore, John H. Waller, E. C. Burnett, III
Case opinions
ConcurrenceToal, Moore, Waller, Burnett
Laws applied
Article VI, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution

Silverman v. Campbell was a South Carolina Supreme Court case regarding the constitutionality of a provision in the South Carolina Constitution requiring an oath to God for employment in the public sector.


In 1992, Herb Silverman was a mathematics professor at the College of Charleston who applied to become a notary public. Silverman is an atheist who had earlier run for the post of Governor of South Carolina.[3] His application was rejected after he crossed off the phrase "So help me God"[4] from the oath, which was required by the South Carolina State Constitution.[5] Silverman filed a lawsuit naming Gov. Carroll Campbell and Secretary of State Jim Miles as defendants.[6] After a lower court made a ruling in favor of Silverman, the state appealed to the Supreme Court contending that the case was not about religion.[7]

The South Carolina Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision,[2] ruled that Article VI, section 2 and Article XVII, section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution—both of which state, "No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution"[1]—could not be enforced because they violated the First Amendment protection of free exercise of religion and the Article VI, section 3 of the United States Constitution banning the use of a religious test for public office.[8] Current precedent holds that these provisions are binding on the states under the 14th Amendment.

Herb Silverman in 2018. President-Emeritus of the Secular Coalition for America, and a former board member of the American Humanist Association.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Important SC Supreme Court Cases". South Carolina Bar. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b "24622 - Silverman v. Campbell, et al". South Carolina Judicial Department. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  3. ^ Associated Press (March 2, 1992). "Man's refusal to say "so help me god" hasn't helped get job as notary public". Herald-Journal. Charleston, SC. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  4. ^ Corbin, Caroline Mala (2011). "Nonbelievers and Government Speech". Iowa Law Review. 97. SSRN 1797804.
  5. ^ Gellman, Susan; Susan Looper-Friedman (2007). "Thou shalt use the equal protection clause for religion cases (not just the establishment clause)" (PDF). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  6. ^ Associated Press (January 22, 1993). "Man attacks 'Supreme being' rule". Times-News. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  7. ^ AP (December 20, 1996). "Atheist mounts challenge to S.C. supreme court". The Robesonian. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  8. ^ Underwood, James L. (2006). The dawn of religious freedom in South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1570036217.