I had fun today! I made plans to go down to the courthouse, pay the fee, sign the form and get a notary commission. In Georgia it's astonishingly easy to become a notary. Two people from your county affirm you're an upstanding citizen. You take that and a photo ID to the clerks office of your county, pay $30, take an oath, and congrats you're a notary!

My plan was to scratch out the 'so help me God' portion of the oath and see what happens. Here's the outline version of what happened:

Clerk - 'you can't cross that out'
Me - yes I can. I don't believe in God.
Clerk - no you can't. that's the oath
Me - yes I can
Clerk - no, I need to get you another paper
Me - I'm crossing it out
Clerk - It doesn't matter if you believe. You don't have to believe. That's the oath. You have to sign it.
Me - So I can't be a notary unless I sign
Clerk - You have to sign the oath
Me - I request a secular alternative
Clerk - Let me talk to someone

goes to the back and gets someone esle

Clerk2- I've called the (clerk/mgr) and waiting for her to call or come back to find out if we can do that. Can you come back later?
Me- I'll wait
Clerk2 - Well if she calls after one, we'll both be gone for lunch
Me- So if we don't hear by one I'll have to wait until 2.
Clerk2- I'll try her again.
Me- I'll wait
Clerk2- The lobby is fine
Me- Ok

- Clerk 1 handed me my paperwork and money back
- I go outside the office and call my American Atheists connection.
- He says if they won't let me become a notary today, I should explain this isn't over and that I'll come back with a witness next time. He and I would work out a time to come back together with a camera.
- Second lady comes out and says I can come back now
- I'm allowed to cross out 'so help me God', and initial it
- We continue
- Poof! notary

Damn. I was excited!
I'm disappointed it didn't explode.
It was fun, though.

Apply for the notary in your state!! In some states it's a long, expensive process, but in many (like GA) it takes more to obtain a library card.

Give it a shot! What's to lose, right? Get in touch with a local atheist/freethought/whatever group and give them the heads up. They may have experience in this already and can likely help you if things feel like they're getting out of control.

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Comment by Lisa Hamilton on June 26, 2009 at 1:31pm
Herb Silverman says it took him longer to get his notary than his PhD! lol
His story is in the book Fundamentals of Extremism. It's a scary collection of writings. You should grab a copy. I think they may sell it on the American Atheists website www.atheists.org
Comment by George on June 23, 2009 at 12:34am
I attended a lecture by Herb Silverman last year where he told a similar story. He's the president of the Secular Coalition, an atheist lobby. He actually ran for governor of South Carolina in order to challenge the religious rule in place there. He lost the election (of course) but won the battle since the SC supreme court struck down the religious law. At some point he applied to become a notary in order to hold a public office.
Comment by Lisa Hamilton on June 22, 2009 at 11:06pm
That's great!!!
I made a comment to a coworker yesterday. He and I were talking about how it's the extremists in each religious group that give religions a bad name. I said that's all fine and good. I can shout and scream about it all I want, but until these moderates within the religions speak up against the extremes within their own religion, nothing will happen. It's like Nazi Germany. All the Germans just let things happen because it didn't affect them directly.

I meant it and still mean it, but I felt rather bad about the way this came out. This guy is really really nice and our little conversation didn't last but a minute. We talk about this sort of thing all the time, though. I apologized, but he said "You're right. You're absolutely right. Thank you." He's catholic, very liberal and very accepting and supportive of my atheist activism. Cool guy. Too bad he's been in a relationship for 2 years. Pthth
Comment by Lisa Hamilton on June 22, 2009 at 6:10pm
Thanks, Cliff! Your response made me smile, too! Good for you on your 'non god' oath! I was also a notary back 10 yrs ago when I lived in CA. It is silly the alternative oath is so readily available -at least in CA- and it's not the first/only used. I now live in the same county where the school board put 'advisory stickers' in all the high school biology textbooks in 2002. This is the 21st Century, people! http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2006/1221cobb.asp I wanted SO MUCH to make a point here. I suppose I did, because I at least got the court staff thinking, but I wanted it to go farther. :-)

Are you a member of American Atheists? Were you at the convention? Maybe I met you.

Nothing will come of this sort of action until thousands and thousands of us bubble up out of the woodwork and make it an issue. I'm glad I did it. It's a great feeling to have made the effort and made my point. The AA connection I spoke with from the courthouse is American Atheists President Ed Buckner. He lives in my county and was one of my character witnesses. Oh how I wanted this to gather pressure until we popped the seal when I returned to the courthouse with Mr. Buckner and a camera. That would have been COOL!

Seriously, though, droves of us need to stand up and make this point. Until we do, the gov't won't accept there's a point to be made.

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