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What you need to know about Amendment 4 on Tennessee's November ballot

Amendment 4 is a yes or no vote to remove an article of Tennessee's constitution that disqualifies preachers from being elected to Tennessee's General Assembly.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee constitutional Amendment Four or the “remove religious minister disqualification amendment,” will appear on your ballot this November.

“I think some of it has to be understood through the lens of just a cosmetic language change," pastor Dr. Earle Fisher said. "It hasn’t really been enforced."

A "yes" vote supports removing Section 1 of Article 9 of Tennessee's constitution that disqualifies religious ministers from being elected to the Tennessee General Assembly.

A "no" vote opposes removing section 1 of Article 9. 

“We have to be forward-thinking," Fisher said. "When you start thinking about religious inclusivity and people who represent, you know, Muslim faith communities; Jewish faith communities, other faith communities. I think if we aren’t careful of modernizing, we run the risk of allowing that antiquated language to be leveraged in ways that will box people out of political office.”   

RELATED: How Amendment 1 on the November ballot could affect your 'Right to Work' in Tennessee

In 1977, Paul McDaniel, a Baptist minister, filed as a candidate for the state constitutional convention. Another candidate, Selma Paty, sued saying minister McDaniel was disqualified. Paty sighted Section 1 Article 9 of Tennessee's constitution. 

The Supreme Court of the United States in McDaniel v. Paty held that the statute was unconstitutional because it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments but the provision remains in Tennessee's constitution.

RELATED: What to know about Amendment 2 on Tennessee's November ballot

Pastor Fisher maintains while the law has not been enforced in decades, these votes to change the state’s constitution provide a bigger opportunity.

"I believe it gives us the opportunity to educate the general public on the process of what it means to amend the constitution," Fisher said. "Which rarely happens and could be relatively rigorous.”

Remember this is your choice. You can vote yes or no. Early voting starts October 19.

Take a look at the sample ballot in Shelby County here.

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