Remembering Selma Cash Paty: A Trailblazing Advocate for Women’s Rights and Religious Freedom

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee – Selma Cash Paty, a pioneering lawyer and advocate for women’s rights, passed away on May 1, 2016, at the age of 89. Paty was a trailblazer in the legal profession, entering the field before the acceptance of women as equal counterparts in law.

Known for her strong advocacy for women’s rights, abortion, and various causes in the Hamilton County community, Paty made a significant impact in the courtroom. She was respected by her peers, who admired her passion for the law, family, socializing, and embracing outdated practices such as smoking cigarettes.

Notably, Paty was involved in a landmark case in 1978 that had a profound effect on the legal system. As the original plaintiff in the United States Supreme Court case of McDaniel v. Paty, she successfully challenged a provision of the Tennessee constitution that disqualified ministers, preachers, or priests from serving as delegates to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Paty, stating that the provision violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

This ruling brought significant changes to America’s political landscape, allowing religious candidates to run for public office. Paty’s impact extended beyond her legal career. She was an outspoken advocate, and if she were alive today, she would likely have strong opinions on issues such as the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the rise of anti-Semitism.

Selma Cash Paty was a true pioneer, paving the way for future women in the legal field. Her legacy will be remembered for her dedication to fighting for justice and equality.

Jerry Summers can be reached at [email protected].