Religious Test for Public Office, Torcaso v. Watkins, and Get Out

Religious test
Religious test
The President takes an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. No religious test need apply

My Country – A Religious Test for Public Office

The Constitution provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the United States.” But Justice Douglas notes that in 1776, many states had religious tests.

Pre-Constitution Religious Test

The Pennsylvania Constitution required each legislator to swear an oath to God.

I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the Universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scripture of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.

Similarly the Delaware Constitution had its own religious test.

I do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testmanet to be given by divine inspiration

That last line has begun to look familiar.

Additionally, state official in Massachusetts had to swear to its own religious test.

I believe in the Christian religious and have a firm persuasion of its truth.

Other states had more specific religion test requirements, such as Georgia, where a legislator had to be of the Protestant religion. So, when the Constitutional convention argued about this phrase, it became heated.

Constitutional Convention

Although very few disagreed with the concept, the rationales for a religious test differed among the Constitutional Convention. For example, James Madison noted in regards to Congressional elections that  “religion itself may become a motive to persecution and oppression.” Other objected to the idea that “Jews,” “Turks,” “infidels,” “heathens,” and even “Roman Catholics” might hold national office under the proposed Constitution.

However, the defenders of the Constitution put forward two reasons for the religious test ban. First, various Christian sects feared that, if any test were permitted, one might be designed to their disadvantage. No single sect could hope to dominate national councils. But any sect could imagine itself the victim of a combination of the others. Secondly, the Framers sought a structure that would not exclude some of the best minds and the least parochial personalities to serve the national government.

Regardless of what the Founding Fathers thought, in 1961, the Supreme Court looked at the constitutionality of a state religious test.

Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961)

The Governor of Maryland appointed Roy Torasco to the office of Notary Public. But he was refused a commission to serve because he would not declare his belief in God. However, the Maryland Constitution provides no religious test outside of the belief in the existence of God. Justice Hugo Black in an unanimous decision notes the historical aspects of similar tests. But he argued that even outside of the religious test clause, the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause expressly prohibits a state from taking this position.

Daily Briefing

  • Overall, the LGBT community continues to win the hearts and minds of Americans. The only problem: the current administration and Justice Department.
  • Glad that the gay veterans group could march in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade.
  • As another Muslim ban comes into play, we need to remember we have done this before. People died. Don’t be the villain of the story.
  • Yes, all of the US Attorneys were told to leave. That’s normal. What is not normal is telling one that he can stay and then firing him.
  • A great profile on Preet Bharara. Not sure I agree with everything he did. But I do like dogged prosecutors.
  • I did not care much about red state Democrats until I became one. I want to figure out ways to help them out. Because I want to see some of these wonderful politicians help the people the want to help.
  • I hope more and more people start showing the door to the conspiracy theory people. It has taken over so many people’s thoughts.
  • Shocked that anyone in the Trump campaign had contact with the DNC hacker. And by shocked, I mean, of course. But it does not matter.
  • Guy who called Muslims “maggots” needed to be fired from the executive branch. Okay to hire. But needed to fire. Seriously.
  • Does the House plan to gut the Affordable Care Act affect those of us with employer-based health care? It just might!

Daily Distraction

Go see Get Out. I hate horror movies. And I did get freaked out a few times. But overall, it’s just a tense movie with lots of interesting satire and political messaging.

The premise is a spookier version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Do not read anything about it. Do not watch anything about it. Just go see it and discuss it afterwards. I’ll talk about it with anyone.

One Sentence Story

Maybe she hasn’t eaten in a few days cause I do not know how she could have eaten that many clams and sesame buns

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