No one likes a test, especially one based on one’s character or religious belief, and no one should be forced to pass a religious test for office. But does Article VI apply to the states? Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.
No one likes a test. At least not the kind that are unfair, meant as a pass/fail standard upon the character of a person.
That is why the Framers of the United States Constitution included a prohibition on a religious test for office in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. But, did that federal prohibition apply to the states?
That is a question presented by Roy Torcaso to the Supreme Court of the United States. Torcaso, a professed atheist, wished to be a notary public in the State of Maryland, but could not declare his belief in God, as required by the Maryland Constitution.
Justice Hugo Black explained in Torcaso v. Watkins that the prohibition on religious tests for office in the U.S. Constitution was to be extended to state constitutions as well. He wrote, “neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.’"
That is similar to what James Madison wrote in Federalist 52, where he explains that “the door of this part of the Federal Government, is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.”
In other words, you don’t have to pass a religious test to qualify for public office in America.
To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.