State law::No Religious Test Clause


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State law

  States that have religious qualifications for public office written in their constitutions
  States that do not have religious qualifications for public office written in their constitutions

Earlier in U.S. history, the doctrine of states' rights allowed individual states complete discretion regarding the inclusion of a religious test in their state constitutions. Such religious tests have in recent decades been deemed to be unconstitutional by the extension of the First Amendment provisions to the states (via the incorporation of the 14th Amendment).

Eight states do include language in their constitutions either requiring state officeholders to have particular religious beliefs or specifically protecting those who do:

  1. Arkansas (Article 19 Section 1)
  2. Maryland (Article 37)
  3. Mississippi (Article 14, Section 265)
  4. North Carolina (Article 6 Section 8)
  5. Pennsylvania (Article 1 Section 4)
  6. South Carolina (Article 17 Section 4)
  7. Tennessee (Article 9 Section 2)
  8. Texas (Article 1 Section 4)

Pennsylvania specifically protects officeholders with religious belief but is silent on whether those without such beliefs are also protected.<ref name=StateConst>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> The required beliefs include belief in a Supreme Being, and belief in a future state of rewards and punishments. Some of these same states specify that the oath of office include the words "so help me God".

In some cases, these beliefs (or oaths) were historically required also of jurors, witnesses in court, notaries public, and state employees. In the 1961 case Torcaso v. Watkins, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that such language in state constitutions was in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Citing the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Establishment Clause in Everson v. Board of Education and linking this to Torcaso v. Watkins Justice Hugo Black stated for the Court:

We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person "to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion." Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.

The Supreme Court however did not rule on the applicability of Article VI, stating that "Because we are reversing the judgment on other grounds, we find it unnecessary to consider appellant's contention that this provision applies to state as well as federal offices."

In the 1997 case of Silverman v. Campbell<ref>486 SE.2d 1, 326 S.C. 208 (1997)</ref> the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution requiring an oath to God for employment in the public sector violated Article VI of the federal constitution, as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and therefore could not be enforced.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web

}}</ref> The other seven states still have similar provisions in their constitutions, but they are not enforced in modern times because it is taken for granted they would be held to be unconstitutional if challenged.
No Religious Test Clause sections
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State law
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