Religious Tests for Office-holding (Article 6, Cl. 3)


Article VI, Clause 3, of the U.S. Constitution says that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." At the Constitutional Convention of I 787, this provision, proposed by Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, had been overwhelmingly approved. Only North Carolina voted no, and the Maryland delegation was divided. Only one delegate, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, objected to it, not because he favored religious tests but because he thought "it unnecessary, the prevailing liberality being a sufficient security against such tests." In retrospect, Sherman's assessment of the situation seems too optimistic, for religious tests were then used by most of the states, and the Article VI ban on their use by the federal government turned out to be one of the more controversial provisions in the new Constitution.

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Copyright © 2006 from the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties edited by Paul Finkelman. Reproduced by permission of Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, a division of Informa plc.