The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday comes from Article VI, Section 3: “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” This provision in the United States Constitution gives Americans the right to serve in any office without being judged for their religion.
I know of two presidential candidates who fought religious bias: John F. Kennedy and Mitt Romney. I remember as a child hearing people say that Kennedy could never be elected President because he was Catholic. I know that he had to actually give a speech declaring that he could make decisions as President without consulting the Pope. I realize also that many people did not vote for Romney simply because he is a Mormon – even though the result was another term for Obama. Even though the Constitution does not require a religious test, it is obvious that citizens hold candidates to a religious test. I wonder if Barack Obama would have been elected even once if he had been honest about his true religious affiliation.
Many of the early colonies were established by groups of people with strong religious convictions and those serving in public office were required to commit themselves to certain religious tenets. This automatically excluded from public offices those who had contrary views. For this reason the framers of the Constitution provided that no `religious test’ could be required for an office in the national government (where a great variety of beliefs and religious tenets – even atheism – would be represented.)” (See W. Cleon Clausen, The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 666.)
Gerard V. Bradley of The Heritage Foundation explained this provision: “The original, unamended Constitution contains one explicit reference to religion: the Article VI ban on religious tests for `any office or public trust under the United States.’ Despite much litigation over the constitutional border between church and state, there have been no judicial decisions involving the religious test ban. The clause has been entirely self-executing. We do not know whether the Framers intended the clause to apply to every federal officeholder, howsoever minor; but no federal official has ever been subjected to a formal religious test for holding office.
“By its lain terms, the ban extended only to federal officeholders. States were free at the time of the Founding to impose religious tests as they saw fit. All of them did. State tests limited public offices to Christians or, in some states, only to Protestants. The national government, on the other hand, could not impose any religious test whatsoever. National offices were open to everyone.” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 296-297.)