Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.
Tucked away in the corner of the United States Constitution is an important phrase that demonstrates our country’s commitment to religious liberty.
Toward the end of the main part of the Constitution we find Article 6, dealing mostly with debts and the supremacy of treaties, But in the final paragraph, the framers prohibited any “religious test” for constitutional officers. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this religious test clause is that it has been entirely self-executing, probably because no religious test has actually been presented to any federal office holder.
But the framers had at least two concerns about religious tests. First, if permitted, could religious tests be used by religious groups to exclude individuals from other religions? And equally important, the framers recognized that a religious test could keep good and wise, but secular, citizens from achieving office.
The framers of the Constitution sought a government officially neutral toward religion, one neither hostile toward nor sympathetic of the religious beliefs of its federal officers. Inherently, this recognizes the outer limits of government – that government’s job is to govern, rather than demand its people practice religion in the manner prescribed by Congress.
In this way, somewhat unique in history, the United States became a government that permitted its people to pursue their relationship with the Divine without pressure or punishment by their government.
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First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.
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