1796 Tennessee Constitution – Religious Tests?

Article VIII, Section II: No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.
Article XI, Section IV: That no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state.
Many today would mistakenly understand the phrase “religious test” in Article XI to prohibit a requirement for an office holder to confess a general belief of God.  However as Article VIII of the constitution makes clear this was not the intent.
The phrase religious test must be understood historically to mean a denominational requirement.  Most of the founders belonged to some form of Christian denomination.  Having recently moved away from a state controlled church they did not want the power of the state to be used in legislating a specific denomination as the national religion.  They had no problems with Christians holding office, or even with the states having a religious test, they simply did not want there to be a federal denomination.  In short they wanted the freedom of conscience to believe the scriptures of the Bible without a federally mandated denomination.
What is even more amazing, as we consider the cry of those who somehow think that the 1st amendment of the federal constitution is a prohibition against an acknowledgement of God in the civic realm, is that many of the states that ratified the Bill of Rights had specific denominational requirements to hold civil office in their own state.  They did not see a conflict, with Pennsylvania being run by the Quakers, or with the Anglicans have a foot hold of power in Virginia.  It was reasonable for them to understand that people of like mind, would want to live in community together and the federal constitution allowed for that very thing through the 1st amendment.
As we consider this notion and look across our land today, we see that the liberal supreme court is forcing a state religion of atheism upon an unsuspecting populace, by declaring the 1st amendment to say exactly opposite of the original intent.  Where the founding fathers intended to acknowledge God and limit the federal government from usurping authority that belong only to the Creator of the universe, our courts have systematically undermined that intent and replaced it with the religion of humanism.

Leave a Comment