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Religious laws

The "Principles on which
the U.S. was founded
" myth

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We have all heard preachers and politicians referring to the time when the United States was founded. They describe this era as a type of golden age when ethics, morality, family values etc were at their peak. The next time that you hear this, we urge you to remember five terms: "racism, sexism, religism (religious intolerance), homophobia, and transphobia".

In those early years:

bullet Racism abounded. Persons of African-American descent were considered by many to be less than human. So were Native Americans.  Slavery was legal; people were owned as property. The Bible was extensively used to sanction the continuation of slavery. It was a particularly brutal form of slavery, much worse then regulated and accepted in the Bible.

bullet Sexism abounded. Women were denied the vote; it took a 70 year effort during the 19th and 20th centuries to achieve universal suffrage. Women were not allowed to enter many professions. They were given very few basic options: typically marriage, nursing, spinsterhood or teaching. Again, verses from the Bible were quoted to justify the oppression of women.

bulletReligism or religious intolerance Clergy were prohibited from running for office in some states. At the other extreme, Roman Catholics and members of non-Christian religions were heavily discriminated against in other states.

bulletHomophobia: "Crimes against nature" could result in a life sentence in some states. Such crimes included all gay and lesbian sex, and many practices common to heterosexuals.

bulletTransphobia: This is discrimination against transgender persons. They experience a conflict between their perceived gender and their genetic gender. This is not a topic that we have research yet, so we don't know the degree of transphobia in the 18th century.

As the 21st century begins, the legacies of racism, sexism, religism, homophobia, and transphobia are still with us. But at least there are no effective laws that discriminate against people on the basis of faith. The only hold outs are State of Texas and a few other states whose constitutions still have a religious requirements for holders of public office or civil service. These laws are still on the books. It is probable that they could never be removed by a plebiscite of the public because of religious intolerance. However, they have been nullified by the Federal Constitution and thus cannot be applied.

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Examples of religious discrimination in the U.S., 1776-1799:

bulletDelaware; Article 22 (1776) "Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust...shall...also make and subscribe the following declaration, to whit:

'I,_____, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration'."

bulletDelaware; Article VIII, Section 9 (1792) "...No clergyman or preacher of the gospel, of any denomination, shall be capable of holding any civil office in this State, or of being a member of either branch of the legislature, while he continues in the exercise of the pastoral or clerical functions."

bulletGeorgia; Article VI (1777) "The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county...and they shall be of the Protestant religion..."

bulletGeorgia; Article LXII (1777) "No clergyman of any denomination shall be allowed a seat in the legislature."

bulletGeorgia; Article VI (1777) "The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county,...and they shall be of the Protestant religion..."
 
bulletKentucky; Article II, Section 26 (1777) "No person, while he continues to exercise the functions of a clergyman, priest, or teacher of any religious persuasion, society or sect...shall be eligible to the general assembly..."

bulletMaryland; Article XXXII (1776) "...All persons, professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection their religious liberty...the Legislature may, in their discretion, lay a general tax and equal tax, for the support of the Christian religion."

bulletMaryland; Article XXXIV (1776) "That every gift, sale or devise of lands, to any minister, public teacher or preacher of the gospel, as such, or to any religious sect, order or denomination [must have the approval of the Legislature]"

bulletMaryland; Article XXXV (1776) "That no other test or qualification ought to be required...than such oath of support and fidelity to this State...and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion."

bulletMassachusetts; First Part, Article II (1780) "It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe..."

bulletMassachusetts; First Part, Article II (1780) "The governor shall be chosen annually; and no person shall be eligible to this office, unless...he shall declare himself to be of the Christian religion."

bulletMassachusetts; Chapter VI, Article I (1780) "[All persons elected to State office or to the Legislature must] make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.

'I,_____, do declare, that I believe the Christian religion, and have firm persuasion of its truth...'"

bulletNew Hampshire; Part 1, Article 1, Section 5 (1784) "...the legislature ...authorize ...the several towns ...to make adequate provision at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality..."
 
bulletNew Hampshire; Part 2, (1784) "[Provides that no person be elected governor, senator, representative or member of the Council] who is not of the protestant religion."

bulletNew Jersey; Article XIX (1776) "...no Protestant inhabitant of this Colony shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right...; all persons, professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect...shall be capable of being elected into any office of profit or trust, or being a member of either branch of the Legislature."

bulletNew York; Section VIII (1777) "...no minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, shall, at any time hereafter, under any pretense or description whatever, be eligible to, or capable of holding any civil or military office or place within this State."

bulletNorth Carolina; Article XXXI (1776) "That no clergyman, or preacher of the gospel, of any denomination, shall be capable of being a member of either the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, while he continues in the exercise of the pastoral function,"

bulletNorth Carolina; Article XXXII (1776) "That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments,...shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.

bulletPennsylvania; Declaration of Rights II (1776) "...Nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged to any civil right as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship."

bulletPennsylvania; Frame of Government, Section 10 (1776) "And each member [of the legislature]...shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.:

'I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder to the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration'."


bulletPennsylvania; Article IX, Section 4 (1790) "that no person, who acknowledges the being of a God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this commonwealth."

bulletSouth Carolina; Article III (1778) "[State officers and privy council to be] all of the Protestant religion."

bulletSouth Carolina; Article XII (1778) "...no person shall be eligible to a seat in the said senate unless he be of the Protestant religion."

bulletSouth Carolina; Article XXI (1778) "...no minister of the gospel or public preachers of any religious persuasion, while he continues in the exercise of his pastoral function, and for two years after, shall be eligible either as governor, lieutenant-governor, a member of the senate, house of representatives, or privy council in this State."

bulletSouth Carolina; Article XXXVIII (1778) "That all persons and religious societies who acknowledge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshipped, shall be freely tolerated. The Christian Protestant religion shall be deemed...to be the established religion of this State."

bulletTennessee; Article VIII, Section 1 (1796) "...no minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either house of the legislature."

bulletTennessee; Article VIII, Section 2 (1796) "...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."

bulletVermont; Declaration of Rights, III (1777) "...nor can any man who professes the protestant religion, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right, as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiment...; nevertheless, every sect or denomination of people ought to observe the Sabbath, or the Lord's day..."
 
bulletVermont; Frame of Government, Section 9 (1777) "And each member [of the legislature],...shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.:

'I do believe in one god, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the scriptures of the old and new testament to be given by divine inspiration, and own and profess the protestant religion.'"

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Copyright © 2000 to 2010, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-DEC-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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