West Law Report

An Originalist Analysis of the No Religious Test Clause

Posted in church and state, Harvard Law Review (Article), original meaning by mrkooenglish on May 18, 2008

A note in Harvard Law Review (Issue 120, April 2007) (21 pages)

Through a textual and historical analysis of the No Religious Test Clause, this Note argues that the clause prohibits only a governmentimposed requirement that an individual seeking public office bin himself, through an oath or affirmation, to adhere to a particular religious belief or to celebrate a particular religious sacrament. Beyond this limitation, it does not forbid officials — or the general citizenry — from considering or even inquiring into an individual’s religious beliefs when deciding whether to nominate, confirm, or vote for the individual. Thus, many — though not all — of the recent allegations of No Religious Test Clause violations are misguided.

Part 1: The text and the pre-ratification history of the clause
Part 2: Whether recent congressional and presidential actions violate the clause
Part 3: Concludes