Original State Constitutions

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Virtually all of the original state Constitutions embraced Christianity:

CONSTITUTION OF VIRGINIA, June 29, 1776 (written by James Madison and George Mason): BILL OF RIGHTS, SECTION 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.

CONSTITUTION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, June 15, 1780 (written by John Adams): ARTICLE 3. The people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to...make suitable provision...for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality...And every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.

NEW HAMPSHIRE CONSTITUTION, 1784: PART 2-THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT, SENATE: That no person shall be capable of being elected a senator who is not of the Protestant religion...HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES...Every member of the house of representatives...shall be of the Protestant religion.

CONSTITUTION OF VERMONT July 8, 1777, (claimed by New Hampshire and New York at the time of the Revolution): SECTION 9...And each member, before he takes his seat, 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."

CONSTITUTION OF MARYLAND, November 11, 1776: ARTICLE 35. That no other test or qualification ought to be required, on admission to any office of trust or profit, than such oath of support and fidelity to this State, and such oath of office, as shall be directed by this Convention or the Legislature of this State, and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion.

CONSTITUTION OF NEW JERSEY, 1776: ARTICLE 19: That there shall be no establishment of any one religious sect in this Province, in preference to another; and that no Protestant inhabitant of this Colony shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right, merely on account of his religious principles; but that all persons, professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect, who shall demean themselves peaceably under the government...shall be capable of being elected into any office of profit or trust.

CONSTITUTION OF PENNSYLVANIA, September 28, 1776 (Signed by Benjamin Franklin): PLAN OR FRAME OF GOVERNMENT, SECTION 10. And each member, before he takes his seat, 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 the Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration. And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this State.

CONSTITUTION OF DELAWARE, 1776 (written by George Read and Thomas McKean, both signers of the Declaration of Independence): ARTICLE 22. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of his office, shall...make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: "I, A B. 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."

CONSTITUTION OF NORTH CAROLINA, 1776: ARTICLE 32. 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, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.

CONSTITUTION OF SOUTH CAROLINA, March 19, 1778: ARTICLE 12: And that no person shall be eligible to a seat in the said senate unless he be of the Protestant religion, and hath attained the age of thirty years..

CONSTITUTION OF GEORGIA, 1777: ARTICLE 6: The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county...and they shall be of the Protestant religion.

CONSTITUTION OF CONNECTICUT, 1662 till 1818: PREAMBLE. The People of this State being by the Providence of God, free and independent, have the sole and exclusive Right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent State; and having from their ancestors derived a free and excellent Constitution of Government whereby the legislature depends on the free and annual election of the people, they have the best security for the preservation of their civil and religious rights and Liberties. And forasmuch as the free Fruition of such Liberties and Privileges as Humanity, Civility and Christianity call for, as is due to every Man in his Place and Proportion, without impeachment and infringement, hath ever been, and will be the Tranquillity and Stability of Churches and Commonwealths.

CONSTITUTION OF RHODE ISLAND, 1663 till 1842: That they, pursuing, with peaceable and loyal minces, their sober, serious and religious intentions, of godly edifying themselves, and one another, in the holy Christian faith and worship as they were persuaded...to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained...with a full liberty in religious concernements; and that true piety rightly grounded upon Gospel principles, will give the best and greatest security to sovereignty...Now know ye, that we being willing...to secure them in the free exercise and enjoyment of all their civil and religious rights...and to preserve unto them that liberty, in the true Christian faith and worship of God...and because some of the people and inhabitants of the same colony cannot, in their private opinions, conforms to the public exercise of religion, according to the liturgy, forms and ceremonies of the Church of England, or take or subscribe the oaths and articles made and established in that behalf; and for that the same, by reason of the remote distances of those places, will (as we hope) be no breach of the unity and uniformity established in this nation.

CONSTITUTION OF NEW YORK, April 20, 1777: 38. And whereas we are required, by the benevolent principles of rational liberty, not only to expel civil tyranny, but also to guard against that spiritual oppression and intolerance wherewith the bigotry and ambition of weak and wicked priests and princes have scourged mankind, this convention doth further, in the name and by the authority of the good people of this State, ordain, determine, and declare, that the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever hereafter be allowed, within this State, to all mankind: Provided, That the liberty of conscience, hereby granted, shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of this State.

After examining the Constitutions of the original States, it becomes clearer that the initial purpose of the First Amendment, and for that matter the First Ten Amendments, was to limit Federal Government jurisdiction, not the States, as Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833:

"The whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the State governments, to be acted upon according to their sense of justice and the State Constitutions."


Permission granted to forward, email or reprint, provided credit given to William J. Federer, "THE ORIGINAL 13-A Documentary History of Religion in America's First Thirteen States" ISBN 0977808521