When did religion become a test for elected office?

Most people should know that the US Constitution contains a clause that prohibits religious test as a qualification to hold elective office. In case you don’t know it is Article 6

“but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

So there is a prohibition against laws from the Federal to local level that would create a test on the religious beliefs of elected officials and those who want to be elected.

Why then is there a trend of city and town councils falling over themselves to proclaim they not only believe in god but that their power to govern is ordained by that deity.

Here are two cases to illustrate what I am talking about:

In my boyhood hometown of Findlay, Ohio, the city council decided to give the council president the sole authority to invite members of the community to lead the council in prayer at the start of their meetings.

In March 2002, Council President Robert Schuck first proposed the idea but there was enough council members who were opposed so the idea was dropped. Former council members John Sausser and Marcia Barkey said religion is a private, not public, matter. Former council member Robert Nichols was concerned about fairness. All three ended their terms on council on Dec. 31.

In an article in the January 21, 2004 Findlay (OH) Courier, Schuck said, “The majority of council is now supportive of the idea”. He also noted religious leaders and community members from diverse denominations will be invited and at times council will just observe a moment of silence.

What is his qualifications to decide which religious beliefs would be allowed to lead the prayer? Is that in the job description of council president?

The government can’t and shouldn’t get involved in your religious beliefs and for the life of me I can’t imagine why educated elected officials of our government would want their religion involved with their governing.

Prayer opens council meeting
Published on January 21, 2004


This dangerous trend toward religious tests for elective officials has led some towns and villages to pass resolutions declaring they believe in “God” or that our history of governing comes from the religious history of the nation.

While resolutions are not laws, which would be unconstitutional, they are none the less disturbing in light of the real history of keeping religion and government separate.

One such city that passed a resolution, Kinston, North Carolina, shows how dangerous this trend is and why it is a threat to our religious freedom.

An article in January 21, 2004 Kinston Free Press talked about the debate in city council on January 26 about a resolution that recognized God as the foundation of this country’s heritage.

Unlike the situation in Findlay, the action in Kinston actually included some debate on the issue from council members. Some argued that the resolution was not the proper use of the council’s time and effort while others adamantly claimed the council had to recognize “God”.

Council member Jimmy Cousins said, “If you are a true Christian, then it is your duty to witness. If you believe in the Bible … then that is absolute.”

“But we represent a diverse community,” Mayor Pro Tem Joe Tyson said.

“Not in my religious life, I don’t,” Cousins said.

“This isn’t a religious function. This is the City Council,” Tyson said.

“I don’t think anybody should be embarrassed to recognize God,” said Council member Alice Tingle, who asked her colleagues to consider the resolution. “It’s our job to proclaim God. He’s visible everywhere, in nature. Not doing so � that’s why we’ve gone astray in this country.”

The most disturbing part of the debate was when a letter to the editor was read at the meeting.

The letter was written by Kinston businessman Ted Sampley, who had brought the resolution to the council, which is modeled after one originally passed in Greene County, Tenn.

He wrote:

“It is the atheists, agnostics and anti-religious dissenters who should stand down and stop tying to censor and rewrite American history.”

The debate was for naught because the resolution was unanimously approved.

Kinston City Council approves God resolution
January 21,2004
Jason Spencer


I just don’t know why educated people fall over themselves to do these things. It seems that they feel that they need acknowledgment of their beliefs every moment of every day or else they think they might go to hell.

These religious people believe that government has to acknowledge their beliefs as if the 1st Amendment isn’t enough of a protection. They mislead others into thinking that since our founders were believers that our country was created in “God’s” image. Some may think that asking for “God’s” blessings help them govern better.

Reading the details of the founding of this country shows that our founders were concerned about mixing religion and government. So much so they specifically left out references to “God” in the Constitution and wrote article 6 to prohibit religious tests.

In difference to Mr. Sampley, in Kinston, history isn’t being rewritten.

In those cases where separation of church and state is upheld, it is leading us back to the spirit of what the founder’s had in mind.

Back when the USSR existed, they had a constitution that guaranteed freedoms that in practice simply didn’t exist there. Using the religionist argument that we non-believers are rewriting history is like saying the former Soviet Union was just as democratic as the USA.

It is how we protect our freedoms than how they are written. If laws and resolutions go against the letter and spirit of those freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights then they ought not to stand and our country will be better for it. If we don’t care about putting those words into actual practice then they aren’t worth the ink used to print them.