1961 June 19

Religious Test For Political Office Ruled Unconstitutional


The Maryland Constitution required “a declaration of belief in the existence of God” for all public officials. Roy Torcaso, an atheist, had been appointed a notary public. When he refused to make the required declaration, his appointment was revoked. He then challenged the provision of the Maryland Constitution, and the Supreme Court declared it a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, in Torcaso v. Watkins, decided on this day.

Justice Hugo Black for the Court: “This Maryland religious test for public office unconstitutionally invades the appellant’s freedom of belief and religion and therefore cannot be enforced against him.”

Learn more at the Freedom From Religion Foundation: http://ffrf.org/

Learn more about religious liberty at the First Amendment Center: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/religion

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