The Constitution's Christian Requirement for Elected Officials
By: Jonathan Harris
Article VI Section III of the U.S. Constitution states, "The senators and representatives before-mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." I find it interesting that many atheist and aggressive secular groups attempt to use this portion of the Constitution, coupled with the "Establishment Clause" to try to tear down Christian convictions from the realm of governance. Most Christians are quick to say, "Well, you misunderstand. Separation of church and state is meant to protect the church from the state, not vice-versa." But in reality, I'm not 100% convinced of this. In the years preceding the American Revolution, the colonialists were very concerned that Great Britain would allow Canada to be officially Catholic. The majority of Americans did not want Britain to warm up to the idea of mandating its colonies to the submissive jurisdiction of any church, especially the Episcopalians (which was the official church of England). So, yes, Jefferson, in his letter to the Danbury Baptists (in which the phrase “wall of separation” is applied to the “Establishment Clause”) was speaking in favor of protecting the church from the federal government. However, at the same time, we cannot separate the historical context from the words used in our founding document. A state-sponsored denomination was forbidden.
This typical Christian catch phrase loses a couple teeth when we understand the times in which the Constitution was forged, but it in no way concedes our foundation to atheism. In John Henry Hopkins document, “Christianity, The Only Religion Constitutionally Allowed in These United States,” this brilliant businessman, lawyer, professor, and Episcopal minister, explores the Christian foundation inherent in our Constitution. The document will impress you with its thorough logic and impressive rebuttals to contradictory arguments. Born in 1792, Hopkins possesses a unique look at the founding fathers, their intent, and the world they created. He uses Article VI Section III as well as Article II Section I to point out the “oath” inherently required by all elected officials. Using the very criteria of Blackstone, he sets out to prove that within the historical, social, and religious contexts, the Constitution itself requires a Christian oath. In other words, all elected officials in the United States were required to be adherents to the Christian faith in the most basic form at the very least. Another argument at Hopkins disposal is the establishment clause, which although forbidding a federally run state denomination, did not forbid the states themselves to have official denominations (of which many did). In fact, the very term “religion,” signified “denomination,” and not “faith” as some suppose today. Therefore, the founders themselves being Christian (as Hopkins explains, even taking the time to write about Jefferson’s faith which is most often attacked), and drawing upon Divine guidance in the process of instituting their document, were not openly endorsing an anti-Christian message. On the contrary, they were securing the principles of their faith.
There is much more to say about Hopkins work, especially regarding his rebuttals to atheists who sought to tear down the document even in his day, but I don’t want to give away the whole thing. I encourage you to pick up a copy here. It’ll help you truly defend your convictions in a much stronger way!