Torcaso vs. Watkins (1961)
“By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” Proverbs 8:16
Roy Torcaso was appointed by the Governor of Maryland to the office of Notary Public in 1960. He was denied a commission, because he would not declare his belief in God as required by the Maryland Constitution. Claiming that this requirement violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, he sued in a state court to compel issuance of his commission; but relief was denied. The State Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the state constitutional provision is self-executing without need for implementing legislation and requires declaration of a belief in God as a qualification for office.
The Supreme Court held that Torcaso’s rights were violated and that no religious test could be held for any government position. The Court noted that Article VI of the Constitution states that, “no religious test shall be ever required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
The question that one needs to ask is: If it was wrong, why did it exist for over 185 years? Why was this upheld all the way to the State Court of Appeals only to be reversed by the Supreme Court?
The answer is simple, but cannot be accepted if a group of people are bent in changing the foundation of America regardless of what our founding fathers meant.
What is strange is that in Maryland’s Constitution, Article 37, it uses the same language as the U.S. Constitution: “No religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this state, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God.” According to this statement, the constitution does not state declaring a belief in God as a religious test. What does history reveal about this problem? How did the Signers of the Constitution feel about this?
James Wilson, signed the U.S. Constitution, which included Article VI, yet returned home to Pennsylvania to help draft the state constitution in 1790. It required that each member of the legislature, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe to the following declaration,
"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.”
William Blount, from Tennessee, returned to helped create the Tennessee Constitution, which made perfect sense to a Christian nation, but is internally self-contradictory by Torcaso standards:
Art. VIII, Sec. II. No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.
Art. XI, Sec. IV, That no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state.
John Dickinson signed the U.S. Constitution which forbad "religious tests". He, like Wilson, returned to his home state and drafted Delaware's constitution, which without contradicting their work in Philadelphia, required:
“Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust . . . shall . . . make and subscribe the following declaration, to:
“I, 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 scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration.”
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, founder of Harvard Law School and the foremost of American legal minds, says the interpretation of Constitutional provisions, the First Amendment, must be made in this Christian context:
“We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence, than the framers of the Constitution). . . . Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the amendment to it now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State. . . . An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.”
The consistency of the evidence points to the interpretation that a religious test meant within one’s denomination of Christianity. Our forefathers were determined to not allow agnostics or atheists to serve in any office, because of the fact that America was a Christian nation. The principals of our government came directly from the Bible.
The framers knew that our republic could only survive if the men who served believed in a faith that judges or rewards in the hereafter. Those who hold to no God would not think twice about selling out their country and would not take their oath seriously.
Warning from the Past
Princeton professor Archibald Hodge saw the trend in 1887, and sounded this alarm:
“The tendency is to hold that [the public school] system must be altogether secular. The atheistic doctrine is gaining currency, even among professed Christians and even among some bewildered Christian ministers, that an education provided by the common government should be entirely emptied of all religious character…. The atheists and agnostics protest against any teaching that implies the existence and moral government of God. It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding from the public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter how small a minority the atheists or the agnostics may be.. . .
I am as sure as I am of Christ's reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.”
Now, forty years since this and other rulings, we have gone from a Christian nation with a rich heritage to a godless secular society that is out of control.
Unfortunately, all of the justices voted against the constitution, forgetting their oath to uphold the Constitution instead of making new policy. As one person said, “Those who forget the past, are condemned to repeat it”.
Our nation’s law system, which is based on the foundation of Scripture, now plunges deeper each day into the darkness of immorality. The very law that our Founding Fathers swore to defend with their lives, is now being thrown out and trampled. A new philosophy has gripped the hearts of those being trained in our law schools. Presently, the laws are being changed to reflect a nation whose heart has moved away from it’s Godly heritage.
Let us be reminded of our Godly heritage when we think about what John Jay, the First Chief Justice of the United States, said concerning Christian rulers:
“Providence (God) has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and the interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers”.