The religious language of the Texas Constitution (1876)

I’m continuing to brainstorm for my proposed class “Religion in San Antonio”. In fact, I’m in conversation with representatives of a local university and a non-profit to see if some sort of joint venture is possible. As say more as/if that materializes. For now, I’ve been thinking about the Texas Constitution (1876) while reading Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth by Brian Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford. I decided to browse through it to see what religious language can be found therein. For what it’s worth, as I show my “Religion in the United States” students, the United States Constitution lacks religious language beyond the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”), Article IV, Clause 3 (“…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”), and Article I, Section 7 (“except Sunday”). The Texas Constitution doesn’t. For example:

Preamble: “Humbly invoking the blessing of Almighty God…”

Article I, Section 4: No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”

Article I, Section 5: “No person shall be disqualified to give evidence in any of the courts of this State on account of his religious opinions, or for the want of any religious belief, but all oaths or affirmations shall be administered in the mode most binding upon the conscience, and shall be taken subject to the pains and penalties of perjury.”

Article I, Section 6: “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences. No man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship. But it shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect equally every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of worship.”

Article I, Section 7:No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.”

Article IV, Section 14: “If any bill shall not be returned by the governor with his objections within ten days (Sundays excepted)…”; “If any such bill, containing several items of appropriation, not having been presented to the governor ten days (Sundays excepted)…”

Article VII, Section 4: “And no law shall ever be enacted appropriating any part of the permanent or available school fund to any other purpose whatever; nor shall the same or any part thereof ever be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school

I browsed through pretty quickly, so I may have missed something, but this short list is clearly more than what we find in the United States Constitution. There’s definitely an attempt to align with the ideas of establishment and free exercise found in the First Amendment. Theism, and even more specifically Monotheism, is assumed for the most part, and even required for holding public office (which, apparently, is seen as something other than a “religious test”).


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