The Founders and Anti-Catholicism
CHaynes at FREEDOMFORUM.ORG
Sun Jul 15 14:31:50 PDT 2001
Article 32 of the North Carolina constitution (prohibiting those who "deny
the truth of the Protestant religion" from holding office) was invoked in
1809 in an effort to deny Jacob Henry, a Jew, a seat in the NC House.
Catholics and Jews had previously been elected to the NC legislature, and
one Catholic had served as governor in 1781. But Hugh Mills, a Republican,
invoked Article 32 in an attempt to have Henry's Federalist seat declared
vacant. Henry delivered a powerful speech appealing to principles of
fairness and liberty. Although Henry was allowed to keep his seat, Article
32 remained. An attempt was made to repeal it in 1835, but it failed. Only
after the Civil War, in the constitutional convention of 1868, was the
provision finally repealed.
Concerning the faith of the "founders:" The issue is far more complex than
some earlier posts suggest. James Madison first proposed using both
"religion" and "conscience" in the Bill of Rights (an argument he lost for
reasons lost to history). From all accounts, Madison took his faith
seriously. And there is plenty of evidence that Washington strongly believed
in the importance of religion as a "public good." References to God and
religion in their speeches were far from the obligatory "God bless America"
of some contemporary politicians. It's certainly true that the "religion"
favored by most of the founders was close to their own. But that's why it is
all the more remarkable that they were willing to take the "risk" of
disestablishment on the federal level.
From: EDarr1776 at AOL.COM [mailto:EDarr1776 at AOL.COM]
Sent: Sunday, July 15, 2001 10:49 AM
To: RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu
Subject: Re: The Founders and Anti-Catholicism
In a message dated 7/13/01 3:17:03 PM Central Daylight Time,
paul-finkelman at UTULSA.EDU writes:
Jews did not get equal access to public office in North Carolina until after
the Civil War.
Is there evidence that any Jews were actually barred from public office?
Maryland's constitution, too, retained the language from prior to
independence that on the surface would bar non-Christians from holding
office. I have been unable to find any instant where that ban was applied
prior to the test case -- and to get the state to act to produce the test
case was difficult.
The intentions of the founders in Article VI probably were not fully
upon ratification of the Constitution. There were many vestiges of British
rule left in the charters of the colonies that were not rectified for many
years. But considering the express views manifested in Article VI, it seems
to me we need to see action by the states contrary to Article VI before we
say that there was a legal bar to office holding by Jews. If there was a
state bar to Jews, it violated Article VI. Was any Jew barred from running
for office, or barred from taking an office to which they were elected or
Absent any such action, we should regard bars to office on religious grounds
as moot vestiges of an earlier, pre-Constitution time.
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