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God in the State Constitutions

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The subject of God in the Constitution arises from time to time, and this site deals with the topic specifically elsewhere. However, another question also arises: how is God referenced, if at all, in state constitutions?

This list is not guaranteed to be exhaustive, but it attempts to be. Using the most recent version of each state's constitution, these words were searched for: God, Lord, Creator, Christ. Other variations were recorded when noted. Each instance is noted below, alphabetically by state name. Copied portions are excerpts only — only the sentence with the term in question is included. Refer to the original document for context.

Content notes: When the usage of the word "Lord" is in the context of a date, only the usage and the accompanying date is noted below. When the words "so help me God" are in an oath of office, only the words "so help me God" are noted below.

See also:

  • Notes
  • Specific Denials

Alabama

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Alabama, in order to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution and form of government for the State of Alabama:

Section 1:
That all men are equally free and independent; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Section 186, witness oath:
"... so help me God."

Section 279, oath of office:
"So help me God."


Alaska

Preamble:
We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty within the Union of States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Alaska.


Arizona

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution.


Arkansas

Preamble:
We, the People of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government; for our civil and religious liberty; and desiring to perpetuate its blessings, and secure the same to our selves and posterity; do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Article 2, Section 24:
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences;

Article 19:
No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy four ...


California

Preamble:
We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.


Colorado

Preamble:
We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in order to form a more independent and perfect government; establish justice; insure tranquillity; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the "State of Colorado".

Article 5, Section 45:
... in the year of our Lord 1885 ...

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-six ...


Connecticut

Preamble:
The People of Connecticut acknowledging with gratitude, the good providence of God, in having permitted them to enjoy a free government; do, in order more effectually to define, secure, and perpetuate the liberties, rights and privileges which they have derived from their ancestors; hereby, after a careful consideration and revision, ordain and establish the following constitution and form of civil government.

Article 11, Section 1, oath of office:
... So help you God.


Delaware

Preamble:
Through Divine goodness, all men have by nature the rights of worshiping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences, of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring and protecting reputation and property, and in general of obtaining objects suitable to their condition, without injury by one to another; and as these rights are essential to their welfare, for due exercise thereof, power is inherent in them; and therefore all just authority in the institutions of political society is derived from the people, and established with their consent, to advance their happiness; and they may for this end, as circumstances require, from time to time, alter their Constitution of government.

Article 1, Section 1:
Although it is the duty of all men frequently to assemble together for the public worship of Almighty God; and piety and morality, on which the prosperity of communities depends, are hereby promoted; yet no man shall or ought to be compelled to attend any religious worship, to contribute to the erection or support of any place of worship, or to the maintenance of any ministry, against his own free will and consent;

Article 5, Section 2:
... in the year of our Lord, Nineteen Hundred ...

Article 14, Section 1, oath of office:
"... so help me God."

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Ninety-Seven ...


Florida

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Florida, being grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, in order to secure its benefits, perfect our government, insure domestic tranquility, maintain public order, and guarantee equal civil and political rights to all, do ordain and establish this constitution.

Article 2, Section 5, oath of office:
"So help me God."


Georgia

Preamble:
To perpetuate the principles of free government, insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty, we the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution.


Hawaii

Preamble:
We, the people of Hawaii, grateful for Divine Guidance, and mindful of our Hawaiian heritage and uniqueness as an island State, dedicate our efforts to fulfill the philosophy decreed by the Hawaii State motto, "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono."

Article 7, Section 13:
Bonds issued by or on behalf of the State or by any political subdivision to meet appropriations for any fiscal period in anticipation of the collection of revenues for such period or to meet casual deficits or failures of revenue, if required to be paid within one year, and bonds issued by or on behalf of the State to suppress insurrection, to repel invasion, to defend the State in war or to meet emergencies caused by disaster or act of God.


Idaho

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare do establish this Constitution.


Illinois

Preamble:
We, the People of the State of Illinois — grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He has permitted us to enjoy and seeking His blessing upon our endeavors — in order to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people; maintain a representative and orderly government; eliminate poverty and inequality; assure legal, social and economic justice; provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual; insure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; and secure the blessings of freedom and liberty to ourselves and our posterity — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the State of Illinois.


Indiana

Preamble:
TO THE END, that justice be established, public order maintained, and liberty perpetuated; WE, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to ALMIGHTY GOD for the free exercise of the right to choose our own form of government, do ordain this Constitution.

Article 1, Section 1:
WE DECLARE, That all people are created equal; that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain inalienable rights;

Article 1, Section 2:
All people shall be secured in the natural right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences.


Iowa

Preamble:
WE THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF IOWA, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of those blessings, do ordain and establish a free and independent government, by the name of the State of Iowa, the boundaries whereof shall be as follows:

Article 9, Part 2, Section 3:t 2, Section 3:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-one ...


Kansas

Preamble:
We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges, in order to insure the full enjoyment of our rights as American citizens, do ordain and establish this constitution of the state of Kansas, with the following boundaries, to wit:

Bill of Rights, Section 7:
The right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed;


Kentucky

Preamble:
We, the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy, and invoking the continuance of these blessings, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Section 1, Clause 2:
The right of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences.

Section 228, oath of office:
... so help me God.

Section 232:
The manner of administering an oath or affirmation shall be such as is most consistent with the conscience of the deponent, and shall be esteemed by the General Assembly the most solemn appeal to God.

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-one ...


Louisiana

Preamble:
We, the people of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political, economic, and religious liberties we enjoy, and desiring to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property; afford opportunity for the fullest development of the individual; assure equality of rights; promote the health, safety, education, and welfare of the people; maintain a representative and orderly government; ensure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; and secure the blessings of freedom and justice to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.

Article 10, Section 30, oath of office:
"... so help me God."


Maine

Preamble:
We the people of Maine, in order to establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for our mutual defense, promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God's aid and direction in its accomplishment, do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State, by the style and title of the State of Maine and do ordain and establish the following Constitution for the government of the same.

Article 1, Section 3:
All individuals have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no person shall be hurt, molested or restrained in that person's liberty or estate for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of that person's own conscience, nor for that person's religious professions or sentiments, provided that that person does not disturb the public peace, nor obstruct others in their religious worship;

Article 9, Section 1, oath of office
"So help me God."

Article 9, Section 1, alternative oath of office
"So help me God."


Maryland

Preamble:
We, the People of the State of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty, and taking into our serious consideration the best means of establishing a good Constitution in this State for the sure foundation and more permanent security thereof, declare:

Declaration of Rights, Article 36:
That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; ... nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come.

Nothing shall prohibit or require the making reference to belief in, reliance upon, or invoking the aid of God or a Supreme Being in any governmental or public document, proceeding, activity, ceremony, school, institution, or place.

Declaration of Rights, Article 37:
That 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; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.

Declaration of Rights, Article 39:
That the manner of administering an oath or affirmation to any person, ought to be such as those of the religious persuasion, profession, or denomination, of which he is a member, generally esteem the most effectual confirmation by the attestation of the Divine Being.


Massachusetts

Preamble:
We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Part 1, Article 2:
It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience;

Chapter 5, Section 1, Article 1:
Whereas our wise and pious ancestors, so early as the year one thousand six hundred and thirty-six, laid the foundation of Harvard College, in which university many persons of great eminence have, by the blessing of God, been initiated in those arts and sciences, which qualified them for public employments, both in church and state: and whereas the encouragement of arts and sciences, and all good literature, tends to the honor of God, the advantage of the Christian religion, and the great benefit of this and the other United States of America ...

Chapter 6, Article 1:
"So help me, God."

Chapter 6, Article 10:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five ...

Chapter 6, Article 12:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven ...

... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven ...

Amendments, Article 6, oath of office:
"So help me God."

Amendments, Article 11:
As the public worship of God and instructions in piety, religion and morality, promote the happiness and prosperity of a people and the security of a republican government;


Michigan

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, and earnestly desiring to secure these blessings undiminished to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.

Article 1, Section 4:
Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.


Minnesota

Preamble:
We, the people of the state of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings and secure the same to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Article 1, Section 16:
The right of every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience shall never be infringed;


Mississippi

Preamble:
We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking his blessing on our work, do ordain and establish this constitution.

Article 4, Section 40, oath of office:
"So help me God."

Article 6, Section 155, oath of office:
"So help me God."

Article 14, Section 268, oath of office:
"So help me God."


Missouri

Preamble:
We the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness, do establish this constitution for the better government of the state.

Article 1, Section 5:
That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences;


Montana

Preamble:
We the people of Montana grateful to God for the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, the vastness of our rolling plains, and desiring to improve the quality of life, equality of opportunity and to secure the blessings of liberty for this and future generations do ordain and establish this constitution.

Article 3, Section 3, oath of office:
"... (so help me God)."


Nebraska

Preamble:
We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, do ordain and establish the following declaration of rights and frame of government, as the Constitution of the State of Nebraska.

Article 1, Section 4:
All persons have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.


Nevada

Preamble:
We the people of the State of Nevada Grateful to Almighty God for our freedom in order to secure its blessings, insure domestic tranquility, and form a more perfect Government, do establish this Constitution.

Article 15, Section 2, oath of office:
... so help me God.

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty Four ...


New Hampshire

Part 1, Article 5:
Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason; and no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience;

Part 2, Article 84, oath of office:
So help me God.


New Jersey

Preface:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and forty-seven.

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Article 1, Section 3:
No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience;

Article 8, Section 2:
Nor shall anything in this paragraph contained apply to the creation of any debts or liabilities for purposes of war, or to repel invasion, or to suppress insurrection or to meet an emergency caused by disaster or act of God.

Article 10, Clause 5:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and forty-eight.


New Mexico

Preamble:
We, the people of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, in order to secure the advantages of a state government, do ordain and establish this constitution.

Article 2, Section 11:
Every man shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and no person shall ever be molested or denied any civil or political right or privilege on account of his religious opinion or mode of religious worship.


New York

Preamble:
We The People of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our Freedom, in order to secure its blessings, DO ESTABLISH THIS CONSTITUTION.


North Carolina

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution.

Article 1, Section 1:
We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.

Article 1, Section 13:
All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

Article 6, Section 7, oath of office:
"... so help me God."

Article 6, Section 8:
The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.


North Dakota

Preamble:
We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain and establish this constitution.

Article 11, Section 4, oath of office:
"... so help me God."


Ohio

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare, do establish this Constitution.

Article 1, Section 7:
All men have a natural and indefensible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience.

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one ...


Oklahoma

Preamble:
Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of liberty; to secure just and rightful government; to promote our mutual welfare and happiness, we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and seven ...


Oregon

Article 1, Section 2:
All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.


Pennsylvania

Preamble:
WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Article 1, Section 3:
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences;

Article 1, Section 4:
No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.


Rhode Island

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution of government.

Article 1, Section 3:
Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; ... and that every person shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of such person's conscience, and to profess and by argument to maintain such person's opinion in matters of religion;

Article 3, Section 3, oath of office:
So help you God.


South Carolina

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the preservation and perpetuation of the same.

Article 3, Section 26, oath of office:
"So help me God."

Article 6, Section 5, oath of office:
"So help me God."

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord, one thousand Eight hundred and Ninety-five.


South Dakota

Preamble:
We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties, in order to form a more perfect and independent government, establish justice, insure tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and preserve to ourselves and to our posterity the blessings of liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the state of South Dakota.

Article 3:
The right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed.

Article 21, Section 1:
Properly divided between the upper and lower edges of the circle shall appear the legend, "Under God the People Rule" which shall be the motto of the state of South Dakota.


Tennessee

Preamble:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-six ...

... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three ...

... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four ...

... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five ...

... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine ...

... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy ...

Article 1, Section 2:
That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience;

Article 9, Section 1:
Whereas ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

Article 9, Section 2:
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.


Texas

Preamble:
Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God, the people of the State of Texas, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Article 1, Section 6:
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Article 16, Section 1, oath of office:
"... so help me God."


Utah

Preamble:
Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we, the people of Utah, in order to secure and perpetuate the principles of free government, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION.

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five ...


Vermont

Chapter 1, Article 3:
That all persons have a natural and unalienable right, to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own consciences and understandings, as in their opinion shall be regulated by the word of God; ... Nevertheless, every sect or denomination of Christians ought to observe the sabbath or Lord's day, and keep up some sort of religious worship, which to them shall seem most agreeable to the revealed will of God.

Article 2, Section 16, oath of office:
So help you God.

Article 2, Section 17, oath of office:
So help you God.

Article 2, Section 56, oath of office:
So help you God.


Virginia

Article 1, Section 17:
That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence;

Article 2, Section 7, oath of office:
"... (so help me
God )."

Washington

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this constitution.


West Virginia

Preamble:

Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia, in and through the provisions of this Constitution, reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God and seek diligently to promote, preserve and perpetuate good government in the state of West Virginia for the common welfare, freedom and security of ourselves and our posterity.


Wisconsin

Preamble:
We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more perfect government, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, do establish this constitution.

Article 1, Section 18:
The right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed;


Wyoming

Preamble:
We, the people of the State of Wyoming, grateful to God for our civil, political and religious liberties, and desiring to secure them to ourselves and perpetuate them to our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine.


American Samoa

Article 5, Section 6, oath of office:
So help me God.


Guam - Organic Act

Subchapter 3, Section 1423d, oath of office:
I solemnly swear (or affirm) in the presence of Almighty God that I will well and faithfully support the Constitution of the United States...

Terminus:
... in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred seventy-five ...


Puerto Rico

Preamble:
We, the people of Puerto Rico, in order to organize ourselves politically on a fully democratic basis, to promote the general welfare, and to secure for ourselves and our posterity the complete enjoyment of human rights, placing our trust in Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the commonwealth which, in the exercise of our natural rights, we now create within our union with the United States of America.

Terminus:
... in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fifty-two.


U.S. Virgin Islands - Organic Act

No mention.


Notes

The above excerpts illustrate some interesting points:

  • In almost all cases, states mention God in the preambles to their constitutions. Only a few do not. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Virginia do not have preambles. Tennessee's only mentions "Lord" in the context of dates. Oregon's preamble is decidedly neutral.
  • The use of the term "in the year of our Lord" is very common.
  • Many states mention God in sections that refer to religious freedom, but many of those refer to "Almighty God," which, by all objective standards, is an endorsement of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity (several of the religious freedom sections mention Christianity specifically).
  • A handful of states have provisions that deny elective office to anyone who does not believe in God. Some also prohibit non-believers from serving as witnesses in trials. These provisions are probably not enforceable. See Specific Denials for more detail.
  • The oaths of office codified in the various constitutions often include the closing statement, "So help me God." Several states allow an alternate statement such as "Under the pains and penalties of perjury." Several do not allow an alternate closing, and several have no such closing whatever.

Specific denials

It may surprise you (or perhaps not) to learn that some state constitutions specifically deny certain civil privileges to non-believers. As mentioned in the notes above, the restrictions include both denial to hold office and denial to serve as a witness in a trial. The ability of the state to deny elected office to a non-believer, be that person an atheist, agnostic, Humanist, Buddhist, Hindu, or any number of non-Abrahamic religions, is questionable from a national constitutional aspect. The point may be moot, however — for a non-believer to have a case against a state, he would have to be denied the ability to appear on the ballot, or be denied the office once having been elected. In some of these states, because of the religious demographics, it is entirely likely that a non-believer would have a hard time getting on a ballot, let alone elected, in the first place.

The inability of a non-believer to be a witness in a trial, however, is something that could happen on any particular day and could have a meaningful effect on an ongoing trial. If a witness is not allowed to testify because her testimony is irrelevant, the witness is incompetent, or the testimony could be prejudicial, then there are solid, legal reasons to disallow the testimony. If a witness is rejected solely based on her disbelief in a specific deity, the side attempting to call the witness would be quite right to challenge the state constitution on 1st Amendment grounds.

By drawing attention to the state constitution provisions listed below, the desire is that they will be seen as unnecessary and discriminatory, and either challenged under the federal constitution or repealed.

(Thanks to Mike Newdow for providing a fuller list than I had previously published. If you know of any similar state constitution provisions that are missing from this list, please email the Webmaster.)


Arkansas

Article 19, Section 1 (Denial of Office, Denial as Witness):
No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.


Maryland

Article 36 (Denial as Witness):
...nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come.

Article 37 (Denial of Office):
That 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; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.


Mississippi

Article 14, Section 265 (Denial of Office):
No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.


North Carolina

Article 6, Section 8 (Denial of Office):
The following persons shall be disqualified for office:
First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.


Pennsylvania

Article 1, Section 4 (Denial of Office):
No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

(This section specifies that someone who acknowledges God cannot be denied office; conversely, anyone who does deny God can be, rather than shall be, denied office. The restriction is not as concrete as other denials of office.)

South Carolina

Article 6, Section 2 (Denial of Office):
No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.


Tennessee

Article 9, Section 2 (Denial of Office):
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.

(Note that Article 9, Section 1 denies office to any "minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination.")


Texas

Article 1, Section 4 (Denial of Office):
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.



URL: http://www.usconstitution.net/states_god.html