Article 6, Clause 3
[Volume 4, Page 641]
"William Penn," no. 23 Jan. 1788Storing 3.12.18--19
These facts will no doubt afford an interesting page in the history of the contradictions of the human mind. Unfortunately, they do not stand single, and this is not the only instance that we find in the constitutions of the different states, of a general principle being expressly declared as a part of the natural rights of the citizens, and afterwards being as expressly contradicted in the practice. Thus we find it declared in every one of our bills of rights, "that there shall be a perfect liberty of conscience, and that no sect shall ever be entitled to a preference over the others." Yet in Massachusetts and Maryland, all the officers of government, and in Pennsylvania the members of the legislature, are to be of the Christian religion; in New-Jersey, North-Carolina, and Georgia, the protestant, and in Delaware, the trinitarian sects, have an exclusive right to public employments; and in South-Carolina the constitution goes so far as to declare the creed of the established church. Virginia and New-York are the only states where there is a perfect liberty of conscience. I cannot say any thing as to Connecticut and Rhode-Island, as their constitutions are silent on the subject, and I have not been informed of their practice.
Whether these religious restrictions are right or wrong it is not my intention, nor is it my object to examine in the course of these disquisitions--I only meant to shew, that in laying down a political system it is safer to rely on principles than upon precedents, because the former are fixed and immutable, while the latter vary with men, places, times and circumstances.
Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago