The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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Religious Freedom Amendment

On January 1, 1874, Francis Abbot published in The Index the first call for what became known as the Religious Freedom Amendment. For the next three years, the front page of The Index contained the following proposed amendment to the United States Constitution:

Researched and edited by Jim Allison


ARTICLE I

Section 1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or favoring any particular form of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Section 2. No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or favoring any particular form of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. No religious test shall ever be required as a condition of suffrage, or as a qualification to any office or public trust, in any State; and no person shall ever in any State be deprived of any of his or her rights, privileges or capacities, or disqualified for the performance of any public or private duty, or rendered incompetent to give evidence in any court of law or equity, in any consequence of any opinions he or she may hold on the subject of religion.(12)

"The necessity of this enlargement of the First Amendment, in order to secure to the people the full and unrestricted enjoyment of religious liberty, is apparent for two reasons," stated The Index. First, the First Amendment and Article VI, Section 3, which prohibits religious tests for office holding, applied only to acts of Congress. The Constitution contained no provision "prohibiting the several States from establishing a State religion, or requiring a religious test for office." Second, because of this limitation on the Constitution, "some of the States are, as a matter of fact, actually guilty of grave infringements on the religious liberty of their citizens," Abbot wrote.

FOOTNOTE

(12) The Index, January 1, 1874, p.6

Source of Information:

The National Reform Association and the Religious Amendments to the Constitution, 1864-1876. An unpublished Masters Thesis by Steven Keith Green Esq., Ph. D., University North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1987. p. 2)