The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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State Constitution (Religious Sections) - Massachusetts

Please note that we have excerpted only those sections dealing with religion
Research and editing by Jim Allison


1780; (1822); 1853



ART, II. 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, or for his religious profession or sentiments. provided he doth not disturb the public peace or obstruct others in their religious worship.

ART. III. As the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality, and as these can not be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of public instructions in piety, religion, and morality: Therefore, To promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall. from time to time authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies-politic or religious societies to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.

And the people of this commonwealth have also a right to, and do, invest their legislature with authority to enjoin upon all the subjects an attendance upon the instructions of the public teachers aforesaid, at stated times and seasons, if there be any on whose Instructions they can conscientiously and conveniently attend.

PROVIDED NOTWITHSTANDING, That the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies-politic, or religious societies, shall at all times have the exclusive right of electing public teachers and of contracting with them for their support and maintenance.

And all moneys paid by the subject to the support of public worship and of the public teachers aforesaid shall, if he require it, be uniformly applied to the support of the public teacher or teachers or his own religious sect or denomination, provided there be any on whose instructions he attends; otherwise it may be paid toward the support of the teacher or teachers of the parish or precinct in which the said moneys are raised.

And every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.


Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar-schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings, sincerity, and good humor, and all social affections and generous sentiments, among people.


ARTICLE I. Any person chosen governor, lieutenant-governor, councillor, senator, or representative, and accepting the trust, shall, before he proceed to execute the duties of his place or office, make and subscribe the following declaration, viz:

I _______, do declare that I believe the Christian religion, and have a firm persuasion of its truth; and that I am seized and possessed, in my own right, of the property required by the constitution, as one qualification for the office or place to which I am elected.

And the governor, lieutenant-governor, and councillors shall make and subscribe the said declaration, in the presence of the two houses of the assembly; and the senators and representatives, first elected under this constitution, before the president and five of the council of the former constitution; and forever afterwards, before the governor and council for the time being and every person chosen to either of the places or offices aforesaid, as also any person appointed or commissioned to any judicial, executive, military, or other office under the government, shall, before he enters on the discharge of the business of his place or office, take and subscribe the following declaration and oaths of affirmations, viz:

I _______, do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify, and declare that the commonwealth of Massachusetts is, and of right ought to be, a free, sovereign, and independent State, and I do swear that I will defend the same against traitorous conspiracies and all hostile attempts whatsoever; and that I do renounce and abjure all allegiance, subjection, and obedience to the King, Queen, or government of Great Britain, (as the case may be,) and every other foreign power whatsoever; and that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, superiority, preeminence, authority, dispensing or other power, in any matter, civil, ecclesiastical, or spiritual, within this commonwealth; except the authority and power which is or may be vested by their constituents in the Congress of the United States; and I do further testify and declare that no man, or body of men, hath, or can have, any right to absolve or discharge me from the obligation of this oath, declaration, or affirmation, renunciation, and abjuration heartily and truly, according to the common meaning and acceptation of the foregoing words, without any equivocation, mental evasion, or secret reservation whatsoever: So help me God.

I_______, do solemnly swear and affirm that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me as __________, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the rules and regulations of the constitution and the laws of the commonwealth: So help me God.

PROVIDED ALWAYS, that when a person, chosen and appointed as foresaid, shall be of the denomination of people called Quakers, and shall decline taking the said oaths, he shall make his affirmation in the foregoing form, and subscribe the same, omitting the words, 'I do swear,' 'and abjure,' 'oath or,' 'and abjuration,' in the first oath; and in the second oath, the words, 'swear and' and in each of them the words, 'So help me God;' subjoining instead thereof, 'this I do under the pains and penalties of perjury.'


The Massachusetts State Constitution was amended in 1822. At that time the oaths for office was drastically shortened, and all requirements for a religious oath to hold office was dropped from the constitution.

Massachusetts disestablished religion in 1833

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