Religious freedom has been a tenet of American political philosophy since the founding of the Republic. With memory acute to the vexations of doctrinal persecution, the fathers established in the fundamental laws guaranties for the sovereignty of conscience. The federal constitution provides only that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" and that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus leaving largely to the states the protection of the religious liberties of their citizens. The will of a people, resolved that no one should ever be harried for his attendance or non-attendance upon the ordinances of religion, found expression in the constitutions of states placing the right to worship according to the dictates of conscience beyond restraint of legislatures. It would seem therefore, in view of the complete renunciation by federal and state constitutions of the power to establish preferences in favor of any religious persuasion, that a complete liberty of religion prevails in the several states. Indeed, judicial expression to that effect is to be found in the decided cases: "We sometimes hear it said that all religions are tolerated in Ohio; but the expression is not strictly accurate. * * * It is not by mere toleration that every individual here is protected in his belief or disbelief. He reposes not upon the leniency of government, or the liberality of any class or sect of men, but upon his natural indefeasible rights of conscience which in the language of the constitution, are beyond the control or interference of any human authority." Despite assertions like that of the Ohio tribunal, one of the problems with which the courts have been confronted throughout our constitutional history is the reconciliation of the common law with the several constitutional provisions, because the Christian religion is an integral part of the common law, and in most states the common law is in force.

This document is currently not available here.