Bigger in Texas: Mexican establishment of religion led to robust constitutional protection for freedom of worship in Texas

Section 6 of the Texas Bill of Rights goes further than the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to robustly ensure freedom of worship within the State.

U.S. Constitution, 1st amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Texas Constitution, article I, section 6:

All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences. No man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship. But it shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect equally every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship.

In 1908, the Supreme Court of Texas explained the historical backdrop for the expansive Texas provision:

Prior to the Revolution of 1836, the Catholic was the established religion of the Republic of Mexico, and all citizens of Texas were required to conform to the teachings of that church. It was supported by the government, and, by taxation, the citizens were compelled to contribute thereto. One of the charges made against the Republic of Mexico in the Declaration of Independence was ‘it denies us the right of worshipping The Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience by the support of a national religion, calculated to promote the temporal interest of its human functionaries rather than the glory of the true and living God.’ . . . [T]he provision in our Constitution was a protest against the policy of Mexico in establishing and maintaining a church of State and compelling conformity thereto, and was intended to guard against any such action in the future.
Church v. Bullock, 104 Tex. 1, 6, 109 S.W. 115, 117 (1908). As a result, the constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836) included a Declaration of Rights that stated: “No preference shall be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship over another, but every person shall be permitted to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.” Then the first constitution of the State of Texas (1845) expanded that language in its article I, section 4 to include text substantially identical to the current provision, which was carried forward through the bills of rights contained in the state constitutions of 1861, 1866, and 1869.
Notably,  beyond limiting the prohibition of free exercise of religion (U.S. Const. amend. I), the Texas Legislature is expressly charged with actively protecting the equal rights of “every religious denomination” to worship, by “pass[ing] such laws as may be necessary” to protect it.

01.03 freedom of worship


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