Torcaso v. Watkins

In Torcaso v. Watkins, the Supreme Court struck down a Maryland statute that required prospective state office holders to declare their belief in God before taking office. Torcaso was appointed by the governor of Maryland as a notary public but was refused his commission when he would not swear that he believed in God. Torcaso sued the state, arguing that the statute violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause, the Court concluded, prevents the government from passing a law that forces any person to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion, or expresses a preference for believers over non-believers. Because the Maryland law made it impossible for Torcaso to take office without professing his belief in God, the Court concluded that the statute violated the Establishment Clause.

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