Religious test

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A religious test is a legal requirement to swear faith to a specific religion or sect, or to renounce the same.

In the United Kingdom[edit]

British Test Act of 1673 and 1678[edit]

The Test Act of 1673 in England obligated all persons filling any office, civil or military, to take oaths of supremacy and allegiance, to subscribe to a declaration against transubstantiation, and to receive the sacrament within three months of taking office.

The oath for the Test Act of 1673 was:

"I, N, do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantion in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsovever."

In 1678 the act was extended thus:

"I, N, do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare, that I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever: and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other Saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous..."

Catholic Relief Act of 1829[edit]

The necessity of receiving the sacrament as a qualification for office was abolished under George IV, and all acts requiring the taking of oaths and declarations against transubstantiation etc. were repealed by the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829.

University requirement for Masters Degree[edit]

Until 1871 a religious test was still necessary at the University of Oxford before a Master's Degree could be conferred, but there is now no religious test associated with any degree. However, religious tests are still required for admission to certain holy orders.

Religious Test for a Monarch[edit]

The Sovereign of the United Kingdom is, in effect, required to take a religious test, as a result of the Coronation Oath Act 1688, Bill of Rights 1688, Act of Settlement 1701, and the Accession Declaration Act 1910.

In the United States[edit]

Historically, many American states had religious tests limiting public office to those who professed their belief in Protestantism, Christianity, or a divine power. While it remains common practice for government officials to swear in on a Bible, this practice is no longer required, and mandatory religious tests are banned by the No Religious Test Clause in the United States by Article VI of the United States Constitution. In addition, many states including New Jersey,[1] Delaware[2] and Virginia[3] explicitly ban the usage of religious tests as well. However, other states such as North Carolina continue to bar from office people who profess atheism.[4]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ New Jersey State Constitution. Art. I, Sec. 4
  2. ^ The Delaware Constitution. Art. I, Sec 2
  3. ^ Constitution of Virginia. Art. I, Sec 16
  4. ^ North Carolina State Constitution. Art. I, Sec. 8