Torcaso v. Watkins
United States Supreme Court
367 U.S. 488 (1961)
Article 37 of the Maryland Constitution prohibits the state from denying a public position to an individual based on his or her religious belief, with the exception that the state may require the individual to affirmatively state his or her belief in the existence of God. Torcaso (plaintiff) applied for a commission to serve as a notary public, which required Torcaso to state that he believed in God. Torcaso refused to affirm his belief in God and was denied as a notary. Torcaso sued, arguing that the constitutional provision requiring him to state his belief in God violated his right to the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The circuit court ruled against Torcaso. The Supreme Court of Maryland affirmed, holding that the constitutional provision was valid, because Torcaso was not compelled to believe in God, as Torcaso did not have to hold a public position such as serving as a notary. Torcaso appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Black, J.)
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