Article I, Section 6 of the Texas Constitution ("Freedom of Worship")
Adopted February 15, 1876:
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.
Sections 4 through 7 of Article I, including the recently adopted Section 6-a, concern religion. This section is the most expansive of those sections. Among other things, it guarantees individual religious freedom and prohibits discrimination between religious denominations. Despite its breadth, the section has been the subject of relatively few court decisions. Moreover, since roughly the 1950s, Texas state courts have routinely relied on the federal constitution rather than the state constitution when resolving suits involving the interaction of state government and religion. However, it should be noted that the United States Supreme Court's jurisprudence in this area of the law has been heavily criticized.
Due either to the plain language of the provision or to state court decisions interpreting the provision, the substance of the provisions concerning religion contained in the state constitution sometimes differs from the substance of the provisions concerning religion contained in the federal constitution. For example, "opening exercises" in public school classrooms that include the reading of a Bible passage and the recital of the Lord's Prayer do not violate this section. However, such practices violate the federal constitution. See Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 225 (1963) ("They are religious exercises, required by the States in violation of the command of the First Amendment . . . .").
This section is derived from the 1845 Texas Constitution, which provided: "All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship 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 societies or mode of worship; but it shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of their own mode of public worship."
And also note that it is substantively similar to the provisions concerning religion contained in the early state constitutions of Pennsylvania (1790), Tennessee (1796), and Kentucky (1799). For example, the Kentucky Declaration of Rights provided: "That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; that no man shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent; that no human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious societies or modes of worship."
- Pleasant Glade Assembly of God v. Schubert, 264 S.W.3d 1, 2 (Tex. 2008) ("This appeal concerns the tension between a church's right to protection under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and a church member's right to judicial redress under a claim for intentional tort. U.S. CONST. amend. I; see also TEX. CONST. art. I, § 6. . . . We further conclude the case, as tried, presents an ecclesiastical dispute over religious conduct that would unconstitutionally entangle the court in matters of church doctrine and, accordingly, reverse the court of appeals' judgment and dismiss the case.")
- HEB Ministries, Inc. v. Texas Higher Educ. Coordinating Bd., 235 S.W.3d 627, 642 (Tex. 2007) (footnotes omitted) ("The Establishment Clause prohibits . . . . Correspondingly, article I, section 6 of the Texas Constitution states that 'no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society'. We have referred to this provision and article I, section 7 as 'Texas' equivalent of the Establishment Clause.' The parties do not argue that there is any difference in the application of these federal and state constitutional provisions to this case, and we will assume for present purposes that they are coextensive.")
- State v. Corpus Christi People's Baptist Church, 683 S.W.2d 692, 696-97 (Tex. 1984) ("[T]he State has a compelling interest of the highest order in protecting the children in child-care facilities from physical and mental harm. . . . We have considered all of People's Baptist's remaining arguments: that state licensing and regulation of these homes would violate the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; 42 U.S.C. 1983; article I, sections 3a, 6 and 19; article II, section 1; and article III, section 1 of the Texas Constitution. We conclude that the State's regulatory scheme does not violate these provisions.")
- Ex parte Luehr, 266 S.W.2d 375, 376 (Tex.Crim.App. 1954) ("The [City of Cuero] ordinance in question reads as follows: '. . . .' Appellant is a missionary evangelist preaching from house to house by soliciting and taking orders for subscriptions to the magazine The Watchtower, under the directions of the Victoria Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, as his way of worship. Under many authorities the above ordinance when properly construed and applied does not cover such preaching activities, and if it does so the ordinance is in conflict with the Constitutions of the United States and of This [sic] State.")
- City of New Braunfels v. Waldschmidt, 207 S.W. 303, 305 (Tex. 1918) ("The ordinance [requiring students attending school to be vaccinated against the smallpox virus] does not in any way undertake to control or interfere with any rights of conscience in matters of religion. As pointed out in Chief Justice Waite's opinion in Reynolds v. United States . . . . No more does section 6 of the Bill of Rights in our state Constitution relieve one from obedience to reasonable health regulations, enacted under the police power of the state, because such regulations happen not to conform to one's religious belief.")
- Church v. Bullock, 109 S.W. 115, 117-18 (Tex. 1908) ("Did the exercises which the evidence shows the teachers engaged in convert the schoolroom into a 'place of worship,' within the intent and meaning of [this section]? . . . An annual appropriation is made for a chaplain for the penitentiary; in fact, Christianity is so interwoven with the web and woof of the state government that to sustain the contention that the Constitution prohibits reading the Bible, offering prayers, or singing songs of a religious character in any public building of the government would produce a condition bordering upon moral anarchy.")
- Gabel v. City of Houston, 29 Tex. 335, 347 (1867) ("It does not enjoin upon any person the duty of conforming his conduct to the rites of his church; but it does prevent him from following a tippling occupation in the city on Sunday, by which crowds of persons may be congregated at a public house, and, under the influence of intoxication, may commit riots and breaches of the peace, to the great annoyance . . . . That there is nothing in the constitution of the United States or of this state to prevent the legislature from forbidding the pursuit of worldly business upon Sunday, has been decided in a number of states.")
- Blair v. Odin, 3 Tex. 288, 300 (1848) ("But the revolution, and the constitution formed by the people as the fundamental system of the new government, materially affected these pretensions of the church, and with justice and humanity resolved, that, as man is an accountable being, he should be permitted to worship his maker according to the dictates of his own conscience. The third article of the Declaration of Rights is, that '. . . .' This declaration reduced the Roman Catholic church from the high privilege of being the only national church, to a level and an equality with every other denomination of religion.")
- Vernon's Annotated Constitution of the State of Texas (this multi-volume and up-to-date resource is available at all law libraries and many municipal libraries)
- The Texas State Constitution: A Reference Guide (this one-volume resource is available at most law libraries and some municipal libraries)
- The Constitution of the State of Texas: An Annotated and Comparative Analysis (this two-volume resource is available at most law libraries and some municipal libraries)
- Constitution of the State of Texas (1876) (this resource is published and maintained by the University of Texas School of Law)
- Amendments to the Texas Constitution Since 1876 (this resource is published and regularly updated by the Legislative Council)
- Reports Analyzing Proposed Amendments (this resource is published and regularly updated by the Legislative Reference Library)