by Pastor Don Elmore
This is a question that probably very few, if any, Christians have ever thought of; let alone even answered. What was the most important event in the entire history of Diaspora Jewry? The answer will probably be a very surprising answer when you consider that the Jewish representative makes the answer so strongly and accurately.
The author argued that this event was the "...first since 212 C.E., when the Emperor Caracalla granted citizenship to all free men in the Roman Empire. American Jewry was the modern world's first free Jewry. One can understand why the Jews of Philadephia joined so gladly in the Federal Parade of July 4, 1788. In this, the greatest spectacle that America had yet witnessed, the Christian (?) clergy walked arm in arm with 'Rabbi' Jacob R. Cohen." Question mark and emphasis added.
New York State became the first, and only state, of the thirteen where Jews were privileged to hold office. The Jews in the other states, still unemancipated, waited for the fulfillment of the Great Promise made in the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal." In 1786, Virginia began to move when it passed Thomas Jefferson's Bill for Establishing Relgious Freedom. A year later, Congress adopted the Northwest Ordinance which guaranteed religious and political freedom in the five new states to be formed in the future which were located north of the Ohio River and west of the Allegheny Mountains.
"When the federal constitution was approved by a majority of the states in 1788, the Jews were satisfied: Article VI declared categorically that NO RELIGIOUS TEST WOULD EVER BE REQUIRED FOR ANY OFFICE UNDER THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. The adoption of the United States Constitution was one of the most important events in the entrie history of Diaspora Jewry." Emphasis added.
There were still eleven other states which refused Jews from holding office. The very summer the Constitution was being debated, the Jew Jonas Phillips, wrote the Constitutional Convention. "In his letter, the only one sent it asking for religious equality, Phillips pointed out to the assembled politicians that the 1776 Pennsylvania organic statute contained a Christian Test oath. He asked the federal convention to take action AGAINST IT. But of course the federal delegates had no authority to alter any state constitution; states' rights were paramount. The eleven laggard commonwealths were slow to honor the commitments implicit in their individual bills of rights. It took 100 years after New York emancipated its Jews before the last sluggard, New Hampshire, permitted Jews and Catholics to serve in a legislative office--in 1877." Emphasis added.
In summary, the Jewish leader of the College that trains its rabbis, states that the ratification of the United States Constitution was one of the greatest events for Jews in over 2000 years: Because it made them free. The Christian Test oath, which was contained in the States' Constitutions would soon fall since the federal government had set the country on a new policy; for it had opened the door for the violation of the first commandment that had been upheld in the early days of this nation-- "Thou shall have no other gods."
Article VI, the one mentioned in his essay, that granted both Jews and Catholics the right to hold office is stated in the last part of this article:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; BUT NO RELIGIOUS TEST shall ever to required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
The federal government could be made up of any person with any religious views: Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, Mormon, atheist, agnostic, etc. As the years have progressed, the numbers who were allowed to vote have increased greatly from the days of the original Constitution: women, non-property owners of whites, blacks, browns, yellows, children, and in some elections even dead people and illegal aliens have cast multiple votes!
Soon, the states would follow Article VI of the federal government...and they did. Since 1877, all states have followed the federal government in having no Christian test held for holding political office. What a shambles just this one Article has been to our nation.
All quotes were from a pamphlet written by Jacob R. Marcus, the head of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio.