Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Report to 15th Convention, Article 6 Voters' Guide and Ballot Question

Report to the

by the


Established Under Chapter 186 Laws of 1963


During the 19th Century, the people of the New Hampshire called three Constitutional Conventions and adopted seventeen amendments, eight of which might be classed as major changes in the Constitution. This is the eighth Convention to be called during the 20th Century. The people have adopted twenty-two amendments submitted by the previous seven, but only four of these might be considered of major importance.

The fact that the people have continued to call Conventions suggests that they will support further changes in their Constitution. A study of the proceedings of recent Conventions reveals that the delegates have been unsure of what changes the people wanted, and how far they were expected to go in proposing amendments. For these reasons, both the 1948 and 1956 Conventions recommended that a commission be set up to prepare for any future Conventions. For the first time, the 1963 legislature followed this recommendation by creating this Commission.

The legislative mandate of this Commission is to study the constitution of the state and recommend to the Constitutional Convention such amendments as are needed We have studied the Constitution and talked to the people, both in private conversations, and in various public hearings throughout the state. Our recommendations to the Convention are unanimous decisions by the Commission. Our study convinces us that the basic structure of the New Hampshire Constitution is good. No complete revision is necessary.

The needs we find are problems of long standing. We were surprised, and gratified, to find a widespread public awareness of these needs. We believe the voters actively desire the amendments we are recommending.

In a sense the changes we are suggesting constitute a coherent modernization, though not a fundamental revision. All three major branches of New Hampshire’s government – legislative, executive, and judicial – are affected, and their problems are inter-related. Both the needs we find and the remedies we suggest can be divided into three broad categories: First, those pertaining to the structural nature of our government; second, those pertaining to fiscal affairs and efficient administrative management; third, those pertaining to certain overdue corrections in the constitution itself.

We believe that the 1964 Convention will b the most constructive one of this century, and we hope that our report will be of some assistance in achieving this goal.

…archaic but directly in conflict with federal law. Still worse are those provisions in our Bill of Rights which show partiality to “every denomination of Christians,” but especially to “Protestants” who believe in “evangelical principles.” Not only are these sectarian references needlessly offensive to other denominations, but they clearly violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

We recommend the removal of these and all other obsolete or imperative provisions from our constitution. We suggest, moreover, that these proposals be considered together and , if accepted by the convention, referred to the voters at an election when they can be considered apart form all proposals of a substantive nature. This was the policy followed in 1950 and again in 1958, and we think it was wise.


Still other provisions are inoperative not so much because they are obsolete – though most of them are – but because they violate the U. S. Constitution and laws. This is most obviously true of the sectarian references in Article 6 of the Bill of Rights. In order to promote “morality and piety, rightly grounded on evangelical principles,” the legislature is given power to “authorize, from time to time, the several towns, parishes, bodies corporate, or religious societies, within this state, to make adequate provision at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality.” Finally, it is only “every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves quietly, and as good subjects of the state,” who are declared to be “equally under the protection of the law.”

It is hard to imagine a more flagrant violation of the separation of church and state which is so deeply embedded in the American constitutional tradition. Under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution, neither Congress nor the states are allowed to make any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” In the New Hampshire Constitution the same principle is expressed in Article 6: “And no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another, shall ever be established by law.” It is hard to see how any one of the “several towns” can provide for the support of a “public Protestant teacher of piety, religion and morality” without showing an official preference for that faith over others, even if non=Protestants are excused from contributing to this support. The provision in Article 6 which extends equal protection of the law to “every denomination of Christians demeaning themselves quietly” avoids the taint of sectarianism, so far as the Christian faith is concerned, but it gives needless offense to non-Christians. It also violates that clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which forbids any state to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” In the eyes of the United States Constitution, all persons, regardless of race, creed, or color, are under the equal protection of the laws.

We recommend, therefore, that Article 6 be amended y striking out the first sentence (including the proviso) and the last sentence and redrafting the rest so that the article, as amended, shall then read:

[Art.] 6th. The several parishes, bodies corporate, or religious societies shall at all times, have the exclusive right of electing their own teachers, and of contracting with them for their support and maintenance. But no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the Schools of any sect or denomination.

And every person shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established.

Nothing of religious freedom would be lost, because “rights of conscience” are already fully protected in Articles 4 and 5. Between 1850 and 1920 six successive constitutional conventions voted to eliminate some of all of the sectarian references in Article 6. On four of the six occasions –1876, 1889, 1902, and 1912 – more than one-half of the people voting on the issue approved the change but never the two-thirds majority required to put it into effect. In 1920 a proposal to strike the word “Protestant” from Article 6 was voted down by a majority of the voters, and since that time no convention has ventured to make another attempt. It is time the people of New Hampshire were given another chance to purge their constitution of the last traces of religious discrimination.




To Appear on a Special Ballot at Election
on November 5, 1968


3. Are you in favor of amending Article 6 of Part I of the Constitution so as to strike out certain specific sectarian references and further amending said Article to read as follows:

"Art. 6th. As morality and piety, rightly grounded on high principles, will give the best and greatest security to government, and will lay, in the hearts of men, the strongest obligations to due subjection; and as the knowledge of these is most likely to be propagated through a society, therefore, the several parishes, bodies, corporate, or religious societies shall at all times have the right of electing their own teachers, and of contracting with them for their support or maintenance or both. But no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination. And every person, denomination or sect shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect, denomination or persuasion to another shall ever be established. ever be established."?

NOW -- AT THE PRESENT TIME, Article 6 authorizes local public taxation for the support of "Protestant" clergymen only, and promises equal protection of the law solely to "every denomination of Christians". While these provisions may have had some reason in 1783 when adopted, they are now obsolete and dead provisions, also liable to be offensive to good citizens of Catholic and Jewish faiths, as well as to all disciples of freedom of conscience. These provisions are obviously contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

IF THE AMENDMENT IS ADOPTED, by enough Yes votes on Questions No. 3, the above-described sectarian references will be stricken from the state constitution, putting all religious denominations on a basis of equality and removing the present conflict with the U.S. Constitution. It should be emphasized that this amendment does not introduce any new substantive restrictions on the relation between Church and State; the second sentence merely paraphrases a provision which has been contained in Article 83, Part II of the state constitution since 1877, but adds nothing to it. An amendment similar to this one has several times received a popular majority but failed to get the necessary 2/3 vote. The Convention believes that now is the time to give final approval to what the 20th Century has made obvious.

The Special Committee ordered by the 15th Constitutional Convention to prepare and distribute this pamphlet consists of:

Richard F. Upton, Concord, President of the Convention

Click on this newspaper image for an enlarged copy.

The Portsmouth Herald on November 6, 1968 after 10 constitutional amendment questions were placed on the ballot.

Amendments -- Concord -N.H. (AP)

No. 3-- removing some obsolete sectarian references from the Constitution -- 142,112 yes, 67,697 no. Amendment adopted.