Article 6 Overview
Article VI of the United States Constitution is a crucial article that outlines the supremacy of the federal laws over state laws. The article dictates that the federal government is supreme to the states in terms of lawmaking and adjudication. This article has had a massive impact on the United States since its inception, and it continues to have an ongoing influence on the country’s legal system.
The First Clause
This article is broken down into three sections, which are known as “clauses.” Each clause specifies a critical aspect of the United States Constitution and the overall legal system. The first clause is known as the “Supremacy Clause,” which makes it clear that the federal government’s laws and the Constitution itself are the supreme law of the land. This means that all state laws must be in accordance with federal law, and if there is ever a conflict between a state law and a federal law, the federal law will always prevail.
The Second Clause
The second clause is known as the “Oath or Affirmation Clause,” which requires all federal and state officials to take and uphold an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution. The purpose of this clause is to ensure that anyone elected or appointed to a government position will remain loyal to the Constitution and adhere to its principles.
The Third Clause
The third and final clause is known as the “Religious Test Clause,” which prohibits any religious test being used as a requirement to hold a government position. This clause ensures that the government does not discriminate against any person’s religion or beliefs, and it helps protect the religious freedoms granted in the First Amendment.
Impact on the United States
The Supremacy Clause has been of particular importance throughout U.S. history. It has enabled the federal government to maintain a centralized approach to policymaking and lawmaking, which is essential in a diverse country like America. In the early days of the nation, the Supremacy Clause played a significant role in the ratification of the Constitution. The Constitution had been written to replace the Articles of Confederation, which was the governing document of the United States before the Constitution was ratified. The Articles of Confederation had given too much power to the states, which made it challenging to make national decisions that affected the whole country. The Supremacy Clause in the new Constitution helped ensure that the federal government would maintain control over national policy.
The Supremacy Clause has been used throughout history for numerous significant federal actions. For example, in 1957, during the Civil Rights Movement, the governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, defied federal law by refusing to desegregate Little Rock Central High School. However, President Eisenhower had the power to use the Supremacy Clause and dispatch the National Guard to ensure that the school was integrated. This was a crucial moment in American history, and it showcased the Supremacy Clause’s power in maintaining the rule of law.
Similarly, in the landmark Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall relied heavily on the Supremacy Clause to establish the Court’s power of judicial review. The Court asserted its power to declare actions of the federal government unconstitutional in relation to the Constitution. The case marked a key moment in American history, as it established the judiciary as an equal branch of government and helped to further establish the supremacy of federal law over state law.
The Supremacy Clause has continued to be relevant in modern times as well. For instance, in 2017, the state of California passed a law that banned any state-funded travel to states that LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) alleged had discriminatory policies. However, the federal government, citing the Supremacy Clause, intervened and argued that such boycotts could not be supported by state funds due to the supremacy of federal law over state law. This example shows how the Supremacy Clause continues to inform the legal boundaries of state laws and has a profound influence on modern policy and laws.
The Oath or Affirmation Clause is also vital to the U.S. legal system. This clause establishes the importance of upholding the Constitution and following its principles. All elected and appointed government officials must take this oath or affirmation before taking office, making it clear that they must adhere to the Constitution. This clause ensures that those in power are devoted to the Constitution and its values, making it harder for them to stray from its principles.
In the modern-day, there have been instances where this clause has been invoked. For example, in 2018, following the community’s protests against the Trump administration’s separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, some elected officials were publicly accused of violating their Oath or Affirmation Clause. Critics of the officials argued that their complicity in this policy contradicted their oath to uphold the Constitution and its values, including individual rights and due process. This case shows the continued relevance of the Oath or Affirmation Clause in maintaining government officials under the Constitution’s authority.
The Religious Test Clause has also had a profound impact on American history and culture. This clause explicitly states that no religious test must be conducted to hold any government position. By doing this, the clause promotes religious freedom and prevents any one religious group from gaining an unfair political advantage. Essentially, this clause mandates a secular government, which has become a foundation of American democracy and tradition.
In American history, the clause has often been considered a crucial aspect of the country’s religious freedom. For example, in the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, faced intense scrutiny about his faith.
What is Article 6 of the Constitution?
Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution first says that any debts or engagements that the country was involved in before the Constitution was put into action are still valid. Article 6 also says that the United States Constitution is the highest law of the country and that all state and federal officers and judges have to uphold the Constitution and all of its rules.
How is Article 6 Broken Down?
While many other Articles of the Constitution are broken down into sections and clauses, Article 6 of the United States Constitution is just three clauses long.
Text of Article 6 of the Constitution
The text of Article 6 is as follows:
“All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
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 be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”
Clause 1 of Article 6: Debts
Clause 1 of Article 6 says that if there were any debts before adopting the Constitution, they are still valid and have the same terms as if they were still under the Articles of Confederation.
Clause 2 of Article 6: the Supremacy Clause
Clause 2 of Article 6 is known as the Supremacy Clause. In this clause, the Constitution says that any federal laws that are made according to the Constitution are the supreme laws. That means that state laws that go against federal laws are not valid. Even state courts must follow federal law before state law.
Clause 3 of Article 6: Oaths
Clause 3 of Article 6 is the final clause of Article6. It says that executive officers, judges, and state and federal legislators must follow an oath saying that they will support the Constitution.