Rhode Island Constitution, 1842

CONSTITUTION

RHODE ISLAND

1842

This constitution, which is excerpted as it relates to religion, superseded the charter of 1663. Completed on November 5, 1842 and ratified on November 23, 1842, it reiterates that “a principal object of our venerated ancestors. . .was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment that a flourishing civil state may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments.”

Rhode Island is the home of American religious freedom. Its religious liberties provisions were unparalleled. Rhode Island is still governed under the constitution of 1842. The clauses pertaining to religion remain intact to this day.

Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Religious Institutions Group

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Sec. 3. Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free, and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment, or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object of our venerated ancestors, in their migration to this country and their settlement of this State, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment that a flourishing civil state may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments; we therefore declare, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, except in fulfilment of his own voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods; nor disqualified from holding any office; nor otherwise suffer on account of his religious belief; and that every man shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and to profess, and by argument to maintain, his opinion in matters of religion; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect his civil capacity.

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Sec. 21. The citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble for their common good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government, for redress of grievances, or for other purposes, by petition, address, or remonstrance.

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Source: the federal and state constitutions, colonial charters, and other organic laws of the united states 1603-05 (Ben: Perley Poore, 1878).