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GOD & TEXAS: Bill of Rights

Following the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, and the Civil War in 1861-1865, Texas was embroiled in a war of politics in 1875. To settle many disagreements, a Constitutional Convention was called to construct what would become the sixth constitution to govern Texas. The final form of the constitution was placed before voters the next year and was ratified as the Constitution of 1876. To this day, it remains the basic law of Texas with some amendments.

This new constitution had a radical impact on government in Texas. Most notably, it blunted the rule of state officials by cutting salaries and shortening terms of office. But it also updated or created laws on such critical issues as the powers of government, suffrage, education, judicial authority, and taxation.

Many of those pioneer leaders of Texas were bold in their belief in Almighty God. Their passion for God was reflected in the Preamble to the Constitution of 1876 which states: “Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God, the people of the State of Texas, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” And these very words remain unchanged from 1876 to the current edition dated May 7, 2022.

One of the most discussed portions of the Constitution is the Bill of Rights. It begins by stating, “That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, we declare:” From there it declares our freedoms and rights and other important privileges of Texas citizens.

Not only did our Texan forefathers deem it necessary to acknowledge that God exists, but that all office holders agree. Article 1, Section 4 of the Bill of Rights states: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being. (Feb. 15, 1876.)”

It was their belief that office holders must acknowledge the existence of God. Indeed, many of those Texas politicians spoke openly of their love of God. In 1876, James Stephen Hogg was a young politician in Texas government who later became governor. Many of his speeches included testimony of his relationship with God.

In his message to the 22nd Legislature January 21, 1891, Governor Hogg opened his remarks by saying, “Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives: To omnipotent God we owe all.” In Hogg’s Labor Day speech in La Porte in 1904, the Houston Post quoted him as saying, “Teach your children to obey the commands of God, to love good government and struggle to make it better.”

Wise government leaders still honor God with their speech and accomplishments. As the scripture says in Colossians 3:17 (NKJV), “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

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