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Article VI – Legal Status of the Constitution

Article VI of the US Constitution states:

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.

Article VI contains three clauses.  The most famous is the second clause which makes the United States Constitution along with all law and treaties made in accordance with it the supreme law of the land.  That clause is commonly referred to as the supremacy clause.

Pursuant to Article VI, Clause 1 all debts and engagements contracted by the United States while under Articles of Confederation are held to be valid under this Constitution.  All debts incurred by the United States before acceptance of the Constitution are valid.   

Article VI, Clause 2 sets forth the supremacy clause.  It states that the Constitution and the federal laws made according to the Constitution shall be considered the supreme law of the land.  All state courts are bound by the supreme law.  In case of conflict between federal and state law, the federal law prevails.  This means that the federal government power must prevail over any conflicting or inconsistent state exercise of power. 

Article VI, Clause 3 provides that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any public office.  It was meant to prevent the religious discrimination which was prevalent at the time of drafting.  Clause 3 also prohibits laws which would give a religious organization power over policymaking by eliminating others who do not share similar religious beliefs.  The current oath of office was enacted in 1884.   The oath states, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Inside Article VI – Legal Status of the Constitution