McDaniel v. Paty

RESPONDENT:Selma Cash Paty, et al.
LOCATION:Hamilton County Chancery Court

DOCKET NO.: 76-1427
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Tennessee Supreme Court

CITATION: 435 US 618 (1978)
ARGUED: Dec 05, 1977
DECIDED: Apr 19, 1978
GRANTED: Jun 20, 1977

Frederic S. Leclercq – for appellant
Kenneth R. Herrell – for appellees

Facts of the case

Since its first state Constitution in 1796, Tennessee has had a statute that prohibited ministers from serving as legislators. In 1977, Paul A. McDaniel, a Baptist minister, filed as a candidate for the state constitutional convention. Another candidate, Selma Cash Paty, sued for a declaratory judgment that McDaniel was disqualified. The Chancery Court held that the statute was unconstitutional because it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. McDaniel’s name remained on the ballot and he was elected. After the election, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Chancery Court and held that the statute did not restrict any expression of religious belief. The court held that the state interest in maintaining the separation of church and state was sufficient to justify the restrictions of the statute.


Does the Tennessee statue barring “Minister[s] of the Gospel or priest[s] of any denomination whatever” from serving as legislators violate the free exercise of religion guaranteed through the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for McDaniel v. Paty

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 05, 1977 in McDaniel v. Paty

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 19, 1978 in McDaniel v. Paty

Warren E. Burger:

I have the judgment to announce in McDaniel against Paty.

The Tennessee Supreme Court held that under the constitutional laws of Tennessee or Ministers of the Gospel are barred from certain public offices.

For reasons stated in an opinion filed with the clerk this morning, the judgment of the Tennessee Supreme Court is reversed and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings, not inconsistent with the opinion filed this morning.

Mr. Justice Brennan with whom Mr. Justice Marshall joined, filed an opinion concurring in the judgment on different grounds.

Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice White also filed separate opinions concurring in the judgment on different grounds.

Mr. Justice Blackmun took no part in the consideration or decisions of this case.