What is Article VI of the Constitution?

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Article VI of the Constitution has several parts. The first part states that the debts the U.S. government incurred while the country was ruled by the Articles of Confederation are still valid and that the government will pay them now that it is ruled by the Constitution. Part of the background behind this part of the article is that Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, wanted the United States government to have a debt. Once the government had assumed and began to pay off the debt, people would come to trust the government to a greater extent.

The second part of Article establishes the Supremacy Clause--that is, the idea that the Constitution, as well as federal laws and treaties made pursuant to the Constitution, are the supreme law of the land and take precedence over state level laws. John Marshall, later the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, helped establish the Supremacy Clause in practice through cases such as McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), a case in which the Supreme Court decided that states could not levy taxes on the federal bank because states cannot impede laws carried out as part of the powers given to the federal government in the Constitition.

Finally, the third part of the article requires government officials to take an oath but states that the oath must not be religious in nature and that the government cannot require religious tests of its employees. This article is an expression of the separation of church and state in the government. 

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Article VI of the United States Constitution states that any debts that the United States held before the creation of the Constitution, or during the Articles of Confederation, remain valid under the United States Constitution. 

It also states that government officials running for United States government offices cannot be required to undergo a religious test in order to run for office.

Article VI also contains the Supremacy Clause, or clause II, which states that the Constitution and any laws or treaties enacted under its rule are the supreme law of the land. State laws and court rulings are bound by federal law, meaning that if there is a conflict between the state and federal government, the federal government's rulings and laws override those of the state. 

The third clause of Article VI states that government officials are bound by oath to the Constitution, and that Congress may decide the form of that oath, but that no government official can be required to take a religious test.

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