Mr. Torcaso, who said he was an atheist, was a bookkeeper by profession. He worked for a Bethesda construction company when his legal challenge started in 1959. He had been urged by his boss to become a notary public.
At the Montgomery County Circuit Court, he refused to swear to a state oath given to notaries public that made them profess the existence of God.
“The point at issue,” he said at the time, “is not whether I believe in a Supreme Being, but whether the state has a right to inquire into my beliefs.”
In 1961’s Torcaso v. Watkins, the Supreme Court held that the requirement that he swear an oath declaring his religious faith was un-constitutional. “Neither [state nor federal government] can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs,” wrote Justice Black.