The 'Public Trust'

54 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2015 Last revised: 26 Oct 2016

See all articles by Jennifer Anglim Kreder

Jennifer Anglim Kreder

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law

Date Written: January 21, 2016


It seems as if no one really knows the meaning of the term “public Trust” used in the Religious Test Clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. This Article is the first scholarly attempt to define the term by exploring historical evidence pre-dating the nation’s founding through the Constitution’s adoption, including British and colonial trust law that influenced the Founders’ conception of the term. Today, one can find the term used only in the cases and scholarship concerning environmental law, tax law and museum law. After a thorough analysis of the old and new sources, this Article proposes the following original definition of term “public Trust”: “Any entity given special privilege by the government, beyond the simple grant of a state corporate charter often coupled with state or federal tax waivers, so long as that entity is legally obligated to engage in conduct that could traditionally have been performed by the government itself for the public’s benefit.”

Keywords: Religion, Religious Test, Article VI, Constitution, Public Trust, Environment, Environmental, Museum, Tax, History, Non-Profit, Not-for-Profit, Trust, Fiduciary, Legislative Interpretation, Constitutional Interpretation, Legislative Construction, Constitutional Construction, Founding Fathers, Tax

Suggested Citation

Kreder, Jennifer Anglim, The 'Public Trust' (January 21, 2016). 18 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 1425 (2016), Available at SSRN: or

Jennifer Anglim Kreder (Contact Author)

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law ( email )

Nunn Hall
Highland Heights, KY 41099
United States
859-572-5889 (Phone)
859-572-5342 (Fax)

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