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The Texas Constitution has a sentence that ends with the phrase "provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being." What tense is the verb "acknowledge" in here?

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    it's present tense, subjunctive mood.
    – herisson
    Dec 10, 2015 at 1:24
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    Present tense, subjunctive mood, stupid sense. This is the whole provision supposedly barring religious tests for office: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being." No religious test but this one. It's void per the Supreme Court. When can we give that state back to Mexico?
    – deadrat
    Dec 10, 2015 at 1:35
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    @deadrat Hey hey hey! I live in that state ;). And never - you'd have to give Texas back to itself, seeing as it was its own nation. Dec 10, 2015 at 1:41
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    @deadrat Texas is home to some good schools. There used to be this conference that I would speak at every year called CombinaTexas (combinatorics in the American southwest!) but it didn't happen this year. I thought I might have overheard somebody denying the existence of a supreme being there, so that could explain it. Dec 10, 2015 at 1:53
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    What!? The Texas Constitution is my go-to reference for proper English usage. Dec 10, 2015 at 1:57

2 Answers 2

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As sumelic points out in a comment above, the word acknowledge in the phrase "provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being" is a subjunctive, and the tense is present.

The sense of the phrase is

if he satisfies the prerequisite of recognizing and affirming the existence of a Supreme Being.

The full provision that the OP quotes from is this:

Sec. 4. RELIGIOUS TESTS. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

(A constitutional literalist might observe that this provision explicitly applies only to "any one" who is male—cf. "his religious sentiments"—but whether that is because the Texas constitution deems only (religious) men fit for office or because it envisions different standards for male nonbelievers and female nonbelievers is a matter not addressed by the plain terms of the provision.)

Of course, requiring prospective officeholders to make any such acknowledgment in order to qualify for state office or public trust is clearly a discriminatory religious test—notwithstanding the framers' attempt to cast the test as neutral toward individual religions and hostile only toward irreligion (which in any event puts the framers in the highly dubious position of asserting that disqualifying candidates for not being religious is not a "religious test" as that term is understood in U.S. constitutional law). All-Father Odin may be the most deep-minded of the Æsir, but he is by no means a Supreme Being—and indeed doesn't rate a capital H when referred to by pronoun.

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The word 'provided' appears six times in the first article of the Texas Constitution, as published on the state's website.

The first four usages are in the sense of 'given that,' or "on the condition that." In this particular document, each of these four usages happens also to occur when the writer is countering the previous phrase, eg. "Provided, however,[...]." The other two uses later on are both 'as provided by,' meaning "as made available by." (dictionary.com)

The sentence in question concerns a possible prerequisite for holding office: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."

"Nor shall anyone be excluded" has the same meaning as "no one will be excluded." As mentioned above, 'provided' is used here to connect the condition of an aspiring politician, which may exist now or in the future, that is necessary for the future office-holding to occur. Therefore the relevant phrase could be understood as "no one will be excluded, given that she also will acknowledge...."

The verb 'acknowledge' in this sense is future conditional, not subjunctive, as it describes a condition in the future that is necessary for another event to then occur.

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