Scott McKellar 
Member since Sep 5, 2019


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Re: “Huffman Calls Congressional Oath to God "Unconstitutional," "Preposterous"

Many people cannot take an oath in good conscience, or cannot include "so help me God" in such an oath.

1. Some Christians, such as Mennonites and Quakers, take the words of Jesus seriously: "But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all..." (see Matthew 5:33-37). Their religious belief and practice preclude them from taking such an oath.

2. Polytheists, such as Hindus, believe in multiple gods. A reference to a single monotheistic deity, named "God," can have little meaning to them.

3. Atheists, of course, believe in no deity at all.

What shall we do when a witness falls into one of these categories?

One approach is never to call such a witness at all, arguably violating the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the first Amendment, if not the No Religious Test Clause of Article VI of the US Constitution. Even if you don't mind violating the Constitution, you would deprive yourself of the testimony of that witness, thus defeating your own purpose.

Another approach is to require such witnesses to take a religious oath as prescribed, regardless of their own religious beliefs. In that case you would accept their testimony only if they demonstrate a willingness to violate their own principles. Does that really make sense?

The only sensible approach is to make the religious aspect optional. Let witnesses swear or affirm according to the dictates of their own conscience. That is the approach commonly taken by courts of law. That is the approach taken by the US Constitution, where it specifies the oath of office for the President. That oath does not include the phrase "so help me God," though it has become customary for Presidents to add it voluntarily (probably beginning with Chester A. Arthur in 1881).

In any case, no one tempted to perjure himself or herself would likely be dissuaded by religious language in the oath. Such language creates problems without solving any.

18 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Scott McKellar on 09/05/2019 at 6:35 PM

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