Massachusetts Proposes Removing ‘So Help Me God’ from Oath

Ash Carter [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Ash Carter [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Proposed Bill calls for the secular Quaker oath

It is not uncommon for people to have to swear oaths in court or when they were declaring their allegiance to America to utter the phrase “so help me God” or some variation thereof. However, state legislators in Massachusetts are considering a move that would make a secular version an oath available[/tweetit] to all people that do not feel comfortable with the tinge of religion that is present in the current oath.

Massachusetts Proposes Removing ‘So Help Me God’ from Oath[/tweetthis]

Elected officials and people undergoing sworn testimony in court have long wondered whether it was ever appropriate to make someone swear to God while being sworn in. It was at best an act of compliance or at worst a way to make atheist or individuals from any number of non-Abrahamic religions uncomfortable.

Individuals in Massachusetts are taking a stand, though, as the Joint Committee on the Judiciary for the state has passed a bill that would be mostly focused on adding the Quaker Oath to the various places where an oath is required. Instead of swearing to God, the proposed oath reads “This I do under the pains and penalties of perjury.”

It’s not just feelings of discomfort that makes the religious oath unfair to the people of Massachusetts in the minds of legislators. It is a violation of rights under the United States Constitution which declares it is illegal to establish a religion. While the older oath may have reflected a time in American history when it was more common to encounter Christians, the modern day has a mix of people from many religions as well as people that are not religious at all.

Massachusetts state director for American Atheists stated “The history of the United States is about pluralism and an insistence that all of the country’s legal structures and forms of authority are representative of persons of every belief or a lack of belief” and that any move towards secularism was a step in the right direction. However, not everyone is thrilled with the change. Some believe it is a direct attack on the faith and history of the state and should not be changed.

The fact remains that the phrase “so help me God” is still pervasive in many other oaths throughout the United States, and it will be interesting to see if other states or even federal offices follow suit in this measure.


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