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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

So help me God is a phrase often used to give an oath, and most commonly required as part of an oath of office. It is also used in some jurisdictions as a forth of oath for other forms of public duty, such as an appearance in court, service as a juror, etc.

The essence of the phrase is a request to divine agency to render assistance (help) by being a guarantor of the oath taker's own honesty and integrity in the matter under question, and by implication invoking divine displeasure if the oath taker fails in their duty in this regard. It therefore implies greater care than usual in the act of the performance of one's duty, such as in testimony to the facts of the matter in a court of law

The use of the phrase implies a greater degree of seriousness and obligation than is usually assigned to common conversation. See the discussion on oaths for more details

Contents

Australia

Fiji

The Constitution of Fiji, Chapter 17 requires this phrase for the oath of allegiance, and before service to the republic from the President's office or Vice-President's office, a ministerial position, or a judicial position.

New Zealand

  • Police Act 1958, and the Oaths Modernisation Bill still includes the phrase.
  • Oath of Allegiance

Poland

The Polish phase is "Tak mi dopomóż Bóg" or "Tak mi, Boże, dopomóż." It has been used in most version of the Polish Army oaths, however other denominations used difference phrases.

United Kingdom

The Oath of Allegiance set out in the Promissory Oaths Act 1868 ends with this phrase, and is required to be taken by various office-holders.

United States

In the United States, the no religious test clause requires that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

However there are federal oaths which do include the phrase "So help me God," such as for justices and judges in 28 U.S.C. § 453.[1]

The phrase "So help me God" is explicitly prescribed in oaths as early as the Judiciary Act of 1789, for U.S. officers other than the President. Although the phrase is mandatory in oaths, the said Act also allows for the option that the phrase to be omitted by the officer, in which case it would be called an affirmation instead of an oath: "Which words, so help me God, shall be omitted in all cases where an affirmation is admitted instead of an oath."[2]

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Presidential oath

There is no law that requires Presidents to use a Bible or to add the words "So help me God" at the end of the oath. There is currently debate as to whether or not George Washington, the first president, added this phrase to his oath. However, all Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have used this phrase, according to Marvin Pinkert, executive director of the National Archives Experience.[3]

Oath of citizenship

The United States Oath of Citizenship (officially referred to as the "Oath of Allegiance," 8 C.F.R. Part 337 (2008)), taken by all immigrants who wish to become United States citizens, includes the phrase "so help me God"; however 8 C.F.R. 337.1 provides that the phrase is optional.

Military

The oaths of enlistment and officers both contain this phrase, however it is not required to be said if the speaker has a personal or moral objection, as is true of all oaths administered by the United States government.

State laws

Some of the states have specified that the words "so help me God" were used in oath of office, and also required of jurors, witnesses in court, notaries public, and state employees. Where this is still the case, there is the possibility of a court challenge over eligibility, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961), that such state-law requirements violate citizens' rights under the federal Constitution.

References


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