Last modified on 13 September 2014, at 13:29

So help me God

So help me God is a phrase often used to give an oath, and most commonly optional as part of an oath of office. It is also used in some jurisdictions as a form 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 to emphasize that one means what one is saying or has said. [1] 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

AustraliaEdit

In Australia the Oath of Allegiance is available in two forms, only one of which contains the phrase 'so help me god.'

CanadaEdit

In Canada, the Oath of Office, Oath of Allegiance, and Oath of Members of the Privy Council may be sworn, and end in "So help me God." They may also be solemnly affirmed, and in such case the phrase is omitted.[2]

FijiEdit

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.

FranceEdit

In medieval France, tradition held that when the Duke of Brittany or other royalty entered the city of Rennes, they would proclaim "Et qu'ainsi Dieu me soit en aide."[3]

New ZealandEdit

In New Zealand the Oath of Allegiance is available, in English or Maori in two forms, one an oath containing the phrase 'so help me god' and the other an affirmation which does not. The Police Act 1958 and the Oaths Modernisation Bill still includes the phrase.[citation needed]

PolandEdit

The Polish phrase 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 use different phrases.

The PhilippinesEdit

In the Oath of Office of the President of the Philippines, the phrase "So help me God" (Filipino: Kasihan nawâ ako ng Diyos) is mandatory. Though the phrase can be omitted voluntarily, in which case it would become an affirmation instead of an oath.[4] An affirmation, however, has exactly the same legal effect as an oath.

United KingdomEdit

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 StatesEdit

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.[5]

The phrase "So help me God" is prescribed in oaths as early as the Judiciary Act of 1789, for U.S. officers other than the President. The act makes the semantic distinction between an affirmation and an oath.[6] The oath, religious in essence, includes the phrase "so help me God" and "[I] swear". The affirmation uses "[I] affirm". Both serve the same purpose and are described as one (i.e. "[...] solemnly swear, or affirm, that [...]") [7]

Presidential oathEdit

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[citation needed]. However, all Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have used this phrase, according to Marvin Pinkert, executive director of the National Archives Experience.[8]

Oath of citizenshipEdit

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.

MilitaryEdit

The Enlistment oath and officer's Oath of Office both contain this phrase. Normally, 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.[citation needed] However, a change in October 2013 to Air Force Instruction 36-2606[9] made it mandatory to include the phrase during Air Force enlistments/reenlistments. This change has made the instruction "consistent with the language mandated in 10 USC 502".[10]

State lawsEdit

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. Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia still require "so help me God" as part of the oath to public office. Maryland and South Carolina did include it, but both have been successfully challenged in court. Other states, including New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Rhode Island, allow exceptions or optional phrases. In Wisconsin, the specific language of the oath has been repealed.

ReferencesEdit