Presidential Oath of Office

Unlike many federal oaths of office, the oath taken by the incoming President of the United States is not required constitutionally to embellish upon the oath with a public entreaty of “So help me god.”  Indeed, the constitution agreed upon by the nation’s founding fathers mandate the exact language to be publicly recited as the oath of office, which consisted of a mere thirty-five words.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of the president of the United States and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

History revisionists love to insist that the United States was founded as “a Christian nation,” but while most of the founding fathers acknowledged a higher power few of them could be termed as even remotely hardcore religionists.  In fact the centuries of turmoil that had raged through Europe’s Christian nations due to church (Catholic) lust for temporal power made the founders determined that separation of church and state was absolutely imperative if a fair and just government for all people was to be established.

A favorite ploy of revisionists is to claim that George Washington established the precedent of invoking the phrase “so help me god” into the first inaugural in 1789.  But even though the Library of Congress site dutifully echoes this claim, such a public statement appealing to a deity would not have been characteristic of Washington.  Indeed, such a public plea for an otherworldly being’s guidance would more likely have been judged by him as something that could be mistaken for an endorsement of religious manipulation. 

Washington’s personal inclination in this regard can be ascertained in one incident.  During the two years that New York City was the acting national capital (1789-1790), Washington attended Trinity Church (Broadway), always in pew 60.  But he always left the church before communion, a situation that irked the church shepherds to the extent that they chastised Washington for the habit.  Because of this obvious attempt to impose their notions upon his personal faith, Washington never again attended church on communion Sunday.1  This action does not inspire the concept that he would have jeopardized the integrity of the nation’s highest office with an off the cuff addition of “so help me god.”

Furthermore, the men who framed the Constitution gave no reference to “god,” and asserted that all men were created with the inalienable rights to live their  lives in their own way—as long as it did not intrude upon the rights of others. 

As an additional note, the War of Independence with Britain was not officially over until twenty-one years after 1776 when, in 1797, the document of treaty was signed by representatives of both nations who met in Tripoli.  There is a bold declaration in that treaty that is found in Article 11–daring and important enough to merit bold type.

“The government  of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

1) Around 146 years later (1935) this same church used Washington’s words out of context from a 1783 letter addressed to governors of 13 states to forge a prayer attributed to Washington, and the plaque was installed at pew 60.  Details of this are on page 377 in Time Frames and Taboo Data.

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