The Family Research Council is absolutely furious that the Air Force Academy would make the phrase “so help me God” optional in the oath cadets have to take. Ken Blackwell is making a ridiculous argument that includes passing on a fake story about George Washington that was debunked long ago.
Let’s see: Why is that phrase so offensive? George Washington was a pretty successful general. And he took the oath as our first President in New York City on April 30, 1789.
When Chancellor Livingston swore Washington in as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, Washington added four words to the Constitutionally prescribed oath:
So Help Me God
Question for Mikey and Murfs: If George Washington could add those four words, and if every President since could add those four words, why should they offend an Air Force Academy cadet?
Perhaps they don’t believe in God? Just a thought. Even if it were true that Washington added those words to the presidential oath, why would that lead one to conclude that therefore everyone else should be forced to say them forever? Why would a Christian even want someone who doesn’t believe in God to repeat words they can’t possibly mean in, of all things, an oath? There can only be one possible reason: They want to impose their religious beliefs on non-Christians. But in reality, the Washington story is a fake.
There is absolutely no extant contemporary evidence that President Washington altered the language of the oath as laid down in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” A long letter by the French foreign minister Comte de Moustier, who attended the ceremony, repeated the oath verbatim and did not include the additional words. Apparently, it was not until 65 years after the event that the story that Washington added this phrase first appeared in a published volume. In his book, The Republican Court, Rufus Griswold cited a childhood memory of Washington Irving as his source. It took another 27 years before the first clearly documented case of a President adding the words, “So help me God,” was recorded — when Chester A. Arthur took the oath in 1881.
And isn’t it interesting that the Constitution, which prescribes the oath and which Blackwell claims was intended to establish a Christian nation, does not include those words at all:
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Not a word about God. As much as they claim to revere the Constitution, it’s only the version in their heads that they like. The real one, not so much.