“So Help Me…”

As I waited in line at the local Town Hall
(They do cars; they do dogs; I had both)
The woman ahead of me, newly elected,
Was given her swearing-in oath

“Do you swear or affirm to this long list of stuff?”
It began, though it seemed a bit odd:
With “affirm” in the text, as a secular nod,
It still ended with “so help me God

The woman assented; she signed all the forms,
And got herself ready to go
Then paused for a moment, and said to the clerk
“I’m an atheist, though, you should know.”

The state makes assumptions about our beliefs
Which are wrong, as this incident proved
That phrase has been haunting us quite long enough
And it’s high time we had it removed.

Just a quick little nothing–This actually happened at CuttleTown Town Hall today; I was so happy that A)there are atheists running for various town positions, and B)they aren’t shy about saying so. It has long bothered me that all of our local swearings-in contain “so help me God” in the official language; when I had jury duty a while back, there were at least 3 atheists on our jury (one, like me, simply did not say “so help me God”, while the other didn’t realize he had the option of staying silent). The judges spoke with us after each case, asking if there was anything about the process that could be improved… at the time, I just wanted to go home, and since we had an obnoxious minister on the jury as well, I did not want to start something that could take quite a bit of time. Yeah, I probably should have said something.

Point is, I am very glad that my new representative *did* say something. And I did tell her so, and thanked her. Sadly, after the Greece ruling, I don’t think “so help me God” will be going anywhere any time soon.


  1. Scr... Archivist says

    What is a good alternative closing line that people could start using now?

    Sadly, after the Greece ruling, I don’t think “so help me God” will be going anywhere any time soon.

    Maybe it simply depends on where you live. There may be some towns across the country that are ready to change the language (as well as not start town business with prayers).

  2. Cuttlefish says

    I personally thought that both the jurors’ oath and the councilors’ oath sounded perfectly good without *any* special closing line.

  3. Pliny the in Between says

    You could argue that including the phrase is suborning perjury in at least 13% of the US population.

  4. Kevin Kehres says

    I thought that phrase went away when the Jehovah’s Witnesses filed suit. Because they don’t believe in swearing any oaths to Jehovah (it’s a violation of one of the Big Ten, according to them, like coveting their neighbor’s ass).

    Could be wrong about that, but I thought so.

    Also, Quakers? Something.

    In any event, a dinosaur of a phrase objected to not just by atheists.

  5. Cuttlefish says

    Yeah, it is not illegal not to say it, but it falls on the person to assert her or his own right to abstain, rather than the state treating everyone equally (and perhaps allowing, as the military does, the voluntary “so help me god” afterward).

  6. philipelliott says

    If I’m ever in that position, I’ll have a hard time not using George Burns’ line from Oh God: “So help me, me.”

  7. mwmillman says

    When in that position, I just murmur “…to hell with god.” Nobody’s listening at that point anyway.

  8. Randomfactor says

    Have twice been sworn in as a witness and once as a jury foreman…and never has the oath included “SHMG.” And I live in the Bible Belt Extension known as Bakersfield.

  9. Numenaster says

    I was the principal juror (not a foreman, since I’m not a man) just this week, and all of us jurors were just asked to swear or affirm that we would do {list of duties}. The clerk stopped at the end of the list with an expectant look and we all responded in our random ways. I went with “I so swear”, because it’s what I got used to in the Society for Creative Anachronism, but I also heard “Yes” and “I do” around me. No “so help me” from anyone.

    This was in western Oregon, but in the farming part of the state (Washington County).

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