I swear to…who?

I am so glad that I don’t watch Fox News, but that other people suffer through it to let me know what they think is the latest threat to the Republic. It seems the newest change that has Republicans foaming at the mouth is a new oath.

The House Committee on Natural Resources has in the past used a witness oath that reads, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

The proposed new version will say, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm, under penalty of law, that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

If it helps them make up their minds, as a devious atheist with a scheming mind I could regard that “so help you God” clause as a loophole — God doesn’t help me, so the oath doesn’t apply. Also, you’ve just made me affirm a religious oath that I do not believe in, so by saying “yes”, I’ve already said a lie. A few more won’t hurt, then. And if my punishment for lying is hellfire, which I don’t believe in, then there is no compulsion here.

As Rob Boston points out,

The gang at Fox News might want to ponder the following statement: “A magistrate ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man … and cause him to take the name of God in vain.”

What left-wing Marxist said that? Actually, it was colonial-era religious freedom pioneer Roger Williams. Williams was a far-sighted man and a devout Christian to boot. Fox News could learn a thing or two from him.

Exactly. The Republicans already would consider me an unregenerate man, so why should I find that oath binding? It does have the benefit of giving us unregenerates an opportunity to spit in the face of their imaginary god, but otherwise, it doesn’t have much going for it.


  1. Owlmirror says

    “A magistrate ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man

    Let us not forget what “regenerate” means – more or less “born again” (by the grace of God) as a Christian. So “unregenerate” means “not born again”.

    So no Muslims or Jews or Catholics or Mormons, etc, need apply.

  2. hemidactylus says

    On the face of it were they verbalizing a combined one size fits all oath/affirmation? I would have assumed that if given an option to affirm the verbalizing party would kindly drop the God language. What am I missing here?

  3. says

    The ‘oath’ should be more like:
    “Since we know that a large percentage of witnesses lie, we’re going to let you speak your piece and then we’re going to ask the jury to consider all the evidence that can be mustered. It’s not that we think you’re a despicable human being, but you’re just like everyone else and nobody ought to trust you.
    Do you swear or affirm that you will try to speak clearly into the microphone and not mumble? Do you promise not to waste time with absurd lies that are obvious?
    Repeat after me, ‘I’ll try not to mumble, at least.”

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    Oaths. What a primitive concept. Why do I have to stand infront of everyone with one hand in the air (Left, Right, who cares?) and another on some book (The Bible, The Amazing Spider-Man No. 56, who cares?) and pinky-swear to a magical being that I’ll do what I was elected or appointed to do? Can’t we dispense of the Medieval ritual and just expect people to do what they say they will until they prove otherwise?

  5. hemidactylus says

    There’s a difference between being given an oath or affirmation. Both carry penalties (ie-perjury) if violated, but an oath adds the bit about being eternally accountable to a supreme being. The above quoted ceremony seems to combine the two or people don’t know how oaths and affirmations work. The person performing the verbalization should have a clue how to modify for an affirmation if the person chooses that. The choice between the two is I assume a matter, at least under US constitutional law, a matter of free exercise.

  6. weylguy says

    C’mon, Dr. Myers, it’s so obvious. If you lie after swearing to tell the truth in a court of law, you’re guilty of perjury and subject to legal punishment. However, if you swear to God to tell the truth and then lie, you’re not only subject to legal punishment but eternal damnation as well. But then Jesus said don’t swear to God, just say Yes or No, which takes you back to mere legal punishment.

    Ergo, it’s best to leave God out of it. Besides, he’s imaginary and therefore out of it anyway.

  7. raven says

    Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

    What happens if you just refuse.
    On the basis that swearing an oath involving an imaginary being that you don’t believe in is just silly.

    I’ve given sworn testimony in court before.
    I don’t recall anything about god in the oath though.

  8. jacksprocket says

    They don’t even believe in their own religion:

    Matthew 5:34-37 King James Version
    34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
    35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
    36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
    37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

  9. whheydt says

    It would be a good test for presidential candidates. Ask them to recite the oath of office as it is written in the Constitution. No additions allowed.

  10. Owlmirror says

    I wondered what that ellipsis might be obscuring.

    The bloudy tenent of persecution for cause of conscience discussed

    He had taught publicly, it was said, ” that a magistrate ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man, for that we thereby have communion with a wicked man in the worship of God, and cause him to take the name of God in vain.

    emph added to elided text. Well.

    It seems that the above opinion, among others, got Roger Williams banished

    There’s more context, though, earlier in the same book linked to:

    On the subject of the denial of the oath of fidelity, it is evident, from Mr. Cotton’s statement, that the oath owed its origin to intolerance. Episcopacy should have no place under congregational rule, no more than independency could be suffered to exist under the domination of the English hierarchy. But Mr. Williams appears to have objected to the oath chiefly on other grounds : it was allowed by all parties that oath-taking was a religious act. If so, it was concluded by Mr. Williams, in entire consistency with his other views, that, 1, It ought not to be forced on any, so far as it was religious ; nor, 2, could an unregenerate man take part in what was thought to be an act of religious worship. Whether an oath be a religious act, we shall not discuss ; but on the admitted principles of the parties engaged in this strife, Mr. Williams’s argument seems to us irrefragable.

  11. Owlmirror says

    Further to #12 — of course, the “wicked man” referred to was not meant to be necessarily be an atheist, or even a Jew, but a member of a Christian church that was doing it wrong.

  12. says

    The words used in a Magistrates’ Court in the UK are,

    I do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    In Crown Court (and the higher courts) the words are changed to “….. solemnly, sincerely and truly …..”