Eugene Volokh on Constitution & Oaths on National Review Online

Thursday, November 30, 2006
Eugene Volokh on Constitution & Oaths on National Review Online: "What’s more, the Constitution itself expressly recognizes the oath as a religious act that some may have religious compunctions about performing. The religious-test clause is actually part of a longer sentence: “The Senators and Representatives ... [and other state and federal officials] shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required ....” The option of giving an affirmation rather than oath reflects the judgment — an early multiculturalist judgment — in favor of accommodating members of some denominations (such as Quakers) who read the Bible as generally prohibiting the swearing of oaths.

The affirmation option was thus one tool to make sure that the law didn’t exclude people of certain religious groups from office, but rather let them retain their religious culture while participating in American civic life. The religious-test clause was another tool. The Constitution itself — a pretty important part of the “value system underl[ying] American civilization” — expressly makes clear that elected officials need not take oaths of office with their hands on any book.

So the Constitution thus already expressly authorizes people not to swear at all, but to affirm, without reference to God or to a sacred"

1 comments:

Knucklehead said...

This little story of John Quincy Adams' oath of office is also interesting (also from Volohk).