President Obama Takes Oath of Office, Adding ‘So Help Me God’

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Earlier today, the Barack Obama took the “official” Presidential Oath of Office:

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.

You may have noticed that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said “So help me God” at the end (and Obama repeated after him). But that’s not part of the official of the oath, is it?

No, and in 2008, Michael Newdow filed a lawsuit (PDF) to prevent exactly this scenario from taking place:

Defendant Roberts… will (with no authority whatsoever) alter the text of that document to infuse the inaugural ceremony with purely religious dogma.

Newdow also laid out the history of those four little words. Basically, no president said the words “So help me God” until “1881, ninety-two years after George Washington’s initial ceremony” — when “Chester A. Arthur took the oath upon hearing of President James Garfield’s death.” After that it didn’t become a “tradition” as we know it until 1933 (with Franklin Roosevelt). In short, there was no reason to continue this “tradition.”

Written By: Hemant Mehta
continue to source article at patheos.com

34 COMMENTS

  1. Oh what’s the fuss. Requiring anyone to utter those words against their will is unconstitutional, but nothing is stopping Obama from saying them right after he takes the constitutionally required oath. And in the current political climate, I don’t blame him for pandering to the religious in such an harmless way a bit.

  2. In reply to #2 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

    Oh what’s the fuss. Requiring anyone to utter those words against their will is unconstitutional, but nothing is stopping Obama from saying them right after he takes the constitutionally required oath.

    The point is, Obama didn’t add the words, Roberts did. Shouldn’t there be something stopping the Supreme Court Justice from adding to the oath the President is expected to repeat? If nothing else, to make it clear who’s ad libbing.

  3. In reply to #3 by Greyman:

    The point is, Obama didn’t add the words, Roberts did. Shouldn’t there be something stopping the Supreme Court Justice from adding to the oath the President is expected to repeat?

    What, you think Roberts ambushed the President with it? Every word and element of the ceremony is agreed upon beforehand. Obama even notified Roberts that he wanted this phrase included as usual, not the other way around.

  4. I think it’s not good that “So help me God” was included in the ceremony.

    By including this statement, Obama (and advisors/whoever) is implicitly supporting the concept that religion should not be separated from the business of government; seeing that he currently holds the most powerful office in the US, I believe that is of consequence. It potentially affects every other issue that arises in relation to religious involvement in the affairs of government; it provides a strong precedent that it is ok for religious considerations to be included.

  5. The issue I have is that it is like an implicit statement by the one speaking that he considers himself so untrustworthy that the normal layers of accountability – laws, policies, regulations, personal conscious – are not sufficient enough for him to behave appropriately. He must add another layer, one so severe that it guarantees he’ll be caught and that any punishment will be far and away disproportionate to whatever the transgression was.

    Of course, no religious people look at the phrase that way, probably because most of them don’t put very much analytical effort into their catch phrases. But that’s what I hear when it is said.

  6. So help me God?
    Perhaps some journalist should ask him whether in reality he considers that request a fallacy ;or whether it’s
    a piece of obsequiousness to comfort the believers..
    As this is not a meme said :why not Odin,Zeus, Baal ,or Satan?

  7. In reply to #8 by Nodhimmi:

    What the hell is that expression supposed to mean anyway??

    It is essentially a request for mercy in the event that he fails to live up to the rest of the pledge. That’s why I view it as a self-imposed layer of accountability that shouldn’t be necessary if the normal layers of accountability are enough to keep someone behaving appropriately. Or at the very least are proportional enough in their punishments to actual transgressions.

  8. Well, he gets another crack at it tomorrow. Maybe he’ll sneeze during that part. Scratch that, maybe he’ll cough. We don’t need Mrs. Obama saying, “God bless you” for sneezing.

    Mike

  9. I think Obama should have just cried and blurted out those words in a broken-down voice. If he’s going to add some non sequitur, might as well make it convincing! We don’t require presidents who dare to speak their minds anymore.

  10. This phrase has always bugged the hell out of me. It seems to say that the person doesn’t trust himself to do good or right without the idea of God ever present in his mind, and/or that, if he fails, God will bail him out in some way. It also reinforces the idea that everyone thinks God is on THEIR side, all the time, which would be impossible, of course.

    Or it could just be his way of letting everyone know he is a believer. I always thought, deep down, he was not, now I have no idea.

  11. In reply to #7 by Sara25:

    The issue I have is that it is like an implicit statement by the one speaking that he considers himself so untrustworthy that the normal layers of accountability – laws, policies, regulations, personal conscious – are not sufficient enough for him to behave appropriately. He must add another layer, one so severe that it guarantees he’ll be caught and that any punishment will be far and away disproportionate to whatever the transgression was.

    Of course, no religious people look at the phrase that way, probably because most of them don’t put very much analytical effort into their catch phrases. But that’s what I hear when it is said.

    I agree 100%.

  12. In order to shift more of the onus, that is, in the event I, as a lowly human being, had a calamitous second-term, onto an omnipotent God, I, as President HolySchmidt, would have preferred to utter the noncommittal, nonetheless conciliatory idiom “God willing.”

    “So help me God” is more of an admonition that implies: 1. I believe in a god, and, more importantly, 2. If I muck up enough, I need not worry about my earthly existence, for God shall be the last who will pass judgment on me, one which, for better or for worse, is going to affect me well into the everlasting hereafter.

    As an added bonus, it might also appease people of different faiths who, as we know, frequently use that idiom.

  13. Can you imagine the furor Fox News et al would stir up if he had omitted it? It’s a dumb thing to have to say but ranks kind of low on the “pick your battles” priority list. The mischievous brat in me wishes he had ended with “So help me, Allah (PBUH)”. That would be worth the price of admission.

  14. In reply to #16 by Brian The Coyote:

    Can you imagine the furor Fox News et al would stir up if he had omitted it? It’s a dumb thing to have to say but ranks kind of low on the “pick your battles” priority list. The mischievous brat in me wishes he had ended with “So help me, Allah (PBUH)”. That would be worth the price of admission.

    Thanks for one hearty laugh. I’ll carry that image with me to keep me warm and smiling on this cold and snowy day.

  15. Is this really something to get excited about?

    When someone sneezes I still say ‘bless you’. From me it has no theological value it is just a tradition. From a vicar it may but who cares? No doubt Obama doesn’t want to make an issue of this little dessert when he has to swing much greater things passed those who would take exception to its absence.

    “Forests – not trees” ladies and gentlemen.

  16. Proof positive that electing a black president was easy, the real clever bit will be electing and atheist president who would then be free to utter the phrase so help me cod just in case there are any fish voters in the U.S.

  17. In reply to #5 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

    In reply to #3 by Greyman:

    The point is, Obama didn’t add the words, Roberts did. Shouldn’t there be something stopping the Supreme Court Justice from adding to the oath the President is expected to repeat?

    What, you think Roberts ambushed the President with it? Every word and element of the ceremony is agreed upon beforehand. Obama even notified Roberts that he wanted this phrase included as usual, not the other way around.

    Not this time but I think that the last time Roberts did surprise Obama…?

  18. In reply to #14 by Lauren127:

    In reply to #7 by Sara25:

    The issue I have is that it is like an implicit statement by the one speaking that he considers himself so untrustworthy that the normal layers of accountability – laws, policies, regulations, personal conscious – are not sufficient enough for him to behave appropriately. He must add another layer, one so severe that it guarantees he’ll be caught and that any punishment will be far and away disproportionate to whatever the transgression was.

    Of course, no religious people look at the phrase that way, probably because most of them don’t put very much analytical effort into their catch phrases. But that’s what I hear when it is said.

    I agree 100%.

    The higher authority should be the people he represents, not a god only some of the people believe in, albeit in the majority.

  19. Lighten up, folks. This is the first president to openly affirm that non-believers are of equal status with the theists of whatever stripe, and he’s done so repeatedly. That takes a bit of political courage.

    Saying “So help me God” just means “and I really, really mean it.” It doesn’t suggest he’s going to consult clergy for his decisions, as his predecessor was wont to do. He’d have said as much by ending with “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”

  20. I know it seems only symbolic and of no importance, but the head of the Judicial Branch of the government carries this down through the Federal Court system as well, and it impacts my own job. I urge all Americans, here, to write to Chief Justice Roberts and tell him that you do care about this and ask him to uphold the principle of Separation of Church and State by sticking to secular oaths both in Court and during Investment of Public Office.

  21. In reply to #19 by mmurray:

    I can understand the irritation but this is no big surprise. This is the President whose comment on the children massacred at Sandy Hook was “God has called them all home”.

    Michael

    I wasn’t aware of that speech. I think I want to vomit. What an unbelievably crass thing to say. Does he think he’s in a Disney movie?

  22. I’m with Quine on this one. It was sickening to watch this important national political ceremony that was chock full of religious groveling and display of delusional thinking. I lost my patience when a choir sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic. What a ridiculous song. No wonder the Jihadists call us crusaders. Here are the lyrics:

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
    He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
    His truth is marching on.

    (Chorus)
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on.

    I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
    They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
    I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
    His truth is marching on.

    (Chorus)
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on.

    I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
    “As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
    Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
    his truth is marching on.”

    (Chorus)
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    his truth is marching on.

    He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
    He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
    Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
    Our God is marching on.

    (Chorus)
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Our God is marching on.
    In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
    As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.

    (Chorus)
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Our God is marching on.

    He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
    He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
    So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
    Our God is marching on.

    (Chorus)
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Glory, glory, hallelujah!
    Our God is marching on.

  23. In reply to #30 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

    In reply to #19 by mmurray:

    I can understand the irritation but this is no big surprise. This is the President whose comment on the children massacred at Sandy Hook was “God has called them all home”.

    Michael

    I wasn’t aware of that speech. I think I want to vomit. What an unbelievably crass thing to say. Does he think he’s in a Disney movie?

    There was more I’m afraid. I was kind of stunned when I listened to the beginning about God having a better place for us. You can find it online.

    Michael

  24. In reply to #28 by Outwitted by fish:

    Lighten up, folks. This is the first president to openly affirm that non-believers are of equal status with the theists of whatever stripe, and he’s done so repeatedly. That takes a bit of political courage.

    Saying “So help me God” just means “and I really, really mean it.” It doesn’t suggest he’s going to consult clergy for his decisions, as his predecessor was wont to do. He’d have said as much by ending with “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”

    But he mentioned non believers the first time only. Where was the mention this time?

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