“So help me God” — the oath, the controvery, the song

It was just about at this time last year there was great gnashing of teeth over Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and nearly-President Obama when Roberts recited the oath from memory and flipped a few words around, which Obama then repeated in the way Roberts recited them. 

Obama did end his oath with the phrase, “so help me God.”  In December of 2008, Obama actually asked that it be added to the end of the oath and Obama’s request drew a lawsuit.  Here’s a story that appeared in Newsweek on January 10, 2009.  In it, the author says while the congressional oath does include the phrase, “so help me God,” the presidential oath as set forth in the U.S. Constitution does not.  (The author of the Newsweek piece is the Society editor at the magazine, “Society” as in religion, education, family & health.  She’s currently writing a book about heaven.)

The Iowa Constitution doesn’t include the phrase “so help me God” on the oath for legislators either.  In Article III, Section 32, the state constitution reads:

Members of the general assembly shall, before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation:  “I do solemnly swear, or affirm, (as the case may be,) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Iowa, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of senator, (or representative, as the case may be,) according to the best of my ability.” And members of the general assembly are hereby empowered to administer to each other the said oath or affirmation.

Today, Representative Dawn Pettingill (R-Mount Auburn) raised a ruckus about the oath of office for folks who’re serving in the Iowa House as the chief clerk of the House copied the oath from the state constitution and did not add the phrase “so help me God.”

Pettingill will be sponsoring a resolution to make that phrase a permanent part of the oath members of the Iowa House and Senate are to recite.  To do that, the state’s constitution will have to be amended — the same kind of lengthy process opponents of gay marriage are pressing for in order to get an amendment that would ban gay marriage in Iowa before voters.

And, in my never-ending quest to find a soundtrack for everything, there is a song titled: “So Help Me God” by Fireflight, a Christian rock band that has a tour date at Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines on January 24.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.