Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama And The Presidential Oath Of Office

Will Barack Obama Say "So Help Me God?"

The Oath of Office of the President of the United States is actually written into the U.S. Constitution, except for one commonly heard phrase "So Help Me God," routinely added at the end of the oath by each President.

Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution says the President must "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"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.'"

It is uncertain how many Presidents used a Bible or added the words "So help me God" at the end of the oath, as neither is required by law.

The phrase "So Help Me God" has been added by Presidents customarily, but for how far back no one knows, as there are no tape recordings of all the Presidential Inaugurations, of course. It is believed by some historians that President Abraham Lincoln may have been the first to have added the phrase in 1865 as a personal prayer.

Other Oath of Office facts:

Franklin Pierce was the first president to use the word affirm rather than swear. Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking the oath in 1901. Eisenhower, Truman, and Nixon swore the oath on two Bibles. John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on a Roman Catholic missal while aboard Air Force One.

Washington kissed the Bible after taking the Oath, as some later Presidents did, but modern Presidents have not, except for Harry Truman, who bent and kissed the Bible upon taking the oath at his first and second inauguration

The Founding Fathers took some time to word the Oath of Office and mandate its use by all future Presidents. As Representative Jack Brooks explains in an article about the Constitution, "The genius of the Founding Fathers is reflected in the intricate set of checks and balances the Constitution builds into our system of government. By preventing any one of the three branches from acquiring dominance over the others, these structural and procedural safeguards have preserved a fundamental, albeit not always neat, separation of powers.

Moreover, although developed over two centuries ago, they continue to perform this essential function despite the dramatic societal, technological, economic, and political changes in the United States over the past two centuries."

It is expected that President-Elect Obama will also continue the tradition of adding the phrase and using a Bible, although he is not obligated to do so under the Constitution.

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