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06 January 2009

So Help Me God. . .

"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."

-Article Two, Section 1, Clause 8, United States Constitution

Rumor has it that when George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States, he appended the four words, "So Help Me God", to the constitutionally-mandated oath. While it is disputed whether Washington actually uttered the words "So Help Me God" when taking the oath of office, every president since at least Franklin Delano Roosevelt (including Georgian Jimmy Carter) has added the four-word phrase "So Help Me God" to the presidential oath. And in fourteen days, the President-elect will likely do the same unless atheist Michael Newdow successfully obtains a court order to block the use of the four-word phrase when Barack Obama takes the oath of office.

A California physician and attorney whose legal fight against the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance has drawn national attention now says he will join a lawsuit seeking the removal of all references to God and religion from President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony.

Michael Newdow believes references to God or religion are unconstitutional. He wants to remove the phrase "so help me God" from the oath of office and block the invocation prayer from Pastor Rick Warren. [Source: WXIA-TV (Atlanta), "Atheist Wants Religion Out Of Inauguration", December 30, 2008]

Believe it or not, I carry a copy of the Constitution with me everywhere; so I had to pull out my copy just to see if the supreme law of the land mandated that presidents be sworn in with their left hand on the Bible, their right hand in the air, use the words "so help me God", and have a pastor conduct the invocation as well as the benediction.

It's not there.

In fact, the Constitution doesn't even require a ceremony. It simply says that "Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation. . ."

That's it.

All this extra stuff: the ceremony on the steps on the Capitol, the inaugural parade, the many inaugural balls have become a part of our nation's traditions. Likewise, the four-word phrase "so help me God" has become a part of the traditional swearing in of the president.

Newdow's suit, which was rejected in 2001 and 2005, borders on being frivolous.

Actually, it is frivolous.