Congressman Finds the Presence of ‘God’ in Congressional Oaths Absurd, a ‘Sporadic Standard’

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
September 4, 2019 Updated: September 5, 2019

A congressional Democrat from California said on a show hosted by the Freedom from Religion Foundation on Sept. 1 that he finds it absurd that witnesses continue to be instructed to say “so help me God” in their oaths while testifying before Congress.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) was talking to hosts Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s show, “Free Thought Matters,” on Sunday when he said that “unfortunately, it’s been kind of a sporadic standard.”

The weekly Sunday show, “Free Thought Matters,” calls itself an “antidote to religion on the airwaves and Sunday morning sermonizing” and Gaylor said Huffman is “currently the only member of Congress who openly identifies as non-religious.”

This is not the first time that Huffman has made such comments and they have never gone over well with Republicans, who have on earlier occasions accused the majority of Democrats of moving further to the left.

Talking on the show Huffman elaborated on the issue: “Some committees have dropped the oath, others have not,” he said. “I sit on the Natural Resources Committee and in our original proposed rules for the committee, we proposed that we drop the oath or we allow witnesses to simply say it voluntarily if they chose to, which to me makes perfect sense.”

Jack Barlow, an expert in American political thought and constitutional law and a professor at Juniata College in Pennsylvania told The Epoch Times in a written interview that the “addition, ‘so help me God’ was made to the Presidential Oath by George Washington, apparently spontaneously, and has been used by every president since, except Herbert Hoover, who solemnly ‘affirmed’ that he would faithfully execute the duties of president.”

A draft obtained by Fox News in January showed the changed oath that the Natural Resources Committee ask witnesses to recite: “Do you solemnly swear or affirm, under penalty of law, that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

The proposal replaces the words “so help you God” with “under penalty of law.” However after the committee faced adverse reactions, it voted to retain “so help you God” in the oath as part of the rules package, reported Fox News.

Huffman told Gaylor that for the last few years he has “more or less” identified as “agnostic and humanistic.” He was asked what prompted him to publicly come out with these beliefs.

He said that it “was a combination of things,” including what he believes is “the steady encroachment of religion into the public square” and what he says are “efforts by Donald Trump and others to take a standard path to theocracy.”

The office of House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo) responded to Huffman’s comments. “Liz Cheney will always defend God. Period. If that bothers Rep. Huffman, we’ll be praying for him,” Cheney’s spokesperson told Fox News.

Barlow, told The Epoch Times that excluding “So help me God” from the oaths certainly goes against a “long-standing habit,” but it doesn’t go against the constitution.

“The Constitution itself protects those who do not wish to use that phrase. In the clauses that discuss coming to office, for example, the Constitution specifies that one can take an “Oath or Affirmation” (Art. II, section 1, Art. VI).

This means that one need not mention God in any assurance of truth-telling. Likewise, the Constitution in Article VI prohibits religious tests for holding office. So there is nothing in the Constitution that requires an oath or swearing ‘by God,'” said Barlow.

Barlow said he’s not sure if this particular matter indicates a leftward shift in the Democratic party, “at least in its own right.”

In a message on Twitter in March, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) expressed strong opposition to the move.

“WATCH: Democrats PURPOSEFULLY omit “so help me God” from the swearing-in oath during yesterday’s House Judiciary subcommittee hearing. I will not give up on this issue. Stay tuned.”

Cheney told Fox News that the Democrats have “become the party of Karl Marx.”

“It is incredible, but not surprising, that the Democrats would try to remove God from committee proceedings in one of their first acts in the majority,” Cheney said. “They really have become the party of Karl Marx.”

Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated that Rep. Jared Huffman is running for president. The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya