A Democratic congressman on Sunday called it “preposterous” that witnesses are still being required to say the phrase “so help me God” as part of their oaths when testifying before Congress, following his committee’s aborted attempt to remove references to God from its oaths earlier this year.
Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) made the remark on “Freethought Matters,” a program by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The show’s website bills it as “an antidote to religion on the airwaves and Sunday morning sermonizing.”
Of the use of “so help me God” in witness oaths, Huffman said:
Well, unfortunately, it's been kind of a sporadic standard. Some committees have dropped the oath, others have not. 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.
And wouldn't you know it, [House Republican Conference Chair Representative] Liz Cheney just went ballistic.... And unfortunately, my Democratic colleagues backed down, and so we now nominally still have that same oath. But you're right. It's unconstitutional to require a witness in congressional testimony to affirm an oath to a deity they may not even believe in, or to affirm an oath to a singular deity when you might be a polytheistic Hindu, for example. It's just preposterous.
Members of Congress presiding over panels may decide the contents of oaths administered to witnesses.
A draft proposal obtained by Fox News earlier this year showed that the House Committee on Natural Resources, on which Huffman sits, would have only had witnesses say, “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 had the words “so help you God” in red brackets — an indication that they were slated to be cut. “Under penalty of law” was in red text, which meant the phrase was going to be added.
Republicans protested the change, which led to a vote in favor of keeping “so help me God.”
Interestingly, the rule change also modified references to “his or her” to “their” and replaced the word “chairman” with “chair.”
Among the Republicans to advocate for keeping references to God was Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), whom Huffman mentioned in his “Freethought Matters” interview.
At the time the draft was revealed, Cheney stated: “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. They really have become the party of Karl Marx.”
A spokesperson for Cheney responded to Huffman’s comments, saying, “Liz Cheney will always defend God. Period. If that bothers Rep. Huffman, we’ll be praying for him.”
The California lawmaker maintained that having witnesses say “so help me God” constitutes a “religious test” and is a violation Article VI, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution.
“If we were to have a hearing on climate change, for example, and we wanted to call one of the foremost physicists, let's say Neil Degrasse Tyson,” Huffman added. “He's an atheist. Do we force him to affirm an oath to a God he doesn't believe in? It really, frankly, strains credulity that in this day and age Congress would have something like that, and yet some of the politics persist.”
Article VI, Clause 3 reads:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
The law says that no religious test shall be required of those seeking political office, meaning only that certain religious sects cannot be kept from office because of their religious beliefs. It doesn't say that no reference to God can be made in Congress. In fact, the same people responsible for crafting and passing the U.S. Constitution also hired ministers to ask for God's blessing on Congress and asked President George Washington to declare a "Day of Publick Thanksgivin" to God for his blessings, which eventually became Thanksgiving Day.
The Natural Resources Committee, which oversees national parks, wildlife, and energy, is headed by Democratic Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva.
In February, House Judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) was called out by Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.) for leaving “so help me God” out of an oath. After apologizing, Nadler re-administered the oath — this time with a reference to God.
In March, Johnson again protested after an oath administered by Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) during a Judiciary subcommittee hearing omitted “so help me God.” In that case, Nadler intervened, saying, “We do not have religious tests.”
Is the movement to scrub references to God in oaths an effort to having committees abide by the Constitution, as its proponents claim? Or is it a deliberate misinterpretation of constitutional text intended to further erode Christianity and Christian morality in America? The answer seems clear.
Luis Miguel is a writer whose journalistic endeavors shed light on the Deep State, the immigration crisis, and the enemies of freedom. Follow his exploits on Facebook, Twitter, Bitchute, and at luisantoniomiguel.com.