So help you God?

The news outlets are buzzing with criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts for flubbing Obama’s Oath of Office — but the critiques seem to be all about him nervously reversing a few words. These critiques miss the issue.

After he painfully, and tortuously, slogged his way through the Oath of Office, Roberts appeared to add his own little bit to it as he asked the President, “So help you God?”

Article II, Section I of the US Constitution reads, in pertinent part (with “he” referring to the President-elect):

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.”

The words “so help you God,” are not in the Oath. However, since Chester A. Arthur, most (if not all) Presidents-elect have thrown in this little garnish. I previously opined that Mr. Obama could, if he wanted to, throw in a little extra props to his personal deity. In fact, if Obama wanted to end the oath with “The Snozzberries taste like Snozzberries,” he would have had every right to do so.

On the other hand, upon the completion of the Oath as it appears in Article II, Section I, Roberts next line should have been to either shut up or say “congratulations, Mr. President,” — not to ask Obama, “so help you God?”

Funny enough, Obama re-took the Oath of Office due to the fact that the word “faithfully” got moved around a bit, and thus there was some question as to whether Obama actually took the Constitutionally mandated Oath. While most agree that this was unnecessary, it certainly couldn’t hurt given that there are still tinfoil-hat wearing Palinites out there who think that Obama can’t be president because he was born in Hawaii.

9 Responses to So help you God?

  1. Windypundit says:

    Eh. The constitution doesn’t require that Yo-Yo Ma play the cello for the President-elect either, but Obama asked him to, so he did. I don’t see why the Chief Justice can’t accede to his wish to add a line after the oath.

    I just hope Obama will keep his faith to himself a lot more than Bush did.

  2. Kyle Kaiser says:

    Michael Newdow (of Ninth Circuit, Pledge of Allegiance fame) sued to stop Roberts from prompting “so help me God?” He lost in the District of the District of Columbia. But everyone filed an amicus brief, including the Texas Attorney General on behalf of a bunch of states. I haven’t gotten through them yet, but I bet it’s a fun read…

    Check out my post on this, and if you like what you see, would you mind adding me to your blogroll?

    http://arbitraryandfanciful.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/obama-retakes-oath-chief-justice-doesnt-learn-his-lesson/

  3. ahrcanum says:

    Apparent the US attorney did think it necessary, and rightfully so.

  4. jesschristensen says:

    This all got me thinkin… and so I ask you, my fine-furry-first-amendment-gurus…

    The First Amendment only prohibits Congress from from making laws that endorse or restrict religious exercise… So, there’s no such mandate for the Executive, ya? Arguably (putting aside Obama’s personal free speech rights), couldn’t he, say, end his speech by saying that Gnosticism is the greatest religion ever? Or, issuing a proclamation saying that POTUS officially endorses the Church of the Subgenious?

  5. Executive is just as bound as Congress. But yes, he could end his speech saying “ALL YE BOW DOWN TO THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER AND FEEL HIS NOODLY APPENDAGE!” Of course, that would be absurd. It makes much more sense to say “so help me invisible man who lives in space and is obsessed with whether we masturbate or not”

  6. jesschristensen says:

    Ha. I love that invisible guy. He’s so cooky.

    So, is there case law authority that binds the executive? Perhaps I was asleep during this part of Con Law. Or, more likely, absent and hanging out over at the Irish Times… what’s the basis for binding the executive from endorsing or un-endorsing (?) a particular religion?

  7. palinite says:

    i cant wait to see the day that all of your are homeless on the food lines.
    you people would support a rubber duck if it promised you change! Your taxes will go through the roof

  8. (law clerk) says:

    Palinite, please pay attention. Obama wants to CUT my taxes, and allow the Bush tax cuts that benefit the $250K and up crowd to expire. That’s his plan to “redistribute the wealth.” I can live with a little of that kind of change.

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