A House Democrat is criticizing the inclusion of “so help me God” in congressional oaths, saying it’s both unconstitutional and “preposterous” to force everyone to affirm such a belief.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (Calif.), who is the only non-religious member of Congress, told the television show Freethought Matters that his Democratic colleagues “backed down” on the issue earlier this year. Freethought Matters is produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“Well, unfortunately, it's been kind of a sporadic standard,” Huffman said of including “so help me God” in oaths.
“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 [this year], 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.”
But then, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and others “went ballistic,” he said.
“Unfortunately, my Democratic colleagues backed down,” he said. “... 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. ... It strains credulity.”
Huffman, who was raised Mormon, calls himself a “humanist,” although his beliefs are similar if not identical to atheism.
“Atheism seems to bring with it the notion of being anti-religion as opposed to non-religious,” he told the Guardian this year. “I prefer non-religious because I just want everyone to make their own religious choices. I’m not against them having religion.
“I would never call religion categorically bad. I see too many good things happening by people of faith and even organized religion. I think Pope Francis’s encyclical was one of the most impactful statements on climate change and nature in recent times and I’ve seen other really great leadership on important moral issues from people of faith. I’ve seen a lot of lousy, immoral stuff as well. So it’s just a mix.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.