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Taking an Oath or making a Promise.

Taking an Oath or making a promise? The Bob Scott story.

       A few weeks ago the new Mayor of my home town, Franklin NC, decided to fore go the traditional left hand on the Bible and raise your right hand swearing in. Instead he opted for the left hand on the Constitution raise your right hand method. Now before all the people who want to come to his defense get riled up let me just say a few things. No I don’t live in Franklin any longer but my family owns property there so the Mayors decisions are important to me, also I am not saying the Mayor is a bad man, confused yes but bad no, and finally He has every right to be sworn in on any document that he wishes (according to our highest courts) including any number of Dr. Seuss’s books and no I’m not comparing the Constitution to A Cat in a Hat!

      One can only imagine why he chose the method that he did. That is between him and his maker… sorry I meant to say between him and the writers of the Constitution. You see the taking of an oath of office has a long history and there are some things that are factual about taking an oath that I am sure the Mayor failed to take into consideration.

         The first thing that the Mayor failed to consider was the very definition of the word oath. In the Merriam Webster Dictionary it gives this as the primary meaning “a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says”. In the 1913 version of Webster’s the definition seemed more specific “A solemn affirmation or declaration, made with a reverent appeal to God for the Truth of what is affirmed. A solemn affirmation, connected with a sacred object, or one regarded as sacred, as the temple, the altar, the blood of Abel, the Bible”. So you see the very taking of an oath calls for some type of witness, a person, whom we fear, and an object that is representative of that person. Most people in the history of America have thought that person to be Jehovah God and the object to be His eternal word, the Bible. However the Mayor chose the Framers of the Constitution and the less than 250 year old constitution as his highest standard. The Bible has never changed and is perfect in every way. The Constitution however is being redefined daily by our courts. With his pledge the Mayor accepts, no he promises to defend these reinterpretations no matter how vile they may be.

         The second issue is the history and weight that has been placed upon using the Bible and taking ones oath before God. The history of such oaths reach all the way back to 9th Century England and were carried over to the American Courts where witnesses were sworn in with a statement that ended with the words “so help me God”. The majority of our Presidents have been sworn in on the Bible, sometimes opening the Bible to a particular passage that they felt would assist them in being a good leader according to Biblical moral standards. The men and women who defend our constitution take an oath which concludes “so help me God”. Though they may not have their hand on a Bible they are calling on God as the guarantor of their pledge. Even the Citizenship (Naturalization) oath ends with the words “so help me God”. So what is the benefit of removing the Bible and using the Constitution, where is there precedent, how does it build a stronger community?

           The final issue that seems odd is that any elected official should have a desire to represent his constitutes and seeing that The Mayor isn’t opposed to religion (I assume) then why would he take such a hard left turn from those that elected him. Seems like he wanted to make a statement with this decision but only opened himself up to criticism. Good leadership never shy’s away from a fight but good leadership also doesn’t start needless ones.

          In the only conversation, with the Mayor, by way of the internet, we discussed what we each believed in. The Mayor said he believed in the Constitution to which I replied that I believed in God. It is my creator that establishes my rights and as the Declaration of Independence states they are endowed by Him and Him alone and not by any document or administration. My rights may be outlined in the Constitution but it is by God that they are given.  

         You see in the end the Mayor disregarded the Oath and instead went with a much weaker alternative… a promise. He promised on the founding fathers that he would do the work of the office of Mayor. He looks to them to keep him honest and if he fails he accepts the punishment they offer. Not much but it’s all the people of Franklin have been afforded. Let this be a warning to us as the citizenship to ask the important questions and know the candidates before they are elected to office.


     God Bless

     Darryl D. Womack



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