Kiss the Book . . . You’re President . . . : 'So Help Me God' and Kissing the Book in the Presidential Oath of Office

101 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2014

See all articles by Frederick B. Jonassen

Frederick B. Jonassen

Barry University - Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law

Date Written: October 17, 2012

Abstract

This Article focuses on the argument that the first presidential inauguration provides no historical or legal support for the spatchcocking of “So help me God” in the administration of the presidential oath. The constitutionality of clerical prayers at the presidential inauguration is a separate issue not within the focus of this Article.

In the first part of the article the author examines arguments that litigants and jurists have made regarding Washington’s supposed utterance of “So help me God” and its relevance to the constitutionality of including the phrase in the administration of the presidential oath. The author goes on to examine the evidentiary record for Washington’s utterance of “So help me God”, and provides evidence that Washington kissed the Bible on which he took the Oath of Office. The article then examines what an oath has meant historically and what it likely meant to Washington and his contemporaries, assesses the significance of kissing the Bible and how this relates to both oath-taking and to the phrase, “So help me God”, and concludes by addressing the implications that the osculatory gesture may have for the constitutional issues that were raised in Newdow v. Roberts.

Keywords: Presidential Oath of Office, Bible, constitutional law, "So help me God"

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K49

Suggested Citation

Jonassen, Frederick B., Kiss the Book . . . You’re President . . . : 'So Help Me God' and Kissing the Book in the Presidential Oath of Office (October 17, 2012). William & Mary Bill of Rights, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2511307

Frederick B. Jonassen (Contact Author)

Barry University - Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law ( email )

6441 East Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32807
United States

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