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
Date Written: October 17, 2012
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: Suggested Citation