The Oaths of Office

The Oaths of Office for Various Federal Employees and the Military

The Presidential Oath of Office

“I, <name>, 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.”

Franklin Pierce was the only president known to use the word affirm rather than swear.

The Congressional Oath of Office

At the start of each new Congress, the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are sworn into office.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

The Oath of Office for Federal Judges

The Judiciary Act of 1789, established an additional oath taken by federal judges:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States. So help me God.

The Oath of Office for Civil Service Employees

Federal employees take the same oath of office as Congress, by which they swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” 5 U.S.C. §3331

The Constitution not only establishes our system of government, it actually defines the work role for Federal employees – “to establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.”

United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office

All officers of the seven Uniformed services of the United States take swear or affirm an oath of office upon commissioning. It differs slightly from that of the oath of enlistment that enlisted members recite when they enter the service. It is required by statute, the oath being prescribed by Section 3331, Title 5, United States Code.

One notable difference between the officer and enlisted oaths is that the oath taken by officers does not include any provision to obey orders; while enlisted personnel are bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice to obey lawful orders. Officers in the service of the United States are bound by this oath to disobey any order that violates the Constitution of the United States.

Text of the Oath

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Note that the last sentence is not required to be said if the speaker has a personal or moral objection, as is true of all oaths administered by the United States government; Article Six of the United States Constitution requires that there be no religious test for public office.

The oath is for an indeterminate period; no duration is specifically defined.

Officers of the National Guard of the various States take an additional oath:

I, [name], do solemly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State (Commonwealth, District, Territory) of ___ against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of the State (Commonwealth, District, Territory) of ___, that I make this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the Office of [grade] in the Army/Air National Guard of the State (Commonwealth, District, Territory) of ___ upon which I am about to enter, so help me God.

History of the Oath

Constitution, Article 6 – Debts, Supremacy, Oaths

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

While the oath-taking dates back to the First Congress in 1789, the current oath is a product of the 1860s, drafted by Civil War-era members of Congress intent on ensnaring traitors.

In 1789, the 1st United States Congress created a fourteen-word oath to fulfill the constitutional requirement:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”

It also passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established an additional oath taken by federal judges:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States. So help me God.

The outbreak of the Civil War quickly transformed the routine act of oath-taking into one of enormous significance. In April 1861, a time of uncertain and shifting loyalties, President Abraham Lincoln ordered all federal civilian employees within the executive branch to take an expanded oath.

When Congress convened for a brief emergency session in July, members echoed the president’s action by enacting legislation requiring employees to take the expanded oath in support of the Union. This oath is the earliest direct predecessor of the modern version of the oath.

When Congress returned for its regular session in December 1861, members who believed that the Union had as much to fear from northern traitors as southern soldiers again revised the oath, adding a new first section known as the “Ironclad Test Oath.” The war-inspired Test Oath, signed into law on July 2, 1862, required that…

every person elected or appointed to any office … under the Government of the United States … excepting the President of the United States” to swear or affirm that they had never previously engaged in criminal or disloyal conduct.

Those government employees who failed to take the 1862 Test Oath would not receive a salary; those who swore falsely would be prosecuted for perjury and forever denied federal employment.

The 1862 oath’s second section incorporated a different rendering of the hastily drafted 1861 oath. Although Congress did not extend coverage of the Ironclad Test Oath to its own members, many took it voluntarily.

Angered by those who refused this symbolic act during a wartime crisis, and determined to prevent the eventual return of prewar southern leaders to positions of power in the national government, congressional hard-liners eventually succeeded by 1864 in making the Test Oath mandatory for all members.

The Senate then revised its rules to require that members not only take the Test Oath orally, but also that they “subscribe” to it by signing a printed copy. This condition reflected a wartime practice in which military and civilian authorities required anyone wishing to do business with the federal government to sign a copy of the Test Oath. The current practice of newly sworn senators signing individual pages in an oath book dates from this period.

As tensions cooled during the decade following the Civil War, Congress enacted private legislation permitting particular former Confederates to take only the second section of the 1862 oath. An 1868 public law prescribed this alternative oath for “any person who has participated in the late rebellion, and from whom all legal disabilities arising therefrom have been removed by act of Congress.”

Northerners immediately pointed to the new law’s unfair double standard that required loyal Unionists to take the Test Oath’s harsh first section while permitting ex-Confederates to ignore it.

In 1884, a new generation of lawmakers quietly repealed the first section of the Test Oath, leaving intact the current affirmation of constitutional allegiance.

History of the Oath for Federal Employees

The history of the Oath for Federal employees can be traced to the Constitution, where Article II includes the specific oath the President takes – to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Article VI requires an oath by all other government officials from all three branches, the military, and the States.

It simply states that they “shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution.”

The very first law passed by the very first Congress implemented Article VI by setting out this simple oath in law: “I do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”

Quick Background on Government Secrecy Oaths

On November 9, 1775. the Continental Congress adopted an oath of secrecy, one more stringent than the oaths of secrecy it would require of others in sensitive employment:

“RESOLVED, That every member of this Congress considers himself under the ties of virtue, honour and love of his country, not to divulge, directly or indirectly, any matter or thing agitated or debated in Congress, before the same shaft have been determined, without the leave of the Congress: nor any matter or thing determined in Congress, which a majority of the Congress shall order to be kept secret, And that if any member shall violate this agreement, he shall be expelled this Congress, and deemed an enemy to the liberties of America, and liable to be treated as such, and that every member signify his consent to this agreement by signing the same.”

On June 12, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the first secrecy agreement for employees of the new government. The required oath read:

“I do solemnly swear, that I will not directly or indirectly divulge any manner or thing which shall come to my knowledge as (clerk, secretary) of the board of War and Ordnance for the United Colonies. . . So help me God.”

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The Oaths of Office — 23 Comments

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  6. Obama did not take a legal oath to the Office of POTUS, in 2009 or 2013, and Chief Justice Roberts made certain of that.

    The oath went down like this on Barrack Obama’s most favorite day ever, January 20, 2009: (http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2009/01/20/4425716-about-that-oath-flub)
    .
    ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama…
    OBAMA: I, Barack…
    ROBERTS: … do solemnly swear…
    OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…
    ROBERTS: … that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully…
    OBAMA: … that I will execute…
    ROBERTS: … faithfully the office of president of the United States…
    OBAMA: … the office of president of the United States faithfully…
    ROBERTS: … and will to the best of my ability…
    OBAMA: … and will to the best of my ability…
    ROBERTS: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    OBAMA: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    ROBERTS: So help you God?
    OBAMA: So help me God.
    ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.
    .
    This garbled mess kicked up some dust and We were told precautions were in place to correct the meaningless flub-ups. On January 21, 2009, the second-chance oath went down like this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:President_Obama_Re-Takes_Oath.ogg):
    .
    John G. Roberts: I don’t have my Bible.
    Barack Obama: That’s ok. Legally it’s still binding. [undecipherable words]
    [undecipherable words]
    Roberts: Are you prepared to take the oath?
    Obama: I am. And we’re going to do it very slowly.
    Roberts: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…
    Obama: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…
    Roberts: …that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States…
    Obama: …that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States…
    Roberts: …and will to the best of my ability…
    Obama: …and will to the best of my ability…
    Roberts: …preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    Obama: …preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    Roberts: So help you God?
    Obama: So help me God.
    Roberts: Congratulations again.
    Obama: Thank you, sir.
    .
    And, they failed again. Neither attempt at the oath to the office of the President of the United States was Constitutional. Any spin claiming that Barrack Obama retook the oath out of “an abundance of caution” is just that: Spin…of the very worst kind.
    .
    No, the problem is not the phrase, “So help me God.” Other presidents have recited this line at the close of their oaths – that is their choice, and theirs alone.
    .
    The problem is the punctuation, “So help you God?“ It’s that darned question mark. You see, although Barrack Obama essentially repeated the oath after Roberts, line by line, with Roberts prompting him in the first person; at the very end, Roberts asked Obama to affirm the entire oath by inquiring, “So help you God?” You can hear that it’s a question, by the inflection in his voice. Every transcript shows it was delivered as a question. In fact, Obama acknowledges he received it as a question by nodding while stating, “So help me God.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1Yff-_9MZs&feature=related)
    .
    However, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, expressly forbids any religious test for public office. So, it was plainly unconstitutional for Roberts to ask the question. He should have said “So help me God.” And, then Barrack Obama should have repeated it of his own volition, or not.
    .
    The fact is, Roberts framed the entire oath as a question that required an affirmative answer after the phrase, “So help you God?” Twice.
    .
    To put it another way, what if Barrack Obama had answered, “No,” to Roberts’ question?
    .
    Roberts: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…
    Obama: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…
    Roberts: …that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States…
    Obama: …that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States…
    Roberts: …and will to the best of my ability…
    Obama: …and will to the best of my ability…
    Roberts: …preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    Obama: …preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    Roberts: So help you God?
    Obama: Nope.
    .
    What would happen? Barrack Obama would not have affirmed his oath and he would not have been able to execute the duties of the Office of President of the United States.
    .
    The question was a religious test – a trick. If Obama answered, “No,” then he would have failed the test. Are we supposed to believe that something so plain escaped the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court…twice? Please. Roberts gets no benefit of the doubt. None. Not now. Not ever. John Roberts should be impeached. However, I don’t believe for one second that Barrack Obama ever intended to take an oath to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” or to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    ***

    Moreover, when Obama was re-elected, in 2012, he was given the same unconstitutional oath on January 20, 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA3mrSWIRV4

    ROBERTS: So help you God?
    OBAMA: So help me God.

    Transcript: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1301/20/acd.01.html

    And again on January 21, 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvEANPi1c6k

    ROBERTS: So help you God?
    OBAMA: So help me God.

    .

    ***
    Willfully delivering a false oath (or affirmation)
    is the crime of perjury.
    [But, is willfully administering a false oath (or affirmation) a crime?]

    ***
    .
    Listen to how these Chief Justices administered the oath without requiring an affirmative answer to a religious test. *ahem* “Please, raise your right hand and repeat after me:“
    .
    George W. Bush 2005

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Bush: So help me God.
    .
    George W. Bush 2001

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Bush: So help me God.
    .
    Bill Clinton 1997

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Clinton: So help me God.
    .
    Bill Clinton 1993

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Clinton: So help me God.
    .
    George H. W. Bush 1989

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Bush: So help me God.
    .
    Ronald Reagan 1985

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Reagan: So help me God.
    .
    Ronald Reagan 1981

    Chief Justice: So help you God.
    President Reagan: So help me God.
    .
    Jimmy Carter 1977

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Carter: So help me God.
    .
    Gerald Ford 1974

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Ford: So help me God.
    .
    Richard Nixon 1973

    Chief Justice: So help me God.
    President Nixon: So help me God.
    .
    John F. Kennedy 1961
    (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/jfk-inaugural61/?flavour=mobile)
    Chief Justice: So help you God.
    President Kennedy: So help me God.

    _____________

    George W. Bush named former CIA director and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as next in line for the Presidency as he left office, in January 2009. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-4734750-503544.html) Since Obama never qualified and took a legal oath to the office, perhaps Robert Gates knows what’s in store for us.

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  8. his was in this weeks issue of the Bridgton News in Bridgton, Maine: It points out how little any of the oaths are worth if we have a populations that does not rad what the Constitution so plainly states but instead focuses on trivia in our education system.

    “I have, with great interest, watched the debate over the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. I have read and heard much said that could not be further from the truth, and that really doesn’t surprise me since over the past couple of decades schools have felt it more important to teach how to put on a condom than true and accurate US History.

    This is Article Two of the Bill Of Rights: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Folks, it is all one sentence.

    Why was it written? The Second was not written to ensure the right of the people to hunt, it was written to ensure that the people would be the last line of defense and that they would be armed in a manner, at their own expense, to be the last line of defense against a foreign invading army such as what happened in 1812. This was understood during both World Wars one and two when the Militia was used, carrying their own arms, to patrol the coast. It was also written to keep the G0vt in line. It has certainly failed in the latter. Let us not allow it to fail doing the former if the need comes.

    The reason for the Second was understood to the Marine Corp command when in the sixties in both NCO school and Officer Basic, men were taught that in the event of an invasion , if the military fell, officers and NCO’s that survived should retreat back into the country and organize and lead the militias.

    Does the US Congress know this? Of course they do, how else could they swear to uphold it if they did not understand it?

    So, the question is why does the United States Congress, with very few exceptions, want to disarm the very last line of defense of this nation? Our nation has never had more enemies. China has said they will go to war with us, not if, but when. Russia has said the same, North Korea has threatened to nuke us. God only knows how many Muslim nations are waiting in line to join with whoever attacks us first. Yet, our Congressional delegation along with the majority of the US Senate and literally all of the democrats and many of the old guard Republicans in the US House want to pass legislation to disarm us, the nation’s last line of defense. Why? Who do they work for that they want us unarmed in the face of an invasion?

    Jesus told us almost 2,000 years ago; Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Just as that is a timeless truth ,so is the truth the founding fathers gave us in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

    Rev. Bob Celeste
    http://www.ChristianPatriot.com

    • Most excellent post. The why of disarmament should now be obvious. The ‘enemy’ that we are facing is our own government’s zeal for power and control.

    • Say as you may try as you might, trying read out the National Guard as the well regulated malitia will fail simple interpretation not it’s true meaning, Answer this. What militia other than the National Guard and reserves meet every criteria of the Article. Remember EACH CRITERIA.

      Jay

  9. Is President Obama preserving, protecting, or defending The Constitution of the United States when he attacks the intent and purpose of the Second Amendment by calling for a weapons ban of any kind? Would he allow the UN forces to come into the United States and have the power to shoot American citizens? Would he allow American Soldiers to shoot American citizens or gather Americans into a camp? The 2nd Amendment was not written to only allow hunters and sports shooters. It was written to give Americans the right to protect themselves and their families against a tyrannical government, including the Government of the United States of America if necessary to stop such a government from destroying our rights as American citizens to have and to bear arms for our protection from that government or other governments should they infringe on those rights or in the event of an attack from a foreign country on our soil. Although it implies such freedoms and guarantees such freedoms, it was not primarily intended to protect hunting rights. Personally, if any government were to try to attack any part of this country or any people within our country, I would like to have many assault type weapons to try and defend myself and my family. The government that may attack us or our rights and freedoms may wage a full frontal assault with every type of weapon at their disposal. Why should we be limited in the types of weapons we may have to defend ourselves? When we defended ourselves against foreign and domestic forces on American soil before we used rifles and canons and rockets and everything else at our disposal to do so. If it happened again, should we face our aggressors with knives and swords only? What if a eroding of our rights should eventually take all the guns away, like in Australia under similar actions by their government? Shouldn’t we have every weapon we can at our disposal to repel such attacks? No, the 2nd Amendment is not a protection for hunters only, so let’s stop talking about it like it is. It is a protection for Americans to repel any force that would take away any of our freedoms or rights as citizens of the United States.

    • Oh please, what part of “well regulated militia” don’t you get? And are you really prepared to have any yahoo running around with automatic weapons? How about grenades? Bioweapons? Nuclear? Would you seriously be asking these questions if your 6 year old was one of the ones killed in Newtown, CT? Please read this, http://law.rwu.edu/story/cnn-bogus-second-amendment

      • In case as it would appear that you have no understanding of military terminology, in this case “a well regulated militia” refers to it being structured with a chain of command. Duh

        • Insults aside, why aren’t you and the other guy answering my questions about where do you draw the line? And yes well reg militia means that but that’s not what we have if crazy kids are allowed to get there hands on WMDs.

          • The line was drawn in 1949, in Geneva. What applies to nationalized military forces should also apply to every citizen. What our government is allowed to possess, every potential militia member should be allowed to possess. Also, take a close look at a couple organized militia’s; they are extremely well regulated. http://www.constitution.org/mil/ia/mil_usia.html
            http://www.ncmilitia.org

            Any infringement on “the people’s” “right” to possess arms would directly affect the ability of a militia to fulfill its purpose.

            I don’t know why people make an argument for dispelling The Constitution based on the semantics of the second article.

            On July, 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law; Executive Order 13618, which “grants the government full authority to take over all communication devices and media”(Executive Order 13618). This clearly violates The First Amendment of The Constitution, which states:“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

            Also, have any of you witnessed American citizens getting anally raped after TSA agents take xray pictures of their rectum and decide they need to take a more penetrative look. I do not know how this is agreeable with the fourth amendment which grants “the right of the people to be secure… against unreasonable searches”.

            Somehow today’s congress is either really delusional when it comes to semantics, or they plainly don’t give an iota about the constitution.

      • Go back to whatever 3rd world country you came from. A well regulated militia was, at the time of the writing of the Constitution, etc, was a call to arms of the surrounding citizens. The reason, you can not conquer an armed populace. The first thing Hitler did was disarm Germany. Just how stupid are you. Obviously, you are grossly misinformed and uneducated or just plain un-Americian. I, for one, am tired of your kind in this country (as is the majority of us) so please, pack up your stuff and go live in South America or the Middle East or China, et. el. We really do not need you nor do we want you.

    • Step back – step way back –

      Look in your mind’s eye at the US militia of today and compare it to the
      militia of of the 1800’s. If they look alike to you then you have a good
      argument for an armed citizenry. If on the other hand, you see today’s
      militia as a bit more formidable; capable of out gunning the citizenry even
      if we are all equipped with AK-47’s and the like, then you are seeing the
      situation more clearly. An “armed” citizenry is a dead citizenry in the latter scenario. It’s like pitting a basketball team form the early days of the sport against one of today’s teams, a bit of a joke – huh? A citizenry armed to the teeth is a citizenry forever living with the pain of needless carnage. An armed citizenry is good only for neighborhood wars and then only until the federal armies arrive. I do realize that that is the America that the macho crowd would like – till they got shot up and lost entire families. MAYBE then their sight would clear a bit.

      I do expect some “clear eyed responses” like one from Mr. TS Eggleston below.

      • Remember 1945 when our grandparents were neighborhood captains waiting for the Chinese or Japanese to come invade us? We have home movies….grandpa had his army hat on and his rifle in the neighborhood. All the guys were running around the neighborhood…..get to know your neighbors in case something happens you could do something about it.