A handful of Arizona legislators would like to enforce a “loyalty oath” on graduating High School students. The Bill (HB 2467) says this: “Before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited… Read more “May God Help You Be an American!”
A handful of Arizona legislators would like to enforce a “loyalty oath” on graduating High School students. The Bill (HB 2467) says this:
“Before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:
“I, _________, do solemnly swear 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 these duties; so help me God.”
Before jumping into the obvious religious incredulity this bills presupposes on it’s diverse students, let me just say that any legislation suggesting an “oath” for citizens is scary. It’s reflective of the generally hyper-partisan environment we’ve found ourselves in. The “Ironclad Oath” was required of confederate soldiers and congresspersons after the Civil War in order for their state to re-enter the Union. Loyalty oaths were used as a scare tactic against supposed Communists and Socialists after WWII.
Do these congresspeople really believe that such oaths are necessary today?
The issue that progressives are taking as more important is that the oath ends with the catch-all phrase “so help me God.” They suggest that atheists will not be able to graduate from high school because of such an oath. That is an equally fear-based reaction and an exaggeration. Of course, exemptions will be allowed, but forcing students to request an exemption is in itself a form of oppression.
I’ve mentioned before how the use of “God” in the political sphere is not very meaningful. That is the case here as well. “So help me God” is not a phrase rooted in theology or religion, so much as in American history. It is civil religion at it’s most mundane. I blogged recently about the “hyphenated God” that get’s inserted into our political party platforms just for a nod to historic uses of patriotism, and of course to appeal to the large number of religious citizens in America who (wrongly) see that kind of attribution as necessary to running the State.
My prediction is that this won’t pass in any form at all. But the conversation should be focused around why this minority of congresspeople see it necessary to swear oaths to the Constitution and do so religiously.