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Does the U. S. Constitution fail to recognize the Divine sovereignty?


Mar 24, 2006
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Does this Constitution fail to recognize the Divine sovereignty? It is contended by some that such a recognition is impliedly made, in that the Constitution requires an oath as a qualification for office. An oath, say they, is an appeal to the Supreme Being, and the requirement of an oath is an implied recognition of His supreme authority.

In answer, I remark: First, That even though the Constitution require an oath in the true and proper meaning of that term, such requirement does not necessarily involve a recognition of the Divine Sovereignty over the nation. A voluntary association, ignoring all allegiance to God as an association, may still deem it wise, before entrusting an individual with important interests, to bind his conscience by an appeal to a Being whose authority over him as an individual he recognizes.

But, secondly, The Constitution does not require an oath, in the true and proper meaning of that term. The oath that the Constitution prescribes to be taken by the President of the United States is in these words: "I 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 " - you naturally expect to hear following, the time-honored formula, "So help me God," but it is not there; and a subsequent provision forbids that it should be there, viz.: in Art. VI., Sec. 3, where, immediately after the requirement that all officers "shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution," it is provided that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Now, Mr. President, I do not deny that any man in taking the oath prescribed by the Constitution, may, if he so choose, make an appeal to the Supreme Being; but, manifestly, under the force of that proviso, he need not make such an appeal unless he chooses-the Constitution does not require it. On Tuesday ext another inauguration is to take place. President Grant may, if he so choose, appeal to God; but even as he takes the oath required, he may proclaim himself an atheist, and there is no power on earth that can stay his inauguration. The Constitution does, in terms, require an oath, but by the proviso quoted it degrades it to the low platform of a solemn promise-the oath that it requires is emasculated.

--Speech made by the Rev. E. R. CRAVEN, D.D. of Newark, N. J.at the National convention to secure the religious amendment of the Constitution of the United States; Held in New York, Feb. 26 and 27, 1873.

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