A lot of people think swearing or signing an oath is a mostly ceremonial action. It’s not, really. Consider the familiar courtroom oath to “tell the truth and nothing but the truth.” Violating that can land you in prison.
Oaths do matter – and that’s why no one should be forced to endorse one with religious content if they’d rather not. In New Jersey, that’s no longer going to happen. And that’s a good thing.
New Jersey drops mandatory God oath
In response to a lawsuit filed by our allies at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), New Jersey officials have agreed to stop requiring candidates for public office to sign an oath that contains a reference to God. From now on, aspirants to public office will have the choice to use an oath that contains two references to God or sign an affirmation that has no religious content. The affirmation, state officials have made clear, “has the same force and effect as an oath.”
Lauren Zyriek, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Elections, informed county clerks about the change in a memo last month.
The matter came up after James Tosone, a resident of Bergen County, expressed an interest in running for public office but said he could not, in good conscience, sign the New Jersey Oath of Allegiance, which is required of all would-be candidates.
FFRF sued on Tosone’s behalf, but in light of the changes by New Jersey officials, the group has agreed to drop the lawsuit.
Protecting the right of conscience
One thing they’ve never been able to do is articulate any reason why on earth we would want to force non-religious Americans to violate their consciences by compelling them to swear an oath that contains a reference to a deity they don’t believe in.
That sort of goes against the whole purpose of an oath, doesn’t it?