'Just preposterous': California congressman laments use of the word 'God' in oaths
September 9, 2019
In The News
A Democratic congressman from California said he thinks that witnesses being instructed to recite “so help me god” during oaths is “preposterous.”
Rep. Jared Huffman made the remarks while appearing on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Freethought Matters show. Huffman sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, which tried to remove references to God in their oaths earlier this year, according to Fox News.
“Well, unfortunately, it's been kind of a sporadic standard,” Huffman said. “Some committees have dropped the oath, others have not. I sit on the Natural Resources Committee and in our original proposed rules for the committee, we proposed that we drop the oath or we allow witnesses to simply say it voluntarily if they chose to, which to me makes perfect sense.”
Members of Congress presiding over panels have the authority to dictate the words in the oaths that are given to witnesses. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing in February, Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York left out “so help me god” from an oath. Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana objected, prompting Nadler to re-administer the oath.
The following month, Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee left out the words, causing Johnson to object again. This time, Nadler told Johnson, “We do not have religious tests.”
Huffman also went after House Republican Conference Chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming for standing up to Democrats trying to remove the language from the oath.
“It's unconstitutional to require a witness in congressional testimony to affirm an oath to a deity they may not even believe in, or to affirm an oath to a singular deity when you might be a polytheistic Hindu, for example. It's just preposterous,” Huffman said.
He used a theoretical example of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson testifying before Congress.
“He's an atheist. Do we force him to affirm an oath to a God he doesn't believe in?” Huffman wondered. “It really, frankly, strains credulity that in this day and age Congress would have something like that, and yet some of the politics persist.”
A spokesperson for Liz Cheney said, “Liz Cheney will always defend God. Period. If that bothers Rep. Huffman, we’ll be praying for him.”