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I swear not to take an oath August 23, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, religion, societal commentary, teaching, work.
Tags: , ,

I signed my contract to teach this semester, and when I did, I received something new: an oath.  When I was teaching before, I had never had to sign one.  However, I was presented with one when I did some tutoring for the California community college system a long time ago.

Oh brother, I thought.  There goes the teaching stint.

I told the person I can’t take an oath…which led to some funny looks and questions.

You see, I ran smack dab into something that really is uncomfortable.  I have strong tendencies toward Quakerism, and one of the things that Quakers have generally agreed upon is that oaths are a bad thing.  While the practice of refusing to take oaths has a Biblical basis, it can also be viewed as a logical point.  Taking an oath establishes a double standard: your word should be good without it being necessary to take an oath.  It also implies that it’s okay to not be truthful when one is not under oath.

(On a slightly tangential note, can you imagine the irony of someone hacking the wikipedia entry on the truth testimony?)

Fortunately, there is a way around this, and many places give you the choice of making an oath or affirming your intentions.  Upon closer inspection, it turned out that I was allowed to affirm that I would actually fulfill my duties without having to take an oath.  (Although, this hasn’t always worked.  You may remember the story about the Quaker in CA who modified her affirmation and was fired from her job as a teacher.)

I guess I’ve never understood oaths other than as CYA.  Legally, that’s what most of them are.

I feel similarly about the Pledge of Allegiance, which makes me more frustrated with those who claim that not saying the pledge somehow makes one unpatriotic.  I find it ironic (even moreso than fudging up the truth testimony site) that people are complaining about taking the words “Under God” out of the pledge when the pledge itself is a violation of the Biblical stance on oaths.

So have any of you had to ever take an ‘oath of office’?  How did you feel about it?



1. cian - August 23, 2011

I guess I had never given much thought to swearing an oath vs affirming, but as an atheist, I do get stumped about “god.”
For example: http://www.opm.gov/constitution_initiative/oath.asp


2. Justin Smith - August 24, 2011

Without oaths we would not have the greatest love ballad of all time:


mareserinitatis - August 24, 2011

There’s no accounting for taste.


3. clareflourish - August 30, 2011

I have sworn two oaths, before I came across the truth testimony, so am fine about that; now I know, I affirm. The pledge of allegiance gives me more difficulty. If my country asks me to do what is right, why need I promise to do so? If it asks me to do what violates my integrity, how will a promise on my integrity ensure that I obey?


4. Quakers like oats, not oaths | FCIWYPSC - August 22, 2013

[…] I thought this was a very interesting perspective, and I admired his desire to be consistent.  It also felt like one of those ‘teachable moments,’ so it led into a whole discussion on the Quaker view that one should not take oaths. Not only does it have a basis in the new testament, but many quakers feel like it creates a double standard for truth. There’s also the issue that you’re making a promise to adhere to something whether or not it contradicts your conscience or beliefs.  (I previously discussed oath taking in this post.) […]


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