Jun 13, 2014

Mich. town puts religion in oath of office

One Michigan town has added a divine invocation to the oath of office for elected officials.

Ursula Watson at the Detroit News reports:
Shelby Township Clerk Stanley Grot won approval from the board of trustees to give officeholders the option of ending their sworn oath with 'so help me God.'

Supporters say the move is a return to Judeo-Christian principals that conservatives like Grot say the country was built upon. But opponents say it needs to be clear to those taking an oath that includes phrases invoking guidance from a religious being is optional. Making it mandatory would cross the line separating church and state.

Grot said the phrase is a common conclusion to oaths such as the Oath of Enlistment for the military and presidential inaugurations. And 'In God We Trust' appears on U.S. currency, so why not evoke God’s name during a local oath of office?

'I think we need to bring God back to what we are doing,' Grot said. 'Invoking His name is helpful, in my opinion.'
Grot said he was inspired to make the change to the town's oath after the Supreme Court's recent ruling allowing sectarian prayers at the state of town council meetings.

Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution forbids any religious test for office. In 1961, the Supreme Court held that that applies to states, too. Michigan's constitution also forbids religious tests and specifically forbids requiring religious oaths.

Individuals -- including presidents -- are normally allowed to append religious invocations to their otherwise secular oaths.

Grot, who is running for statewide office, has said that the Shelby Township oath's invocation of God is still optional, despite being an official part of the oath. It is part of the oath, and he will read it during the swearing-in ceremony, but the elected representative can choose not to repeat the phrase.

It seems likely that the town will face a lawsuit.