What is the Significance of the Oath of Office?
Published on February 19, 2022
Significance of an Oath

Every one of us can probably recall many times when a cute little child wanted something…  maybe it was a tasty treat from the dessert table at Thanksgiving or maybe the church potluck.  Often that conversation happens between the child and a parent…  it goes something like this, “Can I have a cooookie…”  (accompanied by big, cute eyes and a facial expression filled with longing hope)  Often Mom will say something like, “What do you say…?”  The expected answer is “Please”.  Every kid knows that!  They know if there is any hope for them to get what they’re trying to get, they gotta say please!  Now, we don’t know whether or not their heart is filled with the politeness – whether they even really mean it – they still have to say “Please” to get what they want!  This kind of conversation happens everywhere because Mom wants the child to be committed to learning and doing what is right, what is polite.  However, sometimes it degenerates into the child just saying what he needs to say in order to get what he wants. 

Sadly, this is often exactly the same thing that happens when elected officials at all levels take an oath to support the Constitution.  Hopefully some are sincere in their commitment.  For many others, in their heart, they don’t even know the Constitution – they may have never even read it.  The particularly evil ones might know the Constitution but have plans to actively subvert it when in office.  However, they all know they have to take the oath to get the office they want!  So they say the oath…  They are the child that gets the cookie, despite what was in their heart.  What is the significance of the Oath of Office for our elected officials anyway? 

The Significance of an Oath

The significance of the Oath is to ensure that nobody takes office at any level of our government without being committed to our Constitution.  The idea is, if they don’t believe in our Constitution – if they aren’t willing to ask God to hold them accountable to their oath – they can’t take office.  It’s that simple. 

to consider

Let’s look at this idea of taking an oath…  What is the purpose?  How would our government be different if everyone who took office was committed to protecting our proper form of government as defined in the Constitution?  Let’s consider some of these ideas and look at a little history from our founding era to shed some light. 

What’s the purpose?

What is the purpose – why do elected officials have to take an oath anyway?  The short answer to that question is because it is a requirement in the Constitution.  Article VI tells us… 

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution”  

– U.S. Constitution (from Article VI)

Committed to What?

The founders of our country wanted to ensure our leaders were committed to the form of limited government that was defined in the Constitution.  They knew it wasn’t enough to put good principles into print in the document itself.  They knew the most important thing was to make sure the people who took office would stay true to the form of government the founders put in place.  In the Patriot Academy classes we host, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention is quoted, John Francis Mercer, who made this point perfectly. 

“It is a great mistake to suppose that the paper we are to propose will govern the United States. It is the men whom it will bring into the Government and interest in maintaining it that is to govern them. The paper will only mark out the mode and the form. Men are the substance and must do the business.”

– John Francis Mercer, delegate to Constitutional Convention

True to original design

It is critically important for any government – or even any organization – to have its leadership remain true to its original design.  Ours is defined in our Constitution.  If we don’t have this, if our leadership is working against our Constitution – or even if they are ignorant of the document – is it reasonable to think we will stay on track to what our founders put in place?  I think not.  In 1788, North Carolina held a convention to consider whether to adopt what is now the U.S. Constitution.  In that meeting, Mr. Archibald Maclaine said of the Constitutional requirement for oaths, “Can any government exist without fidelity in its officers?  Ought not the officers of every government to give some security for the faithful discharge of their trust?” *  Mr. Maclaine understood the importance of the trust people would be placing in those officials who hold public office.  In order to ensure the future of our country, it is imperative our leaders are committed to the Constitution, and not working against it.  The words of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded in Scripture make a similar point. 

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand”   

– Matthew 12:25

The Lord Jesus understands if the leaders of the kingdom are divided – then it will not be able to stand.  Ultimately, this is the reason our leaders must uphold our Constitution. 

Oh, it must be your political party…

So many conversations about government these days boil down to political party.  If I advocate for or against a position on a given topic, then you would quickly be able to categorize me into one of the two major political parties.  It seems everything that comes up ends up as a wrestling match between these two forces at work in our society.  However, one of the many beautiful things about our Constitution is that it is non-partisan.  The Constitution does not belong to the Republicans or the Democrats.  The Constitution is there to limit government in the interest of – not a political party, but – “We the People”.  It is in the best interest of the people that our government is limited to Constitutional boundaries.  It is in this way we have a “Government of laws – not of men”.

“The interest of a king or of a party is another thing: it is a private interest. And where private interest governs, it is a nation of men and not of laws.”          

– John Adams
What is the Significance of an Oath

nation of laws

So – the pursuit of our Constitutional form of limited government, sworn to be upheld by everyone in every office of all political parties, makes us a “Nation of Laws”.  That is good and right for all Americans to pursue.  That is not a private interest of a political party – that is American Constitutional government!  That is good for all of us!  However, when we pursue what John Adams called a “private interest” of a king or a political party, that makes us “a nation of men and not of laws.”  Our entire form of government should not hinge upon who is in the White House, or which party controls Congress, or which Justice is nominated to the Supreme Court.  Our form of government is defined in the Constitution and everyone – regardless of political party – is sworn on oath to support it.  It is the structure and design of our government, with its significant limitations, that must be upheld by all political parties.

Nation of men

I believe Mr. Adams would say we spend way too much time these days fighting over which party would control our “nation of men”, instead of working together with all Americans to ensure we have a “Nation of Laws”.  Enforcing the Oath of Office, holding our officials accountable to the oath they took to our proper form of government, would be a great first step in taking this country back to be a “a government of laws and not of men”. 

Conclusion

Our elected officials at all levels are sworn to support the Constitution of the United States.  We elect these people.  We put them in office, and our votes hold them there.  We need to hold these officials accountable for supporting the document they are sworn on oath to support.  If we have people in office who will not be committed to the Constitution – or even worse – those who have already demonstrated their lack of commitment to our Constitution, then they should be removed from office by impeachment, or at least in their next election, and replaced with someone who will honor their oath. 

We need to stop this practice of handing out cookies to those children who say “Please” but don’t really mean it! 


* Eliot, Jonathan, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Second Edition, 1836, volume 4, p. 140 

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Comments

21 Comments

  1. Dee Allen

    Wow! Excellent post! Thank you for writing it. It would be nice during each campaign season to have each office’s Oath of Office available for viewing and also printed and posted at all voting sites as a reminder of what oath the candidates we’re voting for are expected to uphold. For mail-in ballots, provide a copy of the Oath(s) of Office with the ballot. It seems like a similar situation to the U.S. Constitution, and even the Bible – how will we have the confidence to uphold and enforce what is written if we don’t know what they say?

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      The content of the oath as found in the Constitution for the President is defined in Article 2 as,

      “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.”

      Other officers more generally are required in Article 6,

      “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required…”

      The thing that is consistent is that they are sworn under oath to support the Constitution of the United States. Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  2. Jeff Segal

    This was a great article. And I agree that our elected officials should be held accountable for not only taking the oath of office. But also for breaking their oath of office as well. And I’ve noticed that over the last 10 year or so that some of our elected officials mostly democrats have seemed to not abide by their oath of office and but seem to disregard it and do whatever they want. Even if it goes against the Constitution. For example Securing the Southern Border. And Trying to keep taking away our unalienable rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and right to keep and bare arms. And no one is holding them accountable for their breaking of their oath of office. And I feel that it is time for WE THE PEOPLE to start holding them accountable.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Thank you for your comment! Amen – “We the People” are the only ones who will hold these folks accountable. If we don’t do it – nobody will!

      Reply
  3. Lynda Miller

    My dad raised me to understand that my name (honor) is the most valuable asset I have. He said never do anything half way because your name is associated with it. My dad was in the Air Force for 24 years. He was deeply respected by the men and women who served under him but he was also respected by the Commanders he worked under. He never did anything he would be ashamed to put his name on. So I learned from his example. An oath was very important to him. He never spoke about his work assignments at home or in front of his family and friends. He said he took an oath and he would honor it no matter what. After he retired and he was in his 80s, they declassified Area 51, which happened to be his last work assignment. The grandkids found out and asked him about what it was like. He said he couldn’t talk about it because it was classified. He was informed that they had declassified Area 51 but to his dying day at 89, with dementia, he refused to break the oath he swore in 1950. Amazing! I wish our leaders would take the oath they swore to seriously. Clearly, they have no honor.

    Reply
    • Rhonda K

      Lynda your father sounds like an amazing man and a wonderful example of abiding by his oath. Thank you for his service!

      Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Lynda – thank you for your comment! Your father sounds like an excellent example of what taking an oath seriously ought to look like!

      Reply
  4. Carol Visser

    Well said! I don’t believe most of our elected officials are committed to upholding the constitution! They say what they think we want to hear, get elected, and then do what they want. There are very few with integrity.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      So true… too true… Let’s get them out of office, replaced by those who will keep their oath! Thank you for the comment!

      Reply
  5. Rhonda K

    Great post Jason! I would love to have some of these fraudulently elected or installed representatives removed quickly. They should have a 90 day intro period where we can track their progress like we do as a new employee with an employer. The recall process is taking too long in most cases and more damage is being done, such as with the District Attorneys in CA. We The People can spread the word and take more action to save our country. God Bless us all!

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      I love the intro period! Yes, these are employees of the voters! We need to look at them that way. The farmer understood this in our article, a Farmer’s lesson on Holding Elected Officials Accountable! Thank you for the comment!

      Reply
  6. Susan Whitener

    Excellent post!! I would NOT want to be some of these politicians when judgement day comes around! Based on their actions, I believe they do not have much regard for the oath.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Amen – me either. They will have to settle up with the One who knows exactly what they have done and they cannot hide behind any more lies or coverups… Thank you for the comment!

      Reply
  7. Trisha

    I always wondered when i saw people with their hands on the Bible and their other hands raised, swearing an oath, if they believed in the one true God.
    Turns out, it doesn’t matter what i think, these people are swearing an oath to God and they will be held accountable when they “meet their Maker”, whether the believe it or not!

    Our words truly do matter.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Amen – they will be held accountable. Thank you for your comment.

      Reply
  8. Paula Davis Rivers

    Great job explaining the oath and its importance. Like Lynda Miller, my Dad was a career Air Force man. My integrity and virtue and character were the only things that mattered. My word was my life. Our country is in great peril due to our own lack of knowing everything in the Constitution. It is clear our leaders also do not know what is in the Constitution either. Now that we have left GOD out of everything that means there are few people left who are worthy of being in leadership positions. You must give your life to GOD and understand every word of the Constitution…the two are inseparable.

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Yes Maam – I agree! Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  9. Karina Jones

    What a wonderful reminder to the importance of “We the People” needing to KNOW as best we can, the HEARTS of those we are choosing to vote for. I shared this blog on my FB page!!

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Thank you for your kind words and for your comment – and for sharing! The more we Americans understand this kind of thing, the better prepared we will be to hold our officials accountable! Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  10. Cathy Morris

    “The significance of the Oath is to ensure that nobody takes office at any level of our government without being committed to our Constitution. The idea is, if they don’t believe in our Constitution – if they aren’t willing to ask God to hold them accountable to their oath – they can’t take office. It’s that simple. “

    Reply
    • Jason Southerland

      Yes! And we have to get back to that and hold these folks accountable! Thank you for your comment!

      Reply

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