So help me God

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So help me God is a phrase often used to give an oath, and most commonly optional as part of an oath of office. It is also used in some jurisdictions as a form of oath for other forms of public duty, such as an appearance in court, service as a juror, etc.

The essence of the phrase is to emphasize that one means what one is saying or has said.[1] It therefore implies greater care than usual in the act of the performance of one's duty, such as in testimony to the facts of the matter in a court of law.

The use of the phrase implies a greater degree of seriousness and obligation than is usually assigned to common conversation. See the discussion on oaths for more details.


In Australia the Oath of Allegiance is available in two forms, only one of which contains the phrase 'SO HELP ME GOD!.'[2]


In Canada, the Oath of Office, Oath of Allegiance, and Oath of Members of the Privy Council may be sworn, and end in "So help me God." They may also be solemnly affirmed, and in such case the phrase is omitted.[3]


In Croatia, the text of presidential oath, which is defined by the Presidential Elections Act amendments of 1997 (Article 4), ends with "Tako mi Bog pomogao" (So help me God).[4][5]

In 2009, concerns about the phrase infringing on Constitution of Croatia were raised. Constitutional Court of Croatia ruled them out in 2017, claiming that it is compatible with constitution and secular state.[6][7][8] The court said the phrase is in neither direct nor indirect relation to any religious beliefs of the elected president. It doesn't represent a theist or religious belief and does not stop the president in any way from expressing any other religious belief. Saying the phrase while taking the presidential oath does not force a certain belief on the President and does not infringe on their religious freedoms.[8]


The Constitution of Fiji, Chapter 17 requires this phrase for the oath of allegiance, and before service to the republic from the President's office or Vice-President's office, a ministerial position, or a judicial position.


In medieval France, tradition held that when the Duke of Brittany or other royalty entered the city of Rennes, they would proclaim "Et qu'ainsi Dieu me soit en aide."[9]

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand the Oath of Allegiance is available in English or Maori in two forms, one an oath containing the phrase 'so help me God' and the other an affirmation which does not. The Police Act 1958 and the Oaths Modernisation Bill still includes the phrase.[citation needed]


The Polish phrase is "Tak mi dopomóż Bóg" or "Tak mi, Boże, dopomóż." It has been used in most version of the Polish Army oaths, however other denominations use different phrases.

The Philippines[edit]

In the Oath of Office of the President of the Philippines, the phrase "So help me God" (Filipino: Kasihan nawâ ako ng Diyos) is mandatory, though the phrase can be omitted voluntarily, in which case it would become an affirmation instead of an oath.[10] An affirmation, however, has exactly the same legal effect as an oath.

United Kingdom[edit]

The Oath of Allegiance set out in the Promissory Oaths Act 1868 ends with this phrase, and is required to be taken by various office-holders.

United States[edit]

In the United States, the No Religious Test Clause requires that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Regardless of that, there are federal oaths which do include the phrase "So help me God", such as for justices and judges in 28 U.S.C. § 453.[11]

The phrase "So help me God" is prescribed in oaths as early as the Judiciary Act of 1789, for U.S. officers other than the President. The act makes the semantic distinction between an affirmation and an oath.[12] The oath, religious in essence, includes the phrase "so help me God" and "[I] swear". The affirmation uses "[I] affirm". Both serve the same purpose and are described as one (i.e. "... solemnly swear, or affirm, that ...") [13]

Presidential oath[edit]

There is no law that requires Presidents to use a Bible or to add the words "So help me God" at the end of the oath. Historian John R. Alden maintains that George Washington himself added the phrase to the end after administration of his first oath.[14] However, all Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have used this phrase, according to Marvin Pinkert, executive director of the National Archives Experience.[15]

Oath of citizenship[edit]

The United States Oath of Citizenship (officially referred to as the "Oath of Allegiance", 8 C.F.R. Part 337 (2008)), taken by all immigrants who wish to become United States citizens, includes the phrase "so help me God"; however 8 C.F.R. 337.1 provides that the phrase is optional.


The Enlistment oath and officer's Oath of Office both contain this phrase. Normally, it is not required to be said if the speaker has a personal or moral objection, as is true of all oaths administered by the United States government.[citation needed] However, a change in October 2013 to Air Force Instruction 36-2606[16] made it mandatory to include the phrase during Air Force enlistments/reenlistments. This change has made the instruction "consistent with the language mandated in 10 USC 502".[17] The Air Force announced on September 17, 2014, that it revoked this previous policy change, allowing anyone to omit "so help me God" from the oath.[18]

State laws[edit]

Some of the states have specified that the words "so help me God" were used in oath of office, and also required of jurors, witnesses in court, notaries public, and state employees. Where this is still the case, there is the possibility of a court challenge over eligibility, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961), that such state-law requirements violate citizens' rights under the federal Constitution. Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia still require "so help me God" as part of the oath to public office. Maryland and South Carolina did include it, but both have been successfully challenged in court. Other states, including New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Rhode Island, allow exceptions or optional phrases. In Wisconsin, the specific language of the oath has been repealed.[19]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary: So help me (God)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Oaths of office
  4. ^ "Zakon o izmjenama i dopunama zakona o izboru predsjednika Republike Hrvatske" [President of the Croatia Election Act Amendments] (PDF). State Electoral Commission. 1 July 1997.
  5. ^ Zakon o izmjenama i dopunama Zakona o izboru predsjednika Republike Hrvatske (NN 71/97.)
  6. ^ "Poklič iz predsjedničke prisege ne ugrožava sekularni karakter Republike Hrvatske -". 2017-07-25. Retrieved 2017-07-25.
  7. ^ "Poklič "tako mi Bog pomogao" ne ugrožava sekularnost RH". N1. 2017-07-25. Retrieved 2017-07-25.
  8. ^ a b "Ustavni sud je odlučio: "Tako mi Bog pomogao" je dio predsjedničke zakletve". 2017-07-25. Retrieved 2017-07-25.
  9. ^ Bulletin et mémoires de la Société archéologique du département d'Ille-et-Vilaine
  10. ^ Constitution of the Philippines (1987). (2010, November 10). In Wikisource, The Free Library. Retrieved 19:51, December 31, 2010, from
  11. ^"
  12. ^ Judiciary Act of 1789, Sec. 7. Accessed 2013-07-04.
  13. ^ Judiciary Act of 1789, Sec. 7. Accessed 2009-01-24.
  14. ^ Alden, John R. (1993). George Washington, a Biography. Norwalk: Easton Press.
  15. ^ Interview with NPR's Morning Edition, see "Where Does The Oath Of Office Come From?". Morning Edition. 2009-01-14..
  16. ^ "AFI 36-2606" (PDF).
  17. ^ Losey, Stephen (4 September 2014). "Group: Airman denied reenlistment for refusing to say 'so help me God'". Air Force Times. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  18. ^ Victor, Philip J. "Atheist airman can re-enlist without religious oath after policy change". Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera America, LLC. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  19. ^ [1]