Sunday, February 22, 2015

New Jersey Judge Cites Bogus History

On February 7, 2016, a day after New Jersey Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman dismissed the case against using the words “under God” as part of schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a Forbes sponsored article, Judge Refuses to Kick God Out of Public Schools, by Maureen Sullivan appeared online.

There, in Sullivan’s article, the author quotes Judge Bauman as having written the following [see here for his complete ruling] :
As a matter of historical tradition, the words “under God” can be no more be expunged from the national consciousness than the words “In God We Trust” from every coin in the land, than the words “so help me God” from every presidential oath since 1789, or than prayer that has opened every congressional session of legislative business since 1787.
This statement shows that Judge Bauman is not a competent scholar of our national “historical tradition.” In particular, his reference to “so help me God,” is simply not supported by the historical record.
Consider, less than ten days later, the History News Network posted an article, ”So Help Me God” and the Presidential Oath, by Kennesaw State University History Professor David B. Parker. In contrast to the relatively uninformed New Jersey Superior Court Judge, Professor Parker wrote:
Recently, we’ve seen another version of the “So help me God” story: not just that George Washington said it in 1789, but that every president added it to the oath of office. We know that the claim for Washington is problematic, and as it turns out, we have no convincing contemporary evidence that any president said “so help me God” until September 1881, when Chester A. Arthur took the oath after the death of James Garfield. William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt said “so help me God,” as has every president since then. But before 1933, we have good evidence for only four (of thirty-one). So the assertion that every president said “so help me God” might be generously described as “unproven.”
The fact is that starting with George Washington most presidents are not reliably known to have added a religious codicil to the presidential oath as prescribed by the Constitution, Article II, Section 1.8. Furthermore, it’s only since March 4, 1933, the date FDR’s first inauguration, that every president has inflated the presidential oath by four words.

Judge Bauman should wake up and realize that when it comes to expunging “so help me God” from the national consciousness, it’s more a matter of separating national folklore from historical fact. And even when it comes to the appearance of “In God We Trust” “on every coin in the land” (read here for the full story), or “prayer that has opened every congressional session of legislative business since 1787” (read here for the full story of what happened at the 1787 Constitutional Convention), he still doesn’t get all of his facts straight.


Ray Soller said...

Here’s more of Judge Bauman’s revisionist history:
It was [George] Washington who added the impromptu, extra-constitutional phrase “so help me God” following his [April 30, 1789] dutiful recitation of the text of the presidential oath set forth in Article II. <7> Benjamin Franklin, the archetypical embodiment of enlightenment ideals in both Europe and America, beseeched his colleagues at the [1787] Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to move “that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service”<8> -- a practice followed today [but not taken up at the 1787 Constitutional Convention], and one that the courts of this land have consistently held does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause, or any other provision of the Federal Constitution.
<7> The 2004 Elk Grove citation is bogus.
<8> J. A. (Jessie Ames) Spencer, History of the United States from the Earliest Period to the Administration of President Johnson, [Vol. II, Bk.IV] 222 (1866).
Here, as might be expected, Bauman omitted the Note that Franklin added to his Memoirs: “The Convention, except for three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary!!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Good catch, Ray.

As for the matter of "under God" itself, under the constitution of the State of New Jersey, God is a reality.* The First Amendment [incorporated via the 14th] secures an individual's equal protection/free exercise liberty to ignore that reality, IOW, nobody can be compelled to say "under God."

However, the 14th amendment didn't abolish God--although of course the courts might, someday.

*Not just in the preamble, but Section 3.

3. No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor under any pretense whatever be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his faith and judgment; nor shall any person be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right or has deliberately and voluntarily engaged to perform.

Ray Soller said...

As to the matter of "under God" itself, and the oral arguments presented to the Massachusetts High Court concerning the "under God" lawsuit in that state, a Sept. 4, 2013, video can be seen online at