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, 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.