‘So Help Me God’ Isn’t in Official Presidential Oath

(RNS) When President Obama rests his hand on two historic Bibles to take his second-term oath of office Monday (Jan. 21), he’ll add a phrase not mentioned in the Constitution: “So help me God.”

But the Almighty’s role on the Capitol steps is a controversial one.

First, there was a myth that the tradition of adding God to the oath began with George Washington. It didn’t, say experts at the Library of Congress, the U.S. Senate Historical Office and the first president’s home, Mount Vernon.

Although the phrase was used in federal courtrooms since 1789, the first proof it was used in a presidential oath of office came with Chester Arthur’s inauguration in September 1881.

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