People in the private sector do not take an oath of office when they get a job. They get an offer, report to work, and that’s it.
For federal employees it is different. Reading so many articles about the inauguration that refer to the president-elect taking the oath of office on the 20th of January got me thinking about oaths and what they mean.
I have taken that oath of office as a civil service employee. Raising your right hand and swearing to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” is not something most people take lightly. It is a solemn oath and it means something to most people who take it.
The president becomes a federal employee by taking an oath prescribed by Article 2, Section 1, of the US Constitution. It says “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.”
Judges, members of the House and Senate, political appointees, the military, and other federal employees take oaths of office that are required by Article VI of the Constitution, which says “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 as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The Constitution does not prescribe the actual text of the Article VI oaths. For federal civil service employees, the oath is set forth by law in 5 U.S. Code § 3331
, which reads as follows:
“An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.””
The oath is relatively straightforward, but what does it mean? (For more, click here.)
Did any of the information in this article surprise you? Did it make you think any differently about your oath of office?