Atheists are cheering a decision by New Jersey to drop a requirement that political candidates sign an oath that included the phrase “so help me God.”
Some conservatives, however, expressed outrage over the move.
“Communist Republic of New Jersey Kicks Out God Again,” is how podcaster Ken Matthews — who used to regularly guest host for Rush Limbaugh — summed up the situation in his post on the social media platform X.
COMMUNIST REPUBLIC OF New Jersey (CRNJ) KICKS OUT GOD AGAIN. https://t.co/5W8TSYUMzx
— KenMatthews (@KenMatthews) November 18, 2023
New Jersey drops religious oath for political candidates
On a federal level, while many oaths to serve in government include the phrase “so help me, God,” others — most notably the presidential oath of office — do not require it.
Read more ⬇️https://t.co/OjjsO25mId
— Real America’s Voice (RAV) (@RealAmVoice) November 18, 2023
The requirement was dropped in late October after an unbeliever filed a federal lawsuit against the New Jersey Secretary of State.
James Tosone, a 70-year-old Bergen County resident who wants to run for congress, filed the federal suit Oct. 3 with the help of Freedom From Religion Foundation, which boasted that, thanks to its successful legal battle, the state “is becoming markedly more inclusive.”
“While Mr. Tosone previously completed the candidate petition in order to participate in past elections, he now sincerely believes, as a matter of conscience, that he cannot swear ‘so help me God,’” the lawsuit said.
“By requiring plaintiff to swear ‘so help me God,’ in order to run for public office, without a secular option, the secretary of state has inflicted, and will continue to inflict, irreparable harm upon (Tosone),” it continued.
NJ.com said a state elections specialist advised Tosone to contact legislators to change the state statute.
That evidently happened, because on Oct. 24, a memo went out from Lauren Zyriek, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Elections, to all county clerks, advising them of several changes in the statute.
Petitioners for placement on a ballot now have the option “to make a solemn affirmation or declaration in lieu of an oath,” according to the memo.
Prospective candidates, according to the statement, can either choose to use the secular-leaning phrase, “I … do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm” or they can use the more traditional, “I … do declare, in the presence of Almighty God, the witness of the truth of what I say.”
“In addition, in the affirmation or declaration, the words “so help me God” shall be omitted,” the memo added.
Tosone’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the suit Monday, and a judge signed a dismissal order the next day, NJ.com reported.
Not every public office in every state has historically required a “so help me God” type of oath for candidates filing to run, or for those being sworn into office.
Many areas do so, Just the News reported, but others, “most notably the presidential oath of office — do not require it.”
The outlet added that Donald Trump and Joe Biden have both chosen to use the phrase when taking their oath of office.
In doing so, they were following a tradition believed to date back to President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.