At Issue: Should ‘so help me, God’ be removed from government oaths?

Should the phrase “so help me, God” be a required part of the oath of elective office? file photo

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Should the phrase “so help me, God” be a required part of the oath of elective office? file photo

Many view the concept of separation of church and state as meaning all religion must be kept out of government functions. The First Amendment allows citizens the freedom to practice any religion of their choice but also prevents Congress from officially recognizing or favoring a specific religion. Many also maintain this country contradicts that view, going back to the Declaration of Independence. Judeo-Christian language permeates many government activities. In particular, the oath for just about every government office includes the phrase “so help me, God.”

The city of Marietta has made efforts to change that.

Making this phrase optional, instead of a requirement, was approved unanimously by the City Council. Since it involved a city charter change, the option was contained in House Bill 577 where it was approved by the Georgia House and Senate in March. However, Gov. Nathan Deal has not signed the bill into law - though if he does nothing, the bill will become law anyway.

If Gov. Deal vetoes the bill, two-thirds of the members of each house would need to override his action. Information: legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/HB/577.

What do you think?

Should the phrase “so help me, God” be a required part of the oath of elective office or does it discriminate against those who may not believe in the Judeo-Christian God or any god at all? Should it be upheld or should it be abandoned in the name of diversity?

Send comments to communitynews@ajc.com. Responses may be published in print and/or online. They also may be edited for length and/or clarity.


AT ISSUE: WHAT SHOULD FAYETTE COUNTY DO ABOUT OVERCROWING IN SCHOOLS?

Fayette schools were empty for spring break this past week, but when students return, some will find themselves in buildings that are increasingly approaching maximum capacity. Overall enrollment has remained steady lately, but it’s not consistent over all districts.

The Fayette County Board of Education recently considered, and then revised, a plan to “spot redistrict” several areas in Peachtree City and Fayetteville to prevent certain schools and/or feeder patterns from becoming overcrowded. New housing developments in western Peachtree City, downtown Fayetteville and the Pinewood Forrest area will add new students to the system next year and beyond.

All this comes four years after Fayette, plagued by revenue shortfalls during the recession, closed four schools and redistricted the entire county, which upset many parents. Now with the economy bouncing back and Fayette experiencing more growth, the question is whether the system is reaching its maximum capacity, and if so, what to do about it.

We asked Fayette residents whether their schools are feeling crowded, and here’s what some said:

Schools seem a bit crowded, yes, but also I think we do not have enough spaces for pre-k programs. Fayetteville schools only have one pre-k class per school, while smaller counties have four! Schools are turning away students who don't get in by the lottery drawing, and that only hurts the kids. — Sarah Gross

The situation is totally different from the days when I attended. Too many children per class and the teachers don't have enough support. — Kiana Lowry

Coming from Southern California where the average class size has 35 students per teacher, I'd say no. — Jacqueline Fox

And yet it has only been less than four short years ago that we had to sell a brand-new school at a big loss because it was not being utilized. — Karen Fulcher

Yes! So why not build some more low-income apartment complexes, that's exactly what we need. – Wendy Chaney

— Jill Howard Church for the AJC