“So Help Me God” to Remain Part of Presidential Oath

Total Croatia News

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the line at the end of the oath is not contrary to the principle of secularity.

Seven judges of the Constitutional Court have made the decision that the “So Help Me God” line at the end of the oath given by newly-elected Croatian presidents does not endanger atheists and agnostics and does not bring into question the secularity of the Republic of Croatia. However, two judges filed a contrary opinion, reports Index.hr on 25 July 2017.

The proceedings to review the constitutionality of the oath were started by citizens Damir Jelušić (in 2009), Aleksandar Hatzivelkos (in 2013), and Dan Margetić (in 2014). They pointed out that, by incorporating the “So Help Me God” line, the ceremonial oath violated several fundamental constitutional principles. Also, the plaintiffs emphasised that such an oath places atheists and agnostics elected as president in an unequal position before the law in comparison with the faithful because they would be forced to say the words, even though they are not believers.

Judges of the Constitutional Court decided that this part of the oath was in accordance with the Constitution. “According to the Constitutional Court’s assessment, the act of giving the oath of an elected president, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution, is essentially just a ceremonial act,” announced the Court.

The explanation of the decision states that the oath is used by elected presidents to declare in a ceremonial form their loyalty to the Constitution and the values which the Constitution promotes.

“This sentence in itself is not directly or indirectly linked to any religious position of an elected president. It does not represent a theistic and religious conviction and does not prevent the elected president from expressing another religious choice. As part of the oath, the words “So Help Me God” does not impose a particular religious commitment upon the President. Since the inauguration ceremony is not an act that would represent an act of expressing religious beliefs, the words do not offend the president’s freedom of conscience and religion and his or her right to a free public expression of religion or belief as a private person,” states the explanation supported by seven judges.

Judges Lovorka Kušan and Andrej Abramović issued a separate opinion. “Unlike the majority, we believe that the objections are justified and that the part of the oath is contrary to the Constitution.” They believe that all parts of the oath are equally important and that a person giving the oath is expected to understand and stand firmly behind each and every word equally seriously.

“Inclusion of the ‘So Help Me God’ line is contrary to the principle of equality of all religious communities before the law and the principle of separation of religious communities from the state, because it presumes (and creates the impression that it is desirable) that the elected president is a member of the religious community whose members express their faith with the said line,” wrote Judges Kušan and Abramović.

Translated from Index.hr.


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