Elected officials in New Jersey will no longer be required to pledge an oath to Almighty God, as the state has agreed to modify its traditional oath of office following a federal lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin-based atheist group.
James Tosone, a non-theist planning to run for Congress in 2024 as a Libertarian, faced challenges due to the religious language in the petition required for candidates running for office in New Jersey. The phrase “so help me, God” posed a conflict for Tosone, preventing him from verifying his candidacy forms with a secular affirmation.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, co-led by Annie Laurie Gaylor, contested this requirement, describing it as a violation of freedom of conscience and an outdated practice. The state swiftly responded by amending its stance and providing guidance on secular affirmations to all New Jersey clerks.
Expressing satisfaction with the state’s response, Tosone remarked, “I’m very happy with the state’s response to my lawsuit and their commitment to follow the Constitution’s ‘no religious test for public office.'”
Gaylor added, “We’re glad that the state of New Jersey saw the error of its stubbornly noninclusive ways,” emphasizing that residents will no longer face a choice between dishonesty or abstaining from running for office.
Regarding the concern about who Tosone might swear to in the absence of religious beliefs, the article humorously suggests possibilities like his pet cat or a shrubbery. It concludes by noting the potential dilemma atheists would face if the case had gone to trial, given the typical requirement for witnesses to affirm their commitment to truth with the phrase “so help you God.”