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Holy Cross Religious Studies Professor Reflects on the History and Meaning Behind Oaths of Office

The Conversation
October 20th, 2020 by 
Joanne Pierce, professor of religious studies. Photo by John Buckingham

The Supreme Court nomination and subsequent confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett have shined a spotlight on her alleged commitment to the Christian religious group, People of Praise, and raised concerns for some over her impartiality if she is approved for the post. 

Similar questions of impartiality are why, throughout history, public office-holders have been asked to swear oaths before assuming important roles. In an article for The Conversation, Joanne Pierce, professor of religious studies at Holy Cross, breaks down the history behind oaths, as well as how they have become such an important tradition.

According to Pierce, who specializes in medieval Christian liturgy and ritual, from their beginnings in ancient Rome to present day, oaths have served as promises of integrity.

“The conscience of appointees, not the preservation of their personal reputations, has been the focus of these ‘oaths of office’ for almost 250 years,” says Pierce. “This is as true today as it was in 1787.”

To read the full article, go to TheConversation.com

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