Senate president, Peter Courtney-D (Dist. 11) sponsored a bill allowing lawmakers to administer non-religious “affirmations”—as contrasted to sworn oaths—which exclude the phrase “so help you God.” Senate Bill 1595 passed in a 52-3 vote and was enacted as an emergency declaration. The bill had support among some faith leaders who view oaths as something sacred between God and not to be used in a secular courtroom.
The bill took effect immediately upon its passage March 2 and is titled, “Relating to witnesses in legislative proceedings; and declaring an emergency.” SB1595 basically addresses the objections of some witnesses to making a religious oath with the phrase “so help you God,” which has historically constituted a “sworn statement” for purposes of perjury. Lawmakers, worried that a witness who refuses the sworn oath might commit perjury, have long had the right to insist on sworn oaths during committee hearings. An alternative to an oath or “sworn statement” in the law is an “affirmation” which has the same legal effect as an oath but avoids religious language. A small number of religious sects forbid their adherents to swear an oath before God. The bill was passed to allow legislators the option of administering an affirmation with the exact same legal effect as an oath in any proceedings.