By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
December 9, 2015
BURLINGTON – When Ian Baltuis, Burlington’s newly elected Mayor, took his oath of office last week, he decided to break with the city’s ceremonial past. Baltuis omitted from his oath a Bible under his left hand and the words “so help me God.”
The Alamance News reports the new Mayor refused to give much explanation for his decision, except to say, “I believe that religion and spirituality is a very personal concept.” He insisted that religion wasn’t “immediately relevant” to his position as a public official and that “there’s a public dimension to his choice to drop the more explicitly religious elements from his own oath of office.” Baltuis says his goal has always been to be more inclusive.
The Mayor’s decision not to include any reference to the Bible or God in his oath of office has raised the ire of many in Burlington, not excluding the editorial page of the Alamance News.
The newspaper’s assessment of the Mayor’s actions was the following:
“Frankly, it’s not a very auspicious start for his tenure as mayor. In fact, ironically, it may be that the city government will need prayer, based on the abandoned Bible and God, far more now than ever.
“Some may argue that the Bible’s presence is mere ceremony or tradition with little or no substantive purpose or symbolism.
“We disagree. We believe, just as the law outlines, that the invocation of God’s name, and the Holy Scriptures, are a desirable and appropriate bow to recognizing human frailty and fallibility, divine oversight, and a long-standing desire for God’s blessing over the office-holder and those he or she oversees.
“A similar tradition and concern is usually behind the invocation given at the beginning of most public meetings across the state and country. We certainly hope the mayor won’t set his sights on wanting to end that custom, as well.
“The new mayor may feel that he is ‘blazing a new trail’ by his willingness to abandon the Bible from its customary central spot in the taking of the oath of his office.
“If so, we hope he will find some other area more fitting for future trailblazing.”
North Carolina General Statute 11-1, states:
“Whereas, lawful oaths for discovery of truth and establishing right are necessary and highly conducive to the important end of good government, and being most solemn appeals to Almighty God, as the omniscient witness of truth and the just and omnipotent avenger of falsehood, and whereas, lawful affirmations for the discovery of truth and establishing right are necessary and highly conducive to the important end of good government, therefore, such oaths and affirmations ought to be taken and administered with the utmost solemnity.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said he applauds the bold statement by the Alamance News repudiating the way the Mayor took his oath.
“It’s hardly ever these days that you see a newspaper take such a solid stand for what’s right,” said Dr. Creech.
Dr. Creech said the Mayor certainly has the right by law not to use the Bible or to reference God in his oath, but to do so was a repudiation of the state’s Preamble to its Constitution, which reads:
“We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessing to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution.”
Dr. Creech also said Baltuis’ oath means little because he appeals to no one any higher than himself to affirm the truthfulness of his pledge. Nor does he appeal to anyone for help any higher than himself or humanity in general.
“Unfortunately, Baltuis represents, I believe, a new generation of leadership that is out of step with the city he serves, out of step with the state’s Preamble to its Constitution, and out of step with America’s religious moorings,” said Dr. Creech.
“I fear this new generation of leadership is inordinately confident in its abilities or capacity. Their rejection of all things religious from public life does not bring unity as assumed, but only divides us further. Contrary to the assumptions of the proud, we still need God and the Holy Scriptures. What is more, it is unto God that we shall give an account. God judges men, some now and some after death. But our Maker always judges nations in this life,” added Dr. Creech.