EWTN Catholic Q&A
Swearing an Oath
Question from LDB on 11-25-2012:

I'm doing a citizenship application and one choice question is to swear a religious oath to the country OR just an legal affirmation? I don't believe I should be swearing this oath in God's name and am sure I've seen that in the scriptures, can you tell me where to find that verse? Many thanks...

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 11-27-2012:

The Gospel of Saint Matthew records these words of Christ (ch 5):

33 Again you have heard that it was said to them of old: *Thou shalt not forswear thyself: but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord.

34 But I say to you, not to swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God:

35 Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king:

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37 *But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.

Context and circumstances are critical here. It was common among the Jews, including those claiming to be righteous, to lightly swear oaths upon heavenly realities, or intending some deception or loop hole. Jesus was reacting against this misuse of oaths. The Church allows that for serious matters, which would include testimony in courts, enlistment in the military, and citizenship, and oath may be sworn, even by God Himself. So you may do so, in good conscience. Welcome to citizenship; I only wish our country were heading in a different direction, morally and politically.

Father Echert