Hunt & Associates P.C.

Oaths and Oath Breaking

Barack Obama Oath“When a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his own hands like water, and if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t  hope to find himself again.”

 Paul Scofield, as Sir Thomas More, in A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Once upon a time, an oath taken by a public official meant something, consequences notwithstanding, as dramatized in the Hollywood classic movie of more than 50 years ago, A Man for All Seasons.  The movie depicts the courage of Sir Thomas More who took the taking of an oath a serious matter.  More is denounced as a traitor to King Henry VIII and eventually executed when he refuses to recite an oath he knows to be false.  Sir Thomas believes the oath itself to reflect the very essence of his character.

These days, the oaths uttered by our public servants upon assuming their office would seem to be of much lesser import.  Case in point, consider Governor Kate Brown’s recent executive order in which she declared that it is official policy in Oregon not to enforce laws which she had earlier sworn an oath to support.  The governor’s order declares that there will be no state expenditure of money, equipment or personnel for enforcement of federal immigration laws.  See the full text of the Governor’s Order here.

That our immigration laws may be in need of change is a subject of legitimate debate.  It is an entirely different matter, however, for a public official who has sworn to uphold the law to declare some laws are not, in her estimation, worthy of enforcement. [1]  Assuming the governor recognizes that immigration laws enacted by the U.S. Congress are the law of the land, how then does she square her executive order with her earlier oath to support such laws?

Perhaps the governor’s executive order is nothing more than an exercise in political grandstanding.  Still, the governor’s edict reflects a considered disregard for the laws she has sworn to uphold and a cavalier dismissal of the oath she has taken.

© 2/20/2017 Charles A. Ford of Hunt & Associates, P.C.  All rights reserved.

[1] Oregon Constitution, Article XV, Section 3 provides, “Every person elected or appointed to any office under this Constitution, shall, before entering on the duties thereof, take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States…”

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