Alabama now offers opt-out for ‘so help me God’ portion of voter registration oath
In response to a lawsuit from the out-of-state Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office is now offering an opt-out for individuals seeking to register to vote that do not want to include the final four words of the voter declaration oath: “so help me God.”
FFRF announced the lawsuit on October 1, 2020, asserting that Alabama was the only state that requires would-be voters to swear “so help me God,” without allowing any secular alternative, on the registration form.
The defendant in the lawsuit was Secretary of State John Merrill in his official capacity. The lead plaintiff was an atheist who lived in the state.
In a statement on Wednesday, Merrill confirmed that the State of Alabama now offers an option that settles the issue. FFRF released a statement saying the lawsuit has ended.
Voter registration forms, an example of which can be found here, still feature the same oath, which reads as follows:
I solemnly swear or affirm to support and defend the constitution of the United States and the State of Alabama and further disavow any belief or a affiliation with any group which advocates the overthrow of the governments of the United States or the State of Alabama by unlawful means and that the information contained herein is true, so help me God.
However, there is now included a check-box underneath that reads as follows: “OPTIONAL: Because of a sincerely held belief, I decline to include the final four words of the oath above.”
Merrill said, “Following the introduction of this lawsuit, our Office took action to see that an option was provided to voters to either swear a religious oath or opt out when registering to vote.”
“While the language ‘so help me God’ has been included on voter registration applications since well before I took office, this issue was just brought to light, and we remain willing to accommodate all voters of Alabama. All registration applications, online or on paper, were updated on March 8, 2021 to include the option to opt out, if interested,” he concluded.
FFRF hailed the news as a “huge constitutional victory for secular voters in Alabama.”
“Millions of Alabamians were being asked to swear a religious oath as a fait accompli,” stated FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We warmly thank the plaintiffs, without whom we could not have put an end to this unconstitutional mindgame.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn