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View Full Version : Difference between "swear" and "affirm"?


Queuing
05-05-2006, 01:09 PM
I have a friend who is about to become a Canadian citizen, and this is what they have been given to say:

"I swear( or affirm)that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada,
Her Heirs and Successors and that I will faithfully observe the
laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen."

What is the difference between swear and affirm?

RealityChuck
05-05-2006, 01:21 PM
"To swear" is sometimes construed as "to take an oath," and some religions have the belief that they will take no oaths. If you "affirm," that's not swearing, so it's OK.

Lemur866
05-05-2006, 01:22 PM
Legally there is no difference.

Some people have a religious objection to oaths, and refuse to swear to anything. It's in the Bible, you know.

You have always been taught that you shall not break any vow you have sworn before God. But I say that you should not swear at all. Not by heaven, for that is the throne of God, and not by the earth, for that is His footstool, nor by Jerusalem, for that is the holy city of the great king. You should not even swear by your own head. For you do not have the power to turn a single hair black or white. Simply say yes or no, and let your word be sufficient. For it is not truth that need be strengthened with vows or promises, but rather that which comes of evil.


Other people are atheists and suchlike, and don't believe it's possible to swear to anything. So they merely affirm that what they say is the truth.

friedo
05-05-2006, 01:37 PM
FWIW, the objection to swearing an oath goes back quite a long time. Take the US Constitution, for example:


Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Article II sec. 1.

Queuing
05-05-2006, 01:42 PM
Ah, I didn't know that 'swearing' had such religous connotations. I always thought both 'swear' and 'affirm' were oath taking. Thanks.

tomndebb
05-05-2006, 03:30 PM
That is why "swearing" is occasionally used to mean "saying taboo things": it was considered a violation of the commandment forbidding the vain use of God's name for frivolous actions. This is reinforced in the statements of Jesus in Matthew Chapters 5 and 23 and in the story of Peter in Matthew Chapter 26 and Mark Chapter 14.

Queuing
05-05-2006, 04:32 PM
Ok, so hollywood always shows people in court putting their hands on a bible, and then swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? When the new pres takes over they have a 'swearing in' ceremony don't they? Did George H. W. Bush affirm or swear? It would seem you he should have affirmed, not sworn, because its in the bible not to swear. Sorry if I seem a little dense here, just trying to get the difference.

tomndebb
05-05-2006, 04:38 PM
Generally, Christians have decided that testifying in court or taking a public office are sufficiently serious actions to permit swearing--a point disputed by groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Whether Christians (generally) are keeping ort breaking the command is a matter of dispute, depending how one reads the scriptures.

Exapno Mapcase
05-05-2006, 04:42 PM
Ok, so hollywood always shows people in court putting their hands on a bible, and then swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? When the new pres takes over they have a 'swearing in' ceremony don't they? Did George H. W. Bush affirm or swear? It would seem you he should have affirmed, not sworn, because its in the bible not to swear. Sorry if I seem a little dense here, just trying to get the difference.
a) Everything Hollywood does is a lie, unless absolutely proven otherwise.

b) All presidents have sworn except for one, Franklin Pierce, who affirmed. Even the Quaker presidents (Hoover and Nixon) swore.

c) This is the proper kind of swearing.

friedo
05-05-2006, 04:56 PM
And the courts will also allow you to affirm that you will tell the truth, if you don't want to swear. The hand-on-the-Bible is optional as well.

kunilou
05-05-2006, 05:00 PM
According to this site (http://www.answers.com/topic/president-of-the-united-states-oath-of-office) Tyler, Pierce and Hoover chose to "affirm" rather than swear.

As tomndebb notes, Christians (and every other religion) often disagree over the meaning of passages in their scriptures.

Happy Clam
05-05-2006, 06:33 PM
Affirm is what godless heathen deviant Commie bastards do.

Swear is what righteous, upright, right-thinking folks like you and me do.

At least, that is what I was always taught. Now I hear that it's the opposite- its the godly fellas that have a problem with swearing! Well, colour me de-ignoranceified.

Exapno Mapcase
05-05-2006, 07:10 PM
[QUOTE=kunilou]According to this site (http://www.answers.com/topic/president-of-the-united-states-oath-of-office) Tyler, Pierce and Hoover chose to "affirm" rather than swear.
/QUOTE]
I've always read in the past that Pierce was the only president to affirm. I'd like to see confirmation on this from other than answers.com. Checking on Google gives a variety of sites, most saying that he was the only one, Wikipedia and others adding Hoover. I don't believe that Tyler did at all.

In the past, many have made a point about Hoover the Quaker not affirming, so I'm somewhat skeptical now. If someone can provide a contemporary cite, that would be helpful.

gabriela
05-05-2006, 07:43 PM
Ok, so hollywood always shows people in court putting their hands on a bible, and then swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? When the new pres takes over they have a 'swearing in' ceremony don't they? Did George H. W. Bush affirm or swear? It would seem you he should have affirmed, not sworn, because its in the bible not to swear. Sorry if I seem a little dense here, just trying to get the difference.

I have never been President, but...

When I am sworn in to testify in criminal court the judge (usually) or the court stenographer (often) will direct me to stand where I am and raise my right hand. He or she says, "Do you solemly swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" I say, "I do" and they direct me to step up into the witness box.

About half of them add "so help you God?" after "the truth". I respond "I do" whether or not the Deity gets brought into it.

Maybe one in ten has a Bible brought out and directs me to put my hand on it. I solemly comply with the whole ceremony even though the presence or absence of the Bible has nothing to do with whether I am going to tell the truth; that's a promise I make to myself on my own conscience.

I comply with the Bible rigmarole for two reasons; 1) there may be some people there (including the judge) for whom it has meaning, and the lack of meaning to me doesn't negate its meaning to them; 2) I have no desire to spend the night in jail for contempt.

JRDelirious
05-05-2006, 08:15 PM
And the courts will also allow you to affirm that you will tell the truth, if you don't want to swear. The hand-on-the-Bible is optional as well.

In quite a few courts, including virtually all those I've been in, there is no Bible swearing, period. Just raise your right hand to swear. And there are a number of courts where you are just asked to ratify that you are aware that the testimony about to be given is under penalty of perjury.


BTW, "so help me God"is NOT part of the official Oath of Office.

gabriela
05-05-2006, 09:22 PM
It always kind of brings down the impressive dignity of the ritual to have the court stenographer preside over it.



I'll just bet the Presidents don't have this problem.

cerberus
05-05-2006, 10:34 PM
When I took my oath/affirmation for Federal Service, we got the option of affirming ot swearing. If you swore, you could add the "under God" bit at the end. A group of us were in-processed together, so the affirmers and swearers didn't stand out.

kunilou
05-05-2006, 11:31 PM
[QUOTE=kunilou]According to this site (http://www.answers.com/topic/president-of-the-united-states-oath-of-office) Tyler, Pierce and Hoover chose to "affirm" rather than swear.
/QUOTE]
I've always read in the past that Pierce was the only president to affirm. I'd like to see confirmation on this from other than answers.com. Checking on Google gives a variety of sites, most saying that he was the only one, Wikipedia and others adding Hoover. I don't believe that Tyler did at all.

In the past, many have made a point about Hoover the Quaker not affirming, so I'm somewhat skeptical now. If someone can provide a contemporary cite, that would be helpful.

I can't find a direct answer, but here's the opening paragraph of Hoover's Inaugural Address:

THIS occasion is not alone the administration of the most sacred oath which can be assumed by an American citizen. It is a dedication and consecration under God to the highest office in service of our people. I assume this trust in the humility of knowledge that only through the guidance of Almighty Providence can I hope to discharge its ever-increasing burdens.

Freddy the Pig
05-06-2006, 12:10 AM
Here is an earlier thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=313441&highlight=Hoover+affirm) which discussed whether presidents other than Pierce were affirmers. samclem's post seems like pretty definitive proof that Hoover wasn't.

This is the first time I've heard the claim made with respect to Tyler. samclem--Did you ever get a response from Kennon?

AnabolicDoberman
05-06-2006, 12:37 AM
slight hijack but why do they swear to the queen in canada? Canada is not part of the UK anymore right?

friedo
05-06-2006, 03:03 AM
slight hijack but why do they swear to the queen in canada? Canada is not part of the UK anymore right?

No, but the Queen is head of state to most countries in the Commonwealth, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. (The Commonwealth is mostly made up of former British empire colonies. The parts that didn't revolt and write some new-fangled Constitution with "affirming" and whatnot. :) )

SCSimmons
05-06-2006, 12:54 PM
I comply with the Bible rigmarole for two reasons ... 2) I have no desire to spend the night in jail for contempt.

Well, that definitely won't happen. Constitutional law & precedent is quite clear ... I grew up in one of those wacky sects that actually took that bit of the Sermon on the Mount seriously, and the recommendation we were given in Sunday School was to make sure the clerk knew in advance that you wished to affirm rather than swear, and there shouldn't be any problems.

gabriela
05-06-2006, 02:39 PM
Well, that definitely won't happen. Constitutional law & precedent is quite clear ... I grew up in one of those wacky sects that actually took that bit of the Sermon on the Mount seriously, and the recommendation we were given in Sunday School was to make sure the clerk knew in advance that you wished to affirm rather than swear, and there shouldn't be any problems.

I don't mean for affirming rather than swearing. I mean for spitting on his Bible.