Proposed AZ Law Would Require Students to Swear Oath to God to Graduate High School

There are many, many times that my current home state of Arizona has made me grateful to be able to take solace in knowing I am a California native, and this is certainly one of those times.

As reported in the Phoenix New Times, House Bill 2467, sponsored by Republican state Representatives Bob Thorpe, Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, and Steve Smith, would require public high school students to swear an oath to God to defend the United States Constitution in order to graduate:

“Before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:

“I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; so help me God.”

Taking for granted how unnecessary such an oath is, let’s just look at how ridiculous it is on a technical level.

First, graduating high school is not the same thing as voluntarily accepting the responsibility of a public office or admission to the legal bar. A high school diploma is, with extremely few exceptions, required to have a chance to live above the poverty level. It is the culmination of an education that up until that point was compulsory. That makes the “that I take this obligation freely” line of the oath dishonest at best. Saying that the school district will deny granting a diploma to a student who has completed all of the requirements for that diploma unless they swear an oath is both somewhat extortionary and antithetical to an oath freely given.

Second, this is an oath that would be required for public high school students. I am fairly certain requiring a public high school student to swear an oath to God to graduate would violate the First Amendment of the Constitution that they are trying to force these students to swear to support and defend. This paradoxically means that in order to actually support and defend the Constitution, you have to refuse to take this oath to support and defend the Constitution.

As a graduate of a public high school in Arizona, I find this bill appalling. Just add this to the massive list of embarrassments Arizona Republicans have inflicted on the state.