Just a Parable, But It's the Law! [Home] || [Previous] || [Next] || [Contents]



An explanation of why one Christian
feels legally prohibited from taking the traditional oath
to "Support the Constitution."

The following parable will make clear to those without legal training why I asked the California State Bar to permit me to take an explicitly Christian oath of office, modeled after the 1776 Delaware Constitution. (They denied my request.)

Sometime in the 1980's

I had just passed the California Bar Exam, and I was exhilarated. Knowing that on an average day over 430,000 people become lawyers in California,[1] I showed up extra early at the Law License Office to get my License to Practice Law. In fact, I had camped out all night, and was number 7 in line.

The teller opened her window and said "Good Morning." Those of us in line straightened our posture and returned a "Good Morning."

It had been a long night, but the sixth man in line was also a Christian, and, like me, a big fan of Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family. We had had some great conversation when we couldn't sleep.

After shuffling some papers, the teller asked the first person in line if he was ready to take the oath to support the Constitution. He said he was. The teller pressed a button and two people dressed in black robes quickly emerged from doors on opposite sides of the room. One was a man, the other a woman. A door behind the teller opened and a hooded person (man? woman?) stood behind the teller, holding a three foot high posterboard Pyramid with an Eye above it.[2] The robed man held an incense burner. The robed woman held a bell.

"Raise your right hand toward heaven," the teller said, "and repeat after me."

With right hand raised, Number One in Line said, "I solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States of America." The robed woman rang the bell.

"Congratulations," the teller said, as the robed figures swished back behind the doors. A few people in line clapped their hands.

Number six and I looked at each other. During the night, we had talked a little about clerical vestments, and why judges and graduates dress up like priests.

Number two in line filled out some papers and answered the teller's questions as we talked. Before long, the three robed figures emerged from their doors, and with his hand raised toward the cardboard Pyramid, Number Two took the oath. Several people in line applauded.

Number Six and I moved up in line as Number Three stood at the window.

Number Six and I had talked to Number Three while we were camped out in line. He was a member of a mainstream denomination, but definitely had a more evangelical spirit. We talked about David Barton's book on the Founding Fathers,[3] and Number Three was delighted to discover that those who framed the Constitution supported Christian moral values. During our conversation, he seemed to recognize that Christians could not and should not keep silent about their values. Number six and I looked at each other and wondered if our conversation would have any effect on Number Three, who was filling out the papers and answering the teller's questions.

We heard the teller ask him if he was ready to take the oath to Support the Constitution. "Oh yes; I'm a Christian," he naively answered in an enthusiastically audible voice.

Everyone in line was silent. The clerks at their desks behind the window all stopped their work and looked up in shocked disbelief at Number Three. The teller tore up the man's paperwork and inserted it into a slot in her station desk. "You can't take this oath if you're a Christian," she said. "Next in line, please."

No one applauded. Number Four elbowed a stunned Number Three out of the way to get to the window. Number Three turned around toward the rest of us in line, shocked, looking at us as though we might help him in some way. Several people wagged their heads. "What a jerk," someone muttered.

Number six and I were in a daze. We said nothing as Number Four was sworn in without a hitch.

As Number Five walked up to the window, Number Six turned around toward me and whispered, "What's going on here?" He was next in line and his voice was a touch frantic. I said maybe they're afraid that since Christians "must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29), they won't obey any laws at all. That seemed to reassure Number Six. "Yeah . . . That's it," he said, turning back around to the front of the line.

As the robed figures retreated behind their doors, Number Six moved up to the window and began filling out the papers. As he answered the teller's questions, I thought to myself about this whole bizarre ceremony - the priest-like figures in their robes, the Pyramid with the Eye - and I wondered if Number Six was going to have the same problems as Number Three.

Finally, the teller asked Number Six if he was ready to take the Oath to Support the Constitution.

"Yes I am," he said confidently. "I am a Christian with the same moral values as the Framers of the Constitution, and I know of no laws that are contrary to my faith."

The clerks at their desks looked up for a moment, and then went back to work. One clerk suppressed a giggle. The teller shook her head ever so slightly as she folded the paperwork up and inserted it into that slot. "You can't Support the Constitution if you're a Christian!" she said sternly, as though Number Six should have known this.

Now I was stunned. I knew I was next. If I said I was a Christian, I wouldn't get my license. If I did a good job of pretending to be a non-Christian and convinced the teller, she'd give me my license and swear me in. I had no idea what was going on, or what I should do. Clueless, I turned around to Number Eight and said, "You go ahead; I have to go to the men's room."

I lied. I needed to pray. I recalled some Scripture verses I memorized some years earlier:

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. {35} For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. {36} For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? {37} Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? {38} For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
Mark 8:34-38

Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. {33} But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. {34} Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
Matthew 10:32-34

Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. {9} But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. {10} And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven. {11} Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. {12} For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.
Luke 12:8-12

I went next door to the Law Library. I couldn't believe what I discovered.[4]

Christians are declared by the courts to be legally incapable of supporting the Constitution. For example, a man named Smith had a job as a draftsman for the City of San Diego. When he got the job, he was asked to sign an oath to "support the Constitution." He signed it, but added,

I declare that I owe a supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in making that declaration I take the same God as my witness invoking His assistance to help me to render due obedience to my country in all temporal matters.

This man lost his job for saying this. He took the City to court. He lost. He appealed. He lost again.[5]

Was I willing to take an oath in order to get myself a job? What would it profit me if I became a lawyer but lost my soul?

Sometime in the 1600's

The Puritan Founders of this land came here from Europe to establish the Christian faith.[6] Oaths of office used reflect the belief that only Christians should hold any public office. Here is how the Delaware Constitution protected society:

Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust . . . shall . . . make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: "I ________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, Blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration."[7]

For generations in America, you couldn't become a politician without confessing Christ like this!

This history made the cases I found all the more disturbing. By thinking of America as a nation which began in 1776, we consign 150 years of prior Christian jurisprudence to the Orwellian "memory hole." And there is nothing in the Constitution that forces judges to rely on Scripture and the Christ revealed therein. It leaves them off the hook. Thus, in 1961, shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a centuries-old practice of prayer and Bible reading in schools, that same Court ruled that oaths could no longer be made in the Name of God, but had to conform to the tenets of the religion of Secular Humanism.[8] Would you be willing to take an oath which the U.S. Supreme Court has said is the equivalent of saying "I do profess faith in Man"?

The wisdom of the world may not be an evil "conspiracy," but it is surely "foolish" (Romans 1:22). And the wrath of God rests on such fools because on another level their "wisdom" represents a deep-seated hostility to Christ. Even if the government occasionally defends "good" or "conservative" values, it is still anti-Christ. A major transformation of American law has taken place, and it wasn't by accident. If you are required to take an oath, and you ask a judge to modify the oath to reflect the values prescribed by the Bible and honored by Christian legislators and statesmen in previous centuries, your request might be granted in the name of "pluralism" or "religious freedom." But the judge might deny your motion for the same reason, because a Christian oath reflects a Christ-honoring Theocracy long since repudiated as an infringement on human autonomy.

All told, I found case after case after case which make very clear the fact that this is now a secular nation, and Christians can no longer become lawyers, hold public employment, or even become American citizens - unless they keep their mouth shut and come out looking like a Secular Humanist.[9]

I went back to the Law License Office. I had worked very hard to pass the Bar Exam. They say California's Exam is the most difficult Bar Exam in the world. But as I thought about the Pyramid with the Eye, and the fate of Number Three and Number Six (and Smith, and Summers, and a great many others), I had real doubts about my ability to keep silent and get my license.

The State now claims to be God. You're in line for a job. What would you do?

I've been advised by many people to just take the oath and "get it over with." But one is supposed to take a solemn oath "without any mental reservation or qualification whatsoever." It would certainly be an easier decision if I didn't know what "the law" means by the oath, or what "the government" has done to those who are known to be Christians. I could just pretend that we lived in the days of Ozzie and Harriet, when those who hated Christianity were confined to the closet.

But I know too much.

I believe I have an obligation to make my loyalty to Christ known. My silence would be a presumption that I do not believe the way my Puritan and Reformed forefathers believed, and that I do not hold to a Theocratic understanding of God's Law. I cannot hide my convictions just to make it easier. I've decided to fight it. My suit in Federal Court seeks to re-establish the right of Christians to take explicitly Trinitarian oaths which place their loyalty to Christ above their willingness to obey a secular State. I hope to be the first of many people who will swear their support not for the Constitution, but for the Law of God. Perhaps in the future we might be able to choose between a "nice guy" candidate who goes through the formality of taking a meaningless "deistic" oath to support the Constitution, and a serious candidate who swears his support for God's Law-Word, the Bible. I know which one I would be more likely to vote for.

The Puritans endured great struggles for religious freedom and the cause of Christ the King. Christians in the 1990's must do the same.

[Next]  [Table of Contents]  [Home Page of Vine & Fig Tree]

I would appreciate your prayers and your comments.

Kevin Craig
Vine & Fig Tree, Inc.
12314 Palm Dr. #107
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
(619) 329-9045
Or e-mail me at Kevin4VFT@aol.com.


(1) There's a lawyer glut in California. I've been asked, "Did you really mean to say '430,000'?" as though it could be that bad. This is kind of a "parable." I'll tell you when to interpret me "literally." So far, the only thing that's literally true is that I passed the California Bar Exam and have not yet been admitted to the practice of law.
(Back to text)

(2) As I thought back, I remembered seeing this Pyramid before - on the back of a one dollar bill.
(Back to text)

(3) The Myth of Separation, Aledo, TX: Wallbuilders, 1994. This book seems to have been re-written and is now entitled Original Intent (1996). I cannot recommend this book too highly. If in your mind there are any doubts whatever about the Christian Theocratic nature of pre-Constitution America, this book is for you.
(Back to text)

(4). The fate of Number Three and Number Six is found in a number of reported cases. But there's no such thing as a "Law License Office." Other than that, you may now start interpreting my parable "literally."
(Back to text)

(5) Ask the librarian at your local university or law library for volume 72 of The California Reporter published by West Pub. Co., and look at his case on p. 501. Volume 65 of the Supreme Court Reporter (p. 1307) has Clyde Summers' case. He wanted to be a lawyer, as I do. Tough luck, Brother Clyde.

Christians in a number of professions, and Christians desiring to become naturalized citizens, have faced this same obstacle. Although they were willing to take the oath, the courts have held in effect that they would be lying if they did. Christians give their highest allegiance to Christ, not the Constitution, and thus cannot take the required oath "in good faith." Thus saith the courts.
(Back to text)

(6) Once again, I refer you to David Barton's work. I do not believe it is possible to name a single American statesman (before the Revolutionary Era) who denied the universally-held belief that the Civil Government should legislate Christian morality. One of the most difficult questions you will have after reading Barton's book is, Are secular judges, legislators, and law professors incredibly ignorant, or are they malicious liars? Either way, our country is in trouble.
(Back to text)

(7) Delaware Constitution, Art. 22 (adopted Sept. 20, 1776), 1 Del. Code Ann. 117 (Michie, 1975). See also T. Skillman, The Constitutions of All the States According to the Latest Amendments, 181 (1817).
(Back to text)

(8) Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 at 495 n.11, 81 S.Ct. 1680 at 1684 n.11 (1961). This is one of the most astonishing cases in American Jurisprudence. Does the Constitution (an instrument of "delegated powers") delegate to the Federal Government the power to regulate the states in matters of religion? [No.] Before they would ratify the Constitution, did the states want to make absolutely sure that the Federal Government would not regulate them in matters of religion, thus demanding the First Amendment? [Yes.] Nevertheless, in Torcaso v. Watkins, the Federal Government (and not even the Legislature, but the nine unelected Justices of the Supreme Court!) reached in and unilaterally amended the Maryland state constitution at precisely that point where it dealt with religion! [Unbelievable.]
(Back to text)

(9) Many Christians have taken a secular oath to "support the Constitution." I do not doubt their salvation.

Many judges would not hesitate to permit a modification of the oath to reflect Biblical requirements. I do not question their competence.

In the Federal District Court in Los Angeles, I argued that the majority of cases have established the rule that "extremist" Christians (like me) are excluded by law from taking the required secular oath to "support the Constitution."

The District Court did not doubt my interpretation of these cases, nor the "burden" they place on my religious freedom.

I argued that these precedents are destructive of the very foundations of American law, are inconsistent with the First Amendment, and should not be followed.

My case is now on appeal.
(Back to text)


I have exhausted all my appeals. In the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals I was assisted by Prof Edward M. Gaffney, Jr., of the Valparaiso School of Law, Doug Laycock of the Law School at the University of Texas, Erwin Chemerinsky of the USC School of Law, and former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, now at the UCLA School of Law.

I made quite a few mistakes, and learned many lessons. This case is winnable. If you might be the next plaintiff, please write me and I'll share what I've learned.