Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...
, an affirmation
is a solemn declaration allowed to those who conscientiously object to taking an oath
An oath is either a statement of fact or a promise calling upon something or someone that the oath maker considers sacred, usually God, as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact. To swear is to take an oath, to make a solemn vow...
. An affirmation has exactly the same legal effect as an oath, but is usually taken to avoid the religious implications of an oath. In some jurisdictions, it may only be given if such a reason is provided.
A right to given an affirmation has existed in English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...
since 1695, when An Act that the Solemne Affirmation & Declaration of the People called Quakers shall be accepted instead of an Oath in the usual Forme
(7 & 8 Will. 3 c. 34) was passed. The text of the affirmation was the following: "I A.B. do declare in the Presence of Almighty God the Witnesse of the Truth of what I say.
" . The right to give an affirmation is now embodied in the Oaths Act
1978, c.19, which prescribes the following form: "I, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm," and then proceed with the words of the oath prescribed by law, omitting any words of imprecation or calling to witness
It has its origins in the refusal of Quakers to swear any oath, which would otherwise have barred them from many public positions. Quakers believe in speaking the truth at all times, and so the act of only swearing to truth in court, rather than in everyday life would imply double standards. As in , they tried to "let your yea be yea and your nay be nay".
The cause for such a right is best shown in cases such as R v William Brayn
(1678). Here, William Brayn was charged with the theft of a horse from Quaker Ambros Galloway. Brayn pleaded 'not guilty'. One witness testified that the horse was owned by Ambros Galloway; and another witness said that he [probably Galloway] bought it from Brayn. As Galloway was a Quaker, he would not, "for conscience-sake", swear and so could give no testimony. The Court directed the jury to find Brayn 'not guilty' for want of evidence, and committed the Quaker, "as a concealer of Felony", for "refusing an Oath to Witness for the King".
Some Christians, who may not be Quakers, refuse to swear oaths, based on .
United States of America
The original 1787 text of the Constitution of the United States makes three references to an "oath or affirmation": In Article I
Article One of the United States Constitution describes the powers of Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government. The Article establishes the powers of and limitations on the Congress, consisting of a House of Representatives composed of Representatives, with each state gaining or...
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...
must take a special oath or affirmation for the purpose of sitting as the tribunal for impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....
; in Article II
Article Two of the United States Constitution creates the executive branch of the government, consisting of the President and other executive officers.-Clause 1: Executive power:...
, the president is required to take a specified oath or affirmation before entering office (see oath of office
An oath of office is an oath or affirmation a person takes before undertaking the duties of an office, usually a position in government or within a religious body, although such oaths are sometimes required of officers of other organizations...
); and in Article VI
Article Six of the United States Constitution establishes the Constitution and the laws and treaties of the United States made in accordance with it as the supreme law of the land, forbids a religious test as a requirement for holding a governmental position and holds the United States under the...
, all state and federal officials must take an oath or affirmation to support the U.S. Constitution. A fourth appears in Amendment IV
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause...
, all warrant
Most often, the term warrant refers to a specific type of authorization; a writ issued by a competent officer, usually a judge or magistrate, which permits an otherwise illegal act that would violate individual rights and affords the person executing the writ protection from damages if the act is...
s must be supported by evidence
The law of evidence encompasses the rules and legal principles that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding. These rules determine what evidence can be considered by the trier of fact in reaching its decision and, sometimes, the weight that may be given to that evidence...
given under oath or affirmation.
- Oath of Allegiance (United Kingdom)
- Oath of office of the President of the United States