As a host of the daytime talk show "The View," Barbara Walters questioned why politicians, including the presidents, swear on a Bible while taking office when there is separation of church and state.
"That is very true, but it starts almost with the oath of office which usually ends with 'So help me God,'" Walters said during the talk show, after actress Jane Seymour's remarks over a new political ad by Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas in which he apologizes for backing President Barack Obama's signature health care law, or "Obamacare," and also highlights the importance of the Bible in politics.
Seymour told the hosts of the show Thursday: "I think it's really unfortunate when you have to bring religion into politics. I think religion is a very personal thing, a very personal thing."
"Now, most presidents swear on a Bible before taking office, even though we have the separation between church and state," Walters continued during the talk show, which has aired on ABC since 1997.
"You see it again and again," Walters said during the show which focuses on a panel of five female co-hosts who discuss social and political issues. "You don't have to use a Bible. Teddy Roosevelt didn't. John Quincy Adams swore on a law book and Lyndon Johnson took the oath on a book he thought was the Bible. We don't know what the book was ... We talk about the separation between church and state and almost every president ends up saying so help me God."
The Sen. Pryor ad states: "I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in God and I believe in His word. The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers. Only God does and neither political party is always right. This is my compass, my north star. It gives me comfort and guidance to do what's best for Arkansas. I'm Mark Pryor and I approve this message because this is who I am and what I believe."
Walters declared that the basic tenet in America is the separation. "And it's very important. And it's very important, the separation of church and state."
The phrase "So help me God," which has been used by most presidents of the nation, including Obama, is not a constitutional requirement. Many believe it was used for the first time by President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, according to the Sacramento Daily Union. But some historians maintain the first time it was noted was during Chester Arthur's inauguration in 1881.
The phrase, however, is explicitly prescribed in oaths as early as the Judiciary Act of 1789 for all U.S. judges and officers except the president – though the act also allows for the phrase to be omitted by the officer, in which case it would be called an affirmation instead of an oath.