LETTER: To what avail is the oath of office?
To the Editor:
In the discussions in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, the powers granted to each branch of government are specifically delineated. A concern of the founders was how to assure those powers were not usurped or abused. They believed that the people would only elect moral and righteous representatives.
It was also understood that the history of ancient nations had shown that even the most moral and most righteous could and would succumb to the lust for power and money, particularly as they determined how to get their hands in the public trough so as to be able to endear their constituents with favors and assure their remaining in power. It was finally agreed that the duties and powers of the moral and righteous elected representatives should be tied down with the chains of the oath. The culture of that period in time believed that the oath would never be breached. This was exemplified by Sir Thomas More, who was executed by King Henry VIII for refusing to breach his oath.
The Constitution states that representatives, for any speech or debate, shall not be questioned in any other place, and states that legislatures shall be bound by oath to support the Constitution. Recently, in a complaint to enforce a breach of the oath, which did not include hanging, the court dismissed the complaint stating that representatives are immune from any punishment, not only for their speech and debate, but also for their actions, such as voting — even if the act is unconstitutional. A reasonable opinion is that currently the oath is of no avail, and this needs to be addressed.