God Oath On Tax Forms Protested (Jan/Feb 1998)

When a Foundation member living in Nixa, Missouri, was paying his county tax assessment this January, he was shocked to notice that he was expected to sign a declaration of truth that ended “So Help Me God.”
What makes the violation even more ludicrous? The freethinker has the misfortune to live in Christian County, an appellation that apparently has gone to the head of the County’s elected assessor, an ordained minister.

The Foundation office wrote Christian County assessor Tommy Bilyeu in January to ask for his prompt assurance that this unconstitutional wording will be dropped from any future county assessment forms or communications with taxpayers:

“The unnecessary inclusion of a religious oath on a purely secular and civic form is a distasteful, inappropriate and aggressive example of using public office for proselytizing.”

The Missouri Constitution gives unusually clear dictates to keep government and religion separate, advising that “no human authority can control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” Nor can any person “be compelled to erect, support or attend any place or system of worship,” nor shall any money “ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly,” to aid religion. Most relevant in this case, the state constitution prohibits any preference for religion.

“It’s painful enough to pay property taxes, without having to put up with religious oaths!” commented Foundation spokeswoman Annie Laurie Gaylor. “While this may seem to be one isolated violation, it is really a variation on a theme, one of so many Establishment Clause abuses that occur because government officials increasingly feel free to use their offices to promote religion.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation