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It’s official, the majority of Baxter County government officials have taken their oaths of office today as they prepare to take up their positions starting Jan. 1.
Yesterday’s oath swearing ceremony was performed by Circuit Court Judge Andrew Bailey. Bailey is a Circuit Judge in Arkansas’ 14th Judicial District, which includes Baxter, Marion, Boone and Newton Counties. His docket includes primarily civil and domestic relations cases. He also oversees the 14th Judicial District Drug Court Program.
In attendance at the ceremony, were various local mayors, including Cotter Mayor Mac Caradine and Big Flat Mayor Glenda Wiseman. The Baxter County Quorum Courts newest members were also in attendance to take their oaths, as was the county’s new chief executive, Baxter County Judge Kevin Litty.
This year’s ceremony was conducted somewhat earlier than normal.
The Governor’s Office provides a Commission for newly elected and re-elected County-wide Elected Officials, District Officials (JPs), and Mayors. Those elected officials, by statute, have to take the Oath of Office within 15 days of the County Clerk receiving the Commission. The Governor’s Office was so prompt this year that Baxter County Clerk Canda Reese received them early.
Because of the time limit imposed by the law, every elected official will have to be sworn in before Jan. 1. Those not in attendance at yesterday’s events will trickle in over the next week to take their oaths.
“For those people that are outgoing, thank you for your service, and for those who are incoming thank you as well,” said Judge Andrew Bailey. “I know very well that it’s a difficult job, sometimes we get screamed at, sometimes we get praised. It’s a lot of ups and downs, and it’s not easy. Thank you for making this sacrifice for your community.”
The ritual of taking oaths goes back centuries in Western Europe.
In antiquity, oaths were often demanded of religious and governmental leaders, as well as those in certain professions. In ancient Rome, oaths were also demanded of soldiers.
The most solemn military oath – directly invoking the Roman gods – was the “sacramentum.” By this oath, soldiers swore allegiance to their specific general or commanding consul and, later, to the emperor. Disobedience could earn severe punishments.
In medieval Europe, Christians continued to take oaths. The religious and secular worlds were closely interconnected for most of these centuries, and most oaths referred to Christian beliefs.
In the early Middle Ages, Christians took oaths in the name of God, often while holding a religious object like a relic of a saint or a book of the Gospels.
When drafting the U.S. Constitution in 1787, the Founding Fathers rejected some of the legal practices of the British system of law on which they had previously been ruled under. One such rejection was of the “religious test.”
In Great Britain, all office holders had to affirm the religious doctrines of the Church of England. But in the independent United States, there was to be no such religious restriction placed on federal officeholders. Preserving religious liberty was a primary concern protected by the Constitution.
One of the British legal practices the Founding Fathers did include in the Constitution was the swearing of oaths upon entering federal governmental service. However, these oaths were not taken to pledge loyalty to a single monarch, but to “protect and defend” the Constitution itself.
The oath ceremony is still a serious performative utterance and carries the gravity of a tradition spanning 250 years of American history.
Yesterday’s oaths continue that practice as those elected officials begin to take on the responsibilities and duties of their office.