Rev Kenneth Stewart

The Oath of Allegiance: taken in order to be overthrown

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The Oath of Allegiance: taken in order to be overthrown.

In many respects, this is the most challenging of the objections to political dissent. It is based on the principle that the only way (allegedly) in which a change can be made to the Oath of Allegiance is by striving for such a change from the inside.

This is the principle according to which the Scottish Socialists accepted office in the Scottish Parliament in 1997 – swearing allegiance with a clenched fist (or some similar gesture) in order to demonstrate that they were taking the Oath under some kind of duress and with an express purpose to overthrow it. At least, although this course of action cannot be defended, it has the merit of being open in its intention.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of individuals who take specific oaths to uphold certain teachings upon their entrance into the ministry of a church while, simultaneously, harbouring the desire to reject these teachings upon their entrance into office.

In our case, the argument runs as follows: those who desire a reversion to the original constitution should send good men to Parliament in order to remove the evils of the constitution through constitutional means.

So, anyone who wished to remove the Queen’s Headship from the Church, the presence of atheists or Bishops (by virtue of office) from civil government and who wished the restoration of the Covenants as constitutional documents, should stand for election as Member of Parliament. However, if a candidate was to stand for office on such a platform and was to be elected, he would be required to take the oath – but he would do so with an agenda for radical change to the constitution which he is swearing to uphold.

So, in effect, his vow will be as follows: I swear (although I only mean this as a form to qualify me for office) that I will bear faithful and true allegiance to Her Majesty, her Heirs and Successors according to law (but not according to the statutes by which she is invested with the Headship over the Church and with power to appoint Bishops into the civil government of Scotland and Ireland – which laws I propose to strive to abolish).

Is this course of action ethical? Is it consistent with elementary morality, let alone the standards of God’s Holy Word? Is it consistent with the spirit of the one who taught us to be exceedingly careful, in our taking of vows, that our ‘yes’ means ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ means ‘no’? Is it the ‘simplicity that is in Christ Jesus’ or the cunning of the serpent? Is it not the very thing the Apostle Paul warned against when he spoke of doing evil in order that good might come?

Furthermore, the acceptance of such a principle – that it is right to enter an institution whose laws of constitution we disagree with in order to change that institution – is a principle which would allow a Reformed and Presbyterian Christian to enter any association in the world. He could enter the Roman Catholic Church (in order to abolish the Papacy) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses (in order to promote the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ). Significantly, on the principle that the highest amount of good could be achieved by occupying the highest office in such an association, the office of the Papacy would become an office to covet!

This principle, thankfully, is a principle which all right thinking men and women abhor: swearing to accept the statutes governing an institution while seeking to subvert them is as demoralising and corrupt a system as can be thought of. How unethical for a Conservative by conviction to join the Labour party with a view to subversion! How unethical it would be for a Protestant to cloak himself as a Roman Catholic in order to destroy Roman Catholicism!

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