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What is an Oath of Allegiance?

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  • Written By: R. Kimball
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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An oath of allegiance is given by an individual to a country, monarch, or religious order. The individual swears to a duty of allegiance and loyalty as part of the oath. An official accepting an office may swear such an oath. Naturalized citizens may also make such an oath when accepting their new citizenship.

Each oath of allegiance may contain different promises given by the person affirming the oath. In a republic, the oath is given to the laws of the republic. In a monarchy, the oath is either given to the specific monarch or the country itself. An oath of allegiance might be required before a person may assume an office or receive a benefit granted as part of a larger process. Certain religious orders may require an oath to the religious order as part of the process in which a newly ordained member receives an office or acquires a higher office within the religious order.

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An oath of allegiance given by an official accepting a new office includes the promise to uphold the laws of the governing body that the official will represent. This oath of allegiance may be supporting a federal government, a provincial or state government, or a municipal government. Other promises made in such an oath focus primarily on the roles of the office rather than the position as a citizen or subject. Certain oaths are included in the specific body of law to which the oath of allegiance is given, such as the constitution of a republic.

Naturalizing citizens are usually required to make specific promises in their oaths of allegiance. In certain countries, naturalizing citizens must renounce all former allegiances to other monarchs or countries. Naturalizing citizens must promise to support the laws of the country where they are becoming citizens. In some countries, naturalizing citizens must also promise to serve the country in either the armed forces or some other type of service.

Historically, oaths were pledged to the monarch or sovereign of a given country rather than the country itself. Over time, many countries have changed the oath so that it is given to the country itself. In a republic, the oath is given to uphold the laws of the originating document: for example, a constitution. Betrayal of a sworn oath may be considered treason in certain jurisdictions.

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