No, Dutch Bankers Don’t Have to Swear an Oath to God December 15, 2014

No, Dutch Bankers Don’t Have to Swear an Oath to God

***Update***: Terry Firma wrote about this issue earlier in the year — definitely worth checking out!

If you read this New York Times article about banking in the Netherlands, you might be forgiven for thinking government officials want bankers to swear an oath to God:

The sinners of the banking industry seem so uncowed by regulators and prosecutors that one country is trying a higher deterrent: the fear of God.

In the financial industry equivalent of the Ice Bucket Challenge, executives in the Netherlands have been taking the bankers’ oath.

“I swear that I will endeavor to maintain and promote confidence in the financial sector,” the oath reads in part. “So help me God.”

It’s an oath that 90,000 bankers will have to take beginning next year, and if they don’t adhere to all eight integrity points, they could face some serious penalties. Sounds nice in theory. We’ll see if it changes anything in practice.

But about that God thing.

It isn’t until much later in the online-only piece that we find out that God is actually irrelevant in this oath:

For bankers whose beliefs or inclinations prevent them from swearing oaths to God, the association will accept a simple “I promise.” But in a country that likes to promote its Calvinist work ethic, bankers who have taken the oath speak of it in solemn tones.

The actual oath makes clear that God is merely optional. It even comes with the alternative ending:

So help me God!/This I declare and promise!

Sure, God makes for a catchier headline here, but it feeds into a pervasive idea that oaths are meaningful only because you’re swearing them to God… which is silly, especially to those who don’t believe in one. Oaths are as serious as you want them to be. I don’t believe for a second the words themselves will change bankers, but if the sentiments in this one are enforced, maybe it could actually do some good.

(Thanks to Tania for the link)

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