Many officeholders in the United States are required to take an oath of office. How would a mute person do this?

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    For interest: There are some deaf MPs listed here, perhaps most notably Jack Ashley.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 7:57
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    The same way mute people take oaths of citizenship, or in courts of law, or any other analogous circumstance.
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


By whatever means that person communicates. ASL (sign language), sign a piece of paper with the words, write the words and sign them...

The original law from the U.S. Constitution is for the president, Article II, Section 1:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:-"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

It does not say anything about speaking those words aloud. So in whichever way "he" is able to take the oath should suffice.

  • 72
    I was a juror in a trial with a deaf-mute defendant. The defendant placed one hand on a bible. The orderly asked "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth...." The court appointed interpreter translated. The defendant replied in sign language (saying "I do"") the interpreter indicted to the judge that the defendant had assented. And the case continued, with the barristers questioning (which was interpreted) So its not impossible.
    – James K
    Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 19:04
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    ASL is not English though (the grammar is very different), so they're not saying those words, they're saying a translation of those words. If signing it in ASL is okay, that would also seem to imply it's okay to say it in another language, or even to convey the same meaning in English using different words. I think a mute person would mostly get a pass because of their disability, but I do wonder about the controversy that would ensue if someone tried to take a constitutionally mandated oath in Spanish. Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 15:36
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    Signed Exact English does exist. So if the relevant legal counsel thought ASL wasn't sufficient (IMO which would be dumb), the inaguree can sign in "English." Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 16:01
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    @FrederikVds Courts routinely provide translators for witnesses and defendants to ensure justice happens though, because what matters is the information. So this isn't really an applicable comparison.
    – Graham
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 18:50
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    @Graham The U.S. does not have an official language. Neither do most U.S. states.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 21:58

Ask Amanda Folendorf

She appears to be the only deaf elected "chief executive" (mayor, governor, president, etc.) in the US. I can't find any resources which say whether she swore the oath of office verbally, via interpreters, or another way. However, she does have a team of interpreters to navigate her daily duties, so I would presume they performed during her swearing-in ceremony.

Like many deaf people, she has some hearing, and can presumably vocalize to an understandable degree, given that her parents didn't even know she was deaf for several years. Thus, it is possible that she took the oath orally.


However, I believe that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, she would be legally entitled to demand that she be allowed to take the oath in ASL, even though ASL is not an official language of the US (though perhaps it ought to be). In particular, state and local governments are subject to the ADA under 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131, and may not exclude individuals with disabilities from "participation in" the activities of said entities (presumably including the mayoral office, though IANAL), by section 12132.

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    The US does not have an official language even the judiciary treats English as through it was the only official language. Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 22:57
  • @user2617804 That's an interesting point. Apparently, some states have legislated English one or the official language: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. So it's a little ambiguous... Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 23:18
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    For once, I'm not convinced that the ADA applies. Since it is ordinary legislation, it's doesn't override the Constitution. If SCOTUS were to determine that the Constitution mandates that the oath be taken in English, then the ADA doesn't get to override that. Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 13:45
  • @AndrewRay on what basis would SCOTUS decide that the Constitution requires English? Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 19:23
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    @AndrewRay well, the Constitution doesn't specify an oath of office for anyone but POTUS, so this argument doesn't have much breadth to it. Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 20:09

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