This Saturday, one day after a no-confidence vote ousted the conservative Mariano Rajoy, Pedro Sanchez was sworn in as Spain’s new prime minister. He became the first prime minister sworn in without a bible or crucifix, CNN reports.
Sanchez, who heads the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, is openly atheist, according to his own words.
Spain is a country that is two-thirds Roman Catholic.
The concept of God was noticeably absent from Sanchez’s oath, which read:
“I promise by my conscience and honor to faithfully fulfill the obligations of the office of President of the Government with loyalty to the King, and to keep and enforce the Constitution as the fundamental norm of the State.”
As the Friendly Atheist points out, the oath is the same as recited by all incoming Spanish PMs, except that Sanchez’s version took out the word “swear” and replaced it with “promise.” The change is subtle, but powerful. Sanchez is declaring that his drive to serve his country comes from his moral character, not a compulsion driven by an oath to a holy deity.
Sanchez is not shy about his secular world view. In a 2014 interview, he declared that be believes religion should be kept out of the classroom and left in the churches.
“In the classrooms you have to form citizenship, not people with religious beliefs, that corresponds to the private sphere,” he said.
Sanchez has a bumpy road ahead of him, as his allies in the no-confidence motion against Rajoy made sure to point out that their vote against Rajoy “was not a blank cheque for Sanchez.”
From Spain’s The Local:
Sanchez will only be able to implement policy initiatives “that allow him to obtain an easy majority” in parliament, said Fernando Vallespin, political scientist at the Autonomous University of Madrid.
PP lawmaker Rafael Hernando said Sanchez would be entering the prime minister’s office “through the back door” after failing to win any general elections.
Sanchez has already tied his hands by promising to respect Rajoy’s 2018 budget, which includes generous concessions to the northern Basque region.
He has also said he wants to “build bridges” with Catalonia’s new separatist government, headed by Quim Torra, which will take office on Saturday.
With such an uncertain future, it remains to be seen if he can make the secular left proud.
Featured image via screen grab