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Lawmakers duel over wording in state oath

FRANKFORT — Opposition has emerged to a state lawmaker's efforts to delete a ban on dueling in the state oath of office.

State Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, said Tuesday at the first legislative hearing on Rep. Darryl Owens' bill that the oath should not be changed.

Cherry said informal polls he conducted at a Kentucky League of Cities conference and a Paducah city council meeting showed that Kentuckians want to retain the oath that bans dueling. He also said Kentuckians don't want to go through the process of amending the state Constitution just to remove dueling from the oath.

"Out in the wild, wild west part of this state, we are still serious about our duels," Cherry said, quickly adding that he was being facetious.

Owens, chairman of the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, pre-filed his bill in August for consideration during the 2010 General Assembly, which begins in January.

He dismissed Cherry's opposition "as part of the legislative process."

Owens said the dueling language takes away the dignity of public swearing-in ceremonies, often causing audiences to laugh.

The oath, written in 1849, says, "I, being a citizen of this state, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this state nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God."

"The language is antiquated," Owens said, adding that his bill has garnered worldwide attention. He said that Google reported more than 190,000 hits on his bill and that newspapers across the nation and a Japanese Web site, have picked up the issue.

Sen. Walter Blevins, D-West Liberty, said he supported Owens' measure but wants to be sure the phrase "so help me God" is retained.

Owens said he could go along with that.