Oaths of office need not be sworn on Bible

Some people are confused about the US Constitution on the issue of taking an oath of office. They believe that the Constitution requires the person to put a hand on the Holy Bible while swearing (or affirming) the oath.

This is not true. Get out your personal copy of the Constitution and check it out. The use of the Bible is simply a pious custom which originated when George Washington used a Bible borrowed from a Masonic lodge to take his oath. While many presidents have followed this custom, some have not, without intending insult to God. John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce both had their hands on a lawbook. And after the assassination of President Kennedy, Johnson, a Protestant, swore the oath on a Catholic prayer book belonging to the slain president.

For a Christian, taking an oath with one hand on the Bible is a symbol that they are swearing in the presence of the God of the Bible. But what if the newly elected official is not a Christian and does not believe that the Christian Bible is from God? Would it not be hypocritical for such a person to swear on the Bible?

A Jewish person who rejects the Christian New Testament might bring his own Jewish Bible for the oath, or, alternatively, make a mental reservation that he is swearing only on the Jewish portion of the Bible if using a Christian edition. But what about other faiths?

There have been some instances in which a Muslim has been elected to a US office and has sworn on the Quran. People got upset. But isn’t it an act of moral courage for a Muslim elected official to insist on placing his hand on the book he actually believes in for the oath, rather than putting a hand on a Bible that he believes is a flawed account? As a believing Christian I applaud that honesty.

But what if an atheist got elected and put his hand on a bigoted atheist book? Or what if a Satanist put his hand on a Satanic book? Well, that is in great part the fault of the voters. If you don’t think a bigoted-type atheist or a Satanist should hold office, don’t elect him. And it is perfectly permissible for a Christian, Jewish or Muslim judge to refuse to administer an oath taken on a highly offensive book. A more sensible atheist might choose to use no book at all for his oath, or perhaps use a lawbook, rather than choosing something bigoted which he doesn’t hold to be God’s sacred word anyway.

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