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.

The Lost Founding Fathers

Is the American Idea dying?

Is the American Idea dying?

The United States of America— a democratic republic (not a democracy) where government was minimal, the right to bear arms was considered necessary both for killing bears and overthrowing tyrants, and where people were devout Christians but no one Christian denomination was official.

The American Idea was so profound that forward thinking foreigners flocked to the new nation to see how it was working out. It was a world wonder of the time.

Now the idea of a democratic republic is openly despised, the current president seems to believe in one-party rule, and the Supreme Court is performing the functions of Congress in making laws. Neither the words of the Founding Fathers nor the meanings the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote those words seems to matter. And religious persecution of Christians is becoming the norm, while those on the other side deny it’s persecution on account of their opinion that Christians are evil and deserve it.

But as long is there is one American mind that knows the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and who has read the writings of the Founding Fathers directly, instead of blindly accepting the distorted view of history taught in schools, the American Idea will never die. We will love it, fight to preserve it, and never let the idea die.

And some day far in the future, a green skinned creature will read of the American Idea, and with tears shining in his eyes will declare “I too am an American!”

Some books to read:

George Washington’s Farewell Address: 1796 Speech

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Glenn Beck’s Common Sense

The Bulletproof George Washington by David Barton

America’s Godly Heritage by David Barton

Good Judges, Bad Judges and Politics

5.0.2One of the things thwarting our democracy is the many bad judges in the system. What is a bad judge? One that exceeds his Constitutional role in his rulings.  One that forgets that judges are not there to make new laws, but to fairly enforce the laws created by legislative bodies.

If you are a conservative (like I am) you may be tempted to label these bad judges as ‘liberal judges’. You may have a list of bad, liberal-slanted decisions made by bad judges.

If you are a liberal (like I used to be), you don’t think of liberal judges as a problem. But what if a conservative judge ignores the letter of the law to make a conservative-slanted decision? That’s a problem.

The problem isn’t one of liberal or conservative in the political sense. What matters is if judges are strictly following the letter of the law and of the Constitution, or if they issue rulings that are based more on the judge’s personal point-of-view and the things he personally admires.  The first is the way it is supposed to be. The second corrupts the system— even if the judge’s personal point-of-view happens to be correct and laudable.

The bad-judge issue is often perceived as an issue only for conservatives. Those darn conservatives want only ‘strict constructionist’ judges on the Supreme Court, pundits say, implying ‘strict constructionist’ is just code for ‘conservative’.

I believe that because of the deep political divide our nation is currently coping with, we conservatives need to frame our concerns on this issue in a non-partisan way. After all, a judge that is personally liberal but is a good judge in the sense of respecting the legal limitations of his position will not make rulings we conservatives find shocking and radical and in violation of all we hold dear.

Judges, like true statesmen, should be above the low brawls of politics. But politics affects judges in that it is the political life forms who appoint most judges. Liberal/progressive politicians tend to want liberal/progressive judges. Conservative politicians have more divided desires. On the one hand they want conservative judges. On the other hand they want to please the large number of conservative voters who want judges who are ‘strict constructionists’ and don’t engage in ‘judicial activism’.

There is a news story today about a study that showed that lawyers and law professors tend to be ‘liberal’ and judges tend to be ‘conservative’. (Much depends on how they defined ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’.)  The most common conservative view is that judges tend to be liberal. If this study in fact has any validity, how do we reconcile its findings with our common perception?

First, we must always be willing to question our perception. Perhaps we conservatives only think that most judges are liberal because we notice liberal judges and their liberal rulings a lot more. Perhaps we are taking a conservative majority of judges for granted.

Second, we must consider the fact that conservatives may be getting less mileage out of our conservative judges, especially the ones who, on the bench, are Constitution-followers first and conservatives second.  Liberal judges, remember, have a liberal community who are much less likely to think the US Constitution is valid for today’s world, and who therefore, as a group, perhaps tend to favor the judicial activist liberal judge over the Constitution-following liberal judge.

Third, we must remember that both ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ are not clearly defined and absolute terms. It’s not like the difference between iron and uranium. When someone uses terms like conservative or liberal we must ask what they meant by it. And also, there are a great many people who don’t fit so neatly into categories, like famed sci-fi author and LDS church member Orson Scott Card, who is a Democrat and seems to have traditionally Democrat views on some issues, but who also supports traditional marriage (between a man and a woman).  While our conservative and liberal labels can be useful sometimes, we must always remember that they are ‘fuzzy’ terms.

Finally, there is the age factor. As people age, they tend to become more conservative— like me. In 1990, I was a Marxist pro-choice Neopagan, now I am a conservative prolife Catholic. The fellow who is a liberal lawyer in one year may be a conservative judge a couple of decades down the line.

I do not think there is much validity to the ideas I’ve heard from the liberal point of view that the ‘conservative judges’ finding, if it is true, means that conservatives are somehow underhandedly subverting the process. But in our divisive society, I can understand how this idea may seem accurate to people with strong liberal viewpoints.


Links to news articles about the judge study:

ABA Journal: Lawyers are more liberal than general population, study finds; what about judges?

NY Times: Why Judges Tilt to the Right

Overlawyered: Harvard study: lawyers tilt left, judges don’t