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Author Topic: Oh Say, Can You Swear on a Koran?
snopes
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quote:
Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, donít serve in Congress.
Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, this American is interested in only one text, the Constitution of the United States of America. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that text -- and only that text -- don't serve in Congress.

- snopes

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Steve Eisenberg
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quote:
Originally posted by Pogue Mahone:
Steve, is there some study you have made of the history of Bible-swearing practice in America? If so, I apologize, but if not, what makes you know the "common practice" of the practice other than by giving it the old college guess?


I've covered courts now for more than 20 years, nd I've been in courtrooms (both state and federal) across Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, as well as in New Jersey. I can't remember ever seeing someone sworn in on the Bible. They simply raise their hands, and swear the oath as enunciated by the judge or the clerk.

Pogue

Well, um, OK, you got me. However, I did, before my first post in this thread, google on terms like:

bible swear court

and it does seem a lot of people are under the same misapprehension I was (and Prager is) that oaths are commonly taken on a Bible. For example, I found a few stories about a controversy over whether you could swear on a Koran instead of a Bible in North Carolina courts, and none seemed to mention that North Carolina was unusual in requiring swearing on a book. The author of this Christian Science Monitor story seems to have made exactly the same mistake I did.

What convinces me you are right Pogue -- and I hope you don't mind my trust-but-verify approach here -- is this 1999 link I just found by googling:

bible swear court ohio

quote:
The Bible is still used in some Carolina and Philadelphia courts and in many oaths of office. However, itís falling out of favor in both law and custom.
In my defense, I will also point to the Philadelphia part above.

Lastly, just to annoy the militant atheists a bit [Big Grin] , I will quote the oath Pennsylvania witnesses are still often required to embrace:

quote:
You do swear by Almighty God, the Searcher of all hearts, that the evidence you shall give this court [and Jury] in this issue now being tried shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and as you shall answer to God on the last great day.


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Minstrel gone caroling
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The one time I've ever been in a courtroom was for my divorce hearing, and there was no Bible-swearing required. I just had to raise my right hand and affirm that I was going to tell the truth. My ex-H wasn't sworn in at all!

Wow, that Pennsylvania oath would annoy me to an extreme, and I'm not a militant anything. Darn extremist Quakers.

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keokuk
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quote:
Originally posted by Nion:
Well that (thankfully) strikes down the "separation of church and state" speech I was about to make. However, it does still carry over to your "average" courts. Shouldn't swearing on a bible and saying "so help me, God" be unconstitutional?

No, because technically both of those are optional. There is nothing that requires anyone to swear on a Bible, or anything else, when accepting any oath of office at the federal level.

The full oath for a president is written into the Constitution, and it doesn't include "so help me God." Every time a president adds "so help me God," they're doing it out of personal choice, not because they're required to.

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Doug4.7
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
quote:
Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, donít serve in Congress.
Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, this American is interested in only one text, the Constitution of the United States of America. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that text -- and only that text -- don't serve in Congress.
When I was a graduate student, I had to swear an oath before I could accept my meager paycheck from the university. It said (more or less) that I would not attempt to overthrow the government. After talking about it with a buddy (who was there in the same situation), we decided we would go ahead and sign the oath and swear to it. We figured, that if we decided to attempt to overthrow the government, we would resign first... [Roll Eyes]

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PeterK
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Although we speak of "swearing on the Bible", that is not actually what we do. The oath is "I swear by Almighty God...." and/or "....so help me God." Not "I swear by (the truth of) the(this) Bible." The oath essentially asks God to damn us if we lie. The Bible is held/touched merely as a reminder to the oathtaker of the presence of God, and a demonstration to others present that s/he knows who God is. Hence the fact that most Jews have had no objection to swearing on a Christian Bible. Indeed the Bible used by courts, Justices of the Peace, and parliaments in most English-speaking countries is usually the King James Version, which most Christians believe is incomplete, faulty, unauthorised and to some extent untruthful, but I have never heard of a Christian demanding to use another version when presented with the KJV. (Yes, some states of the USA, with its characteristic stupendously broad interpretation of "separation of church and state", may have dispensed with the Bible for many purposes, but it remains in use elsewhere.) Thus a request by a Moslem to use the Koran (or by a Jew to use the Torah etc) for this purpose is reasonable (though Mein Kampf would not be); but to demand it as of right is unreasonable, as to swear "on" the (KJV) Bible is not a declaration of the truth of the Bible or of Christianity.
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Open Mike Night
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Judge Roy Moore weighs in on the Ellison issue

Wow, this guy is a piece of work.

it looks like Morre is saying that Ellison should not be sworn in, becasue Islam does not believe in a seperation of church and state, or a least a seperation of non-christian church and state.

quote:
To support the Constitution of the United States one must uphold an underlying principle of that document, liberty of conscience, which is the right of every person to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience, without interference by the government. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, in his "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States" in 1833, observed concerning the First Amendment that "The rights of conscience are, indeed, beyond the just reach of any human power. They are given by God and cannot be encroached upon by human authority without a criminal disobedience of the precepts of natural, as well as revealed religion." Justice Story echoed the sentiments of Thomas Jefferson in his Bill for Religious Freedom in 1777 in which he stated that "Almighty God" (El Shaddai in Hebrew) "hath created the mind free and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint." It was a specific God who endowed us with a freedom of conscience with which government could not interfere.
quote:
Islamic law is simply incompatible with our law. Jaafar Sheikh Idris, founder and chairman of American Open University, a radical Islamic school that has received funding from suspected al-Qaida sources and which supports Islamic law, recently stated that "Islam cannot be separated from the state," and that no Muslim elected to Congress or the White House can swear to uphold the United States Constitution and still be a Muslim, because the law of Allah as expressed in the Quran is supreme.


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Ganzfeld
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quote:
Originally posted by PeterK:
(Yes, some states of the USA, with its characteristic stupendously broad interpretation of "separation of church and state", may have dispensed with the Bible for many purposes, but it remains in use elsewhere.)

Woah, you really jumped into it there. It angers me that anyone would ask me to swear to their "God" on the flimsy basis that more than one religion supposedly believes in that entity but to suggest the elimination of the practice of swearing on holy books is a "broad" interpretation of the separation of church and state puts you firmly in woo woo land, bud.
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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
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quote:
Originally posted by Open Mike Night:
Judge Roy Moore weighs in on the Ellison issue

Wow, this guy is a piece of work.

it looks like Morre is saying that Ellison should not be sworn in, becasue Islam does not believe in a seperation of church and state, or a least a seperation of non-christian church and state.


The mind boggles, indeed. Irony, thy name is Roy!

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Tarquin Farquart
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by PeterK:
Indeed the Bible used by courts, Justices of the Peace, and parliaments in most English-speaking countries is usually the King James Version, which most Christians believe is incomplete, faulty, unauthorised and to some extent untruthful, but I have never heard of a Christian demanding to use another version when presented with the KJV.

Most Christians???? I thought it was the most commonly used version.

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Banquo's Ghost
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Steve Eisenberg - where in the world did you unearth that Philadelphia oath? I was a court officer (judicial tipstaff) in the First Judicial District (Phila. County) for about 6 years in the early to mid 90's and I can attest from personal knowledge that that particular oath was at least on the books. I have no personal knowledge of that oath ever being used, but I did hear rumors from otehr court officers that some judges did prefer using that particular oath - though I never heard a particular judge's name along with the rumors. It is not the oath that I commonly used, however. For people who swore on the Bible, and yes the Bible was used, the oath I used went something like this -

You do solomnly swear that the evidence you are about to give in this court before this jury is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God. (I didn;t always use the "in this court and before this jury" language. That was pretty much understood by everyone involved.)

For people who did not swear on the Bible - and Steve is correct that many, though certainly not all, of those people did so out of their Christian beliefs, the oath went something like this -

You do solemnly swear and affirm that the evidence you are about to give in this court before this jury is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I tried to always ask the witness, quietly, before he/she got to the stand, if he/she swore on a bible or preferred to affirm.

There was a specific oath for those of the Muslim faith, but I never had to administer that oath so I cannot remember at all what it was. The other oaths I administered probably in the 1000's of times. The purpose of the oath, as explained to me, was to impress upon the witness the duty to tell the truth more than invoking any specific fear of godly retribution. As far as I can recall, no one ever swore an oath on an anatomically correct (or incorrect, for that matter) Elvis doll.

There is a story that I could never confirm that a Judge in Montgomery County (just outside Phila.) used a small leather bound dictionary rather that a bible - the theory being he was not going to have witnesses swear to tell the truth, hand upon a bible, and then lie through their teeths once on the stand.

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Pogue Ma-humbug
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quote:
Originally posted by PeterK:
(Yes, some states of the USA, with its characteristic stupendously broad interpretation of "separation of church and state", may have dispensed with the Bible for many purposes, but it remains in use elsewhere.)

Don't you love it when those outside the United States make ignorant interpretations of U.S. law and the Constitution?

Pogue

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Sister Ray
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quote:
Originally posted by Minstrel Nereid:
The one time I've ever been in a courtroom was for my divorce hearing, and there was no Bible-swearing required. I just had to raise my right hand and affirm that I was going to tell the truth. My ex-H wasn't sworn in at all!

Wow, that Pennsylvania oath would annoy me to an extreme, and I'm not a militant anything. Darn extremist Quakers.

Mennonites, actually.

Sister "but they don't take oaths either" Ray

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Sara at home
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Mennonites and Amish rarely participate in the political process and don't swear oaths. In fact, they can be excommunicated for knowing swearing oaths.

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

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Echinodermata Q. Taft
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Some constituents of Virginia congressman Virgil Goode wrote him expressing opinions about this matter, and he sent a letter back to them giving his thoughts.

Unfortunately, he also sent it to a member of the Sierra Club who had written him about an entirely different issue, and who has released the text:

quote:
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens donít wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and ďIn God We TrustĒ are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, ďAs long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.Ē Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

When queried, the Congressman's office said that he stands by what he wrote.

Text quoted from here.

CNN story here

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Michigan Girl
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quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:
The entire purpose is to swear on something that means a lot to you, not to swear to a specific deity. I don't care if someone would swear on an anatomically correct inflatable Elvis if that is what means the most to them. I wouldn't vote for such a guy, though...

quote:
It's an interesting question, though... if he were to swear on the Christian Bible, would he be bound by that oath? It's not a book with any meaning to him, after all.
Actually, the bible is a holy book in Islam as well, although not as holy as the Koran.
Umm, no. The Muslims do not consider the bible holy (I've even seen some Arab women yelling at their kids if they even touched it). They follow the Prophets but only what is written in the Quran.

Michigan-former Muslim-girl

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snopes
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quote:
We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country.
In other words, "I believe all men are created equal -- as long as they're Americans."

quote:
I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.
In other words, "I believe in freedom of religion -- as long as it's my religion."

- snopes

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
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Virgil Goode sounds an awful lot like a loon.

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"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

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erwins
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quote:
The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens donít wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.


And this has anything to do with Keith Ellison, native of Detroit Michigan, how?

What an asshat.

erwins

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Amigone201
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quote:
Originally posted by erwins:
quote:
The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens donít wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.


And this has anything to do with Keith Ellison, native of Detroit Michigan, how?

What an asshat.

erwins

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LeaflessMapleTree
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quote:
it looks like Morre is saying that Ellison should not be sworn in, becasue Islam does not believe in a seperation of church and state, or a least a seperation of non-christian church and state.
Ah, now I am in complete agreement. You know...'cause Christianity does. [Wink]

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"For me, religion is like a rhinoceros: I don't have one, and I'd really prefer not to be trampled by yours. But it is impressive, and even beautiful, and, to be honest, the world would be slightly worse off if there weren't any."
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Pogue Ma-humbug
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quote:
Originally posted by Echinodermata Q. Taft:
When queried, the Congressman's office said that he stands by what he wrote.

Really? I would be embarassed not only by the content, but by the style and repetitiveness.

Pogue

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Let's drink to the causes in your life:
Your family, your friends, the union, your wife.

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Echinodermata Q. Taft
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Well, but Pogue, I don't know if there's enough alcohol in Kentucky to get you drunk enough to write that....

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Spooky Cactus
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It still amuses me that the most homophobic version of the bible, often trumpeted as the only 'true' translation by fundies, carries the name of King James (James Stuart, I of England, VI of Scotland) who was famous for two things: uniting England and Scotland and making his boyfriend the first Duke of Buckingham (and the first non-royal Duke).

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