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Old 07-09-2002, 02:04 PM   #1
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Swearing on the Bible

...thought of this the other day:

In a court of law in the US, you put your left hand on a bible and put your right hand in the air and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Here is my problem with this - it is primitive.

What if you do not believe in God? What if you are of ANY other religion other than a judeo-christian religion? What if the bible is simply a book of stories passed on from generation to generation (to someone).

If perjury is based on swearing on a bible, I do not believe in perjury.

I understand in having to swear to something, but I think the Bible should be taken out of the picture.

This obviously came about after I thought about and agreed with the "pledge of allegiance" being ruled unconstitutional.

Now, I am not some crazy left-winger, but I beleive fully in the seperation of church and state. I do not think anything of law should be based on anything to do with God.

(this of course if the bible is even still used to be "sworn in")
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Old 07-09-2002, 02:44 PM   #2
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How is swearing on the Bible primitive?

At any rate, athiests aren't the only ones who have a problem swearing to the tell the truth - some Christians (Quakers, specifically) take literally Christ's words in Matthew 5:33-37:

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

(Personally, I believe that Christ simply meant pure honestly rather than a literal abstinance from oaths - just as Matthew 5:29-30 doesn't literally mean one should cast out your own eye or cut off your arm.)

At any rate, I believe this is a non-issue (or at least, a non-issue in most courts): someone who refuses to swear on the Bible can choose to affirm to tell the truth, under the threat of perjury.


All of this brings to mind quite a few questions:

1) If not the Bible, what?

2) Why, specifically, is the oath (an oath that is voluntary and does not support a specific church or denomination) unconsitutional?


The thread on the pledge contains most of my arguments about the pledge's constitutionality, and I don't want to repeat it all here, but I will summarize my beliefs:

First, constitutionality - in cases where the meaning is not clear - must be determined according to the intent of the writers. The First Amendment is not clear on what it means by "respecting an establishment of religion," so the Founders' intent must be ascertained.

Even a cursory examination of the Founders' other documents indicate that the "Establishment clause" was really meant to prevent the creation of something like the Church of England. The inclusion of the name of God in so MANY documents indicates that the government was never meant to be strictly secular.

Thus, the pledge's "under God" clause and the oath on the Bible - BOTH voluntary - are NOT prohibited by the Constitution.
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Old 07-09-2002, 02:51 PM   #3
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I just served on jury duty a few months ago and when witnesses were sworn in for their testimony, they did not swear on a Bible ... they just raised their right hand.

I think if you had some objection to the process, they wouldn't force you to swear on a Bible.
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Old 07-09-2002, 06:19 PM   #4
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OK - thanks for clearing that up.

As far as what some of what Bubba said, I find it a bit disturbing especially:

"...The inclusion of the name of God in so MANY documents indicates that the government was never meant to be strictly secular. ..."

Yikes...
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Old 07-09-2002, 06:33 PM   #5
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Why is that disturbing?
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Old 07-09-2002, 06:44 PM   #6
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Exactly. What is so disturbing about that?

John.
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Old 07-09-2002, 06:59 PM   #7
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Unless I am reading this wrong you are saying that you find no problem with the idea that the government was never truly meant to be governmental, but had a religious side to it.

I find this to be problematic (as I find most things based on the constitution to be problematic) because the constitution and many of our laws were written at a time when men were 'different' than they are today.

Men were much more religious then than they are now, so of course the use of God would be prevalent in their documents. Now that many people are not as religious, or religious at all, there is some diconnect between what was written WAY back then and how people live their lives today.

Religion has no place in government, schools, or any other public forum unless it is a church, synogogue, mosque, temple, or any other religious house.
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Old 07-09-2002, 07:05 PM   #8
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If I swore on a bible in court, I could lie.
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Old 07-09-2002, 07:33 PM   #9
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Religion may have no place in some institutions, but moral integrity does. The oath is not merely symbolic of a person's honesty, and a pledge to that honesty, it stems from the custom and belief that an oath is essentially holding your soul in your hands, and breaking that oath would be like letting your soul go an fall into nothingness. If anything, swearing on the bible represents that importance, and though you can't vouch for ALL people, some who don't have the integrity to tell the truth and can break an oath to God willingly, most people will have qualms, I would think.

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Old 07-10-2002, 02:27 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by ouizy
Unless I am reading this wrong you are saying that you find no problem with the idea that the government was never truly meant to be governmental, but had a religious side to it.
I don't see how a government that acknowledges God is somehow not "governmental." By definition, a government is "governmental," and one MUST remember that the vast number of governments in human history - and even most today - have been influenced to some degree by religion.

The idea of a purely secular government is a VERY new idea, one that has been embraced by Communism and a handful of other states. That's about it.

Quote:
I find this to be problematic (as I find most things based on the constitution to be problematic) because the constitution and many of our laws were written at a time when men were 'different' than they are today.
It seems that you find that taking an oath on a Bible is bad, and you then find that the Constitution is bad because it allows for such an oath. Isn't that an admission that the oath IS Constitutional?

Quote:
Men were much more religious then than they are now, so of course the use of God would be prevalent in their documents. Now that many people are not as religious, or religious at all, there is some diconnect between what was written WAY back then and how people live their lives today.
I actually don't think we've strayed QUITE that far from the opinions of the Founders; the fact that so many people are outraged about the Pledge ruling gives evidence to that.

But supposing that we REALLY were that godless. Then most of us would refuse to take the oath on the Bible, problem solved. OR we could amend the Constitution to reflect the widespread change of values.

Quote:
Religion has no place in government, schools, or any other public forum unless it is a church, synogogue, mosque, temple, or any other religious house.
WHY?

If a government truly allows for religious pluralism (and it does), what does matter if it acknowledges a divine Creator?

One could argue that it offends atheists, but people are offended all the time: bigots are offended that they can't fire people on the basis of race; pacifists are offended that their country keeps a standing army; some Christians are offended that people work on Sundays. But that doesn't justify bending over backwards to please any of those groups.

Why is the case of a government recognizing God any different? Or, to put it another way, why should atheists get special treatment?
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Old 07-11-2002, 06:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by RavenStar
If I swore on a bible in court, I could lie.
hahaha indeed. so could i.
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Old 07-11-2002, 07:34 PM   #12
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<cough>PERJURY<cough>
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