We Don’t Need to Require Public Officials to Take Their Oaths of Office on the Constitution September 6, 2015

We Don’t Need to Require Public Officials to Take Their Oaths of Office on the Constitution

Several of you have sent me this petition at WhiteHouse.gov that says we should require all public officials to be sworn in on the Constitution instead of a religious text.

Presumably this would prevent someone like Kim Davis from pushing her religious beliefs onto others when she’s supposed to be working for the government.

I’m not a fan of these kinds of petitions to begin with, but this one seems especially useless to me.

First of all, when an elected official takes an oath of office, there’s an implied belief that they will uphold the Constitution. They’re not pledging allegiance to the Bible; they’re swearing allegiance to the Constitution on the Bible. Just like, when you’re in a court of law, most people swear on a Bible to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They’re making a promise to God that they’ll be honest, not that they’ll put Jesus above the law. (Atheists don’t have to use a Bible in that situation because it wouldn’t make any sense.)

When someone like Kim Davis puts her religion above the law, it’s not because she took the oath of office with her hand on the Bible. It’s because she doesn’t understand (or give a damn about) the law to begin with.

Taking the oath would work equally well with anything else you hold sacred. When U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MI) became the first Muslim member of Congress in 2007, he took his oath on Thomas Jefferson‘s copy of the Qur’an. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) took her oath in 2013 on a copy of the Constitution. Someone else could easily place a hand on a picture of their children and it’d be equally valid.

And just think about the Christian Persecution rhetoric you’d hear from the Religious Right if, suddenly, the Bible was removed as an option for a swearing-in ceremony. There are only a handful of times when the Bible can be mixed with government and we don’t need to raise a fuss about it. Taking the oath of office is one of them. We remove that, and you’ll hear the whining for years to come.

Kim Davis was going to break the law regardless of what document she used during her oath of office.

Right now, the petition has 8,883 signatures. It needs 100,000 by October 3 to get an official response from the White House. I promise you they’re not going to say anything different.

(Image via Shutterstock)


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