In the news this month there has been a lot of coverage of the swearing in of the new office holders in the House of Representatives. Facebook is awash with links to articles from one end of the political spectrum to the other. Fake tweets and uninformed or biased opinions are put forth and there is a lot of intentional confusion about the subject of religious qualifications for office holders.
It is really quite clear and straight from Article 6, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
One of the things that is seen a lot is whether an office holder is required to take the oath of office with their hand on a Bible. This is not a requirement and from my research is not even done in the House of Representatives as they are all standing while being sworn in together. Some may hold or carry a Bible or other scripture, but it is not required.
Since there is no religious Test that is required then someone of any religion or even an atheist is qualified for office.
One of the things being talked about is whether a Muslim congress person can take the oath using the Quran. This is not a new debate as in 2007 Keith Ellison a Representative from Minnesota was sworn in while holding a copy of the Quran that was owned by Thomas Jefferson.
Here is my logic. When we use the Bible to take an oath we do this as we believe that the Bible is sacred scripture. This lends credence to the oath that we are taking.
A Muslim should take an oath using their sacred scripture which is the Quran. Christians may not believe that the Quran is sacred scripture, but a Muslim does. How effective is an oath for someone if they take it with a scripture that they do not believe in?
This also extends even to different Christian religious groups. John F. Kennedy used a Catholic version of the Bible when he was sworn in as President and Lyndon B. Johnson used a Catholic missal even though he was Protestant as it was the only religious book available.
I thought about what Bible I would use if I was taking an oath of office. I have quite a few Bibles that have belonged to my ancestors, but I think that the one shown in this picture would be the one I would choose.
The Bible shown here belonged to my 4th Great Grandfather Thomas Cochran who was born in 1785 in Pennsylvania and died in 1857 in Monroe County, Ohio. There is an interesting story as to how I ended up with the Bible. Someday I will have to write about it.
Now back to the subject in the news.
To me it really comes down to this. If someone is taking an oath of office it needs to be with something that they believe in. I would actually be more concerned if a Muslim took an oath using the Bible.
p.s. I own each of the volumes pictured in this post.