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Meditation 1362
Swearing on the bible

by: John Tyrrell

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I swear that the evidence that I shall give, shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Ohio, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Governor of the State of Ohio to the best of my ability.

I have never understood the need to swear on a bible. Even as a child with the teachings of the Anglican Church drummed into my head, the idea of swearing on a bible seemed silly. After all, what additional guarantees did a book provide?

When you look at the justice system where the bible is in everyday use for people to swear to tell the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, the verdict tends to reflect the thoughts of judge and/or jury on who lied the least. After all, nearly all the witnesses on both sides will have sworn on the bible. Which strongly suggest that at least one set of witnesses lied after making their solemn oaths.

So much for the value of bringing a bible into the courtroom for anyone to swear on.

And for oaths of office --- well bibles are ubiquitous. Almost no politician is prepared to take office without placing his or her hand on the holy book. Has that ever prevented an unscrupulous politician from subsequently dipping that same hand into the public purse? Or casually breaking campaign promises?

The bible adds nothing to the swearing in ceremony. Rather the bible is trivialized by the exercise.

No-one in recorded history has been struck down by a deity for failing to live up to an oath sworn on that book. Or any other holy scripture.

Occasionally someone whose veracity has been questioned will offer to swear on a stack of bibles. This is supposed to emphasize how honest they are. As if multiple books provide some kind of additional warranty. For some strange reason, if I am unsure whether someone is telling the truth or not, an offer to swear on a stack of bibles is sufficient to convince me that truth is not on the table.

If one bible does not work to make someone live up to an oath, then bringing in a figurative stack of bibles just raises a large red flag.

I say figurative stack because to my knowledge nobody has actually sworn on a literal stack of bibles – well, not until last week that is.

And then we have the new Governor of the state of Ohio, Mike DeWine. This conservative Catholic, who throughout his political career has been intent on imposing his religious beliefs upon the citizens of Ohio, took his oath of office on a stack of nine bibles. A stack which his wife dutifully held for him.

Image from DeWine's Twitter feed

Oh, he claimed to have reasons for nine bibles, but really, the whole thing looks like a staged “Look how holy I am” photo-op – reducing his supposed holy books to nothing more than props in an act of political theater. It seems pretty damn disrespectful of the book.

Does anyone really think nine bibles will make him honour his oath of office any more than a single bible would have? Or none at all?

As far as I am concerned, this very act would make me instinctively distrust him. Even more so than figuratively taking the oath on a stack of bibles.


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