Should Keith Ellison have to swear his oath of office on a Bible?

posted at 12:23 pm on November 29, 2006 by Allahpundit

Prager makes the case and Volokh dismantles it. He gets off a cute line, too:

A Senate website reports that Presidents Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover (a Quaker) didn’t swear at all, but rather affirmed. If a Bible was present (the site is silent on that), it wouldn’t have been used as a swearing device. Nixon, also a Quaker, did swear, apparently on two Bibles. This didn’t seem to help.

Long story short: if the oath is a way of impressing upon the swearer the seriousness of his duties then it’s stupid to have him swear on a book he doesn’t regard with the utmost seriousness. If the oath is a way of demanding allegiance to America’s Judeo-Christian heritage then it’s a violation of the Constitution’s “religious test” clause. As for this point from Prager:

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” the Nazis’ bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison’s right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

You know what the answer to that is? Don’t elect Nazis. If the day should come where we’re seating Congressmen who’d want to break out Mein Kampf for their swearings-in, their choice of literature will be the least of our worries. I understand the complaints about Ellison and the worries about terrorism and multiculturalism, but when people as prominent as Newt Gingrich are calling for a rethink of the First Amendment, it’s worrisome. Let’s not go thug here.

And now, having said that, I join Rick Moran as he invites the shrieking, Greenwaldian NSA-wiretapping doomsayer brigades of America to “bite me.”

“We found there was a great appreciation inside government, both at the political and career levels, for protections on privacy and civil liberties,” said Raul, author of a book of privacy and civil liberties. “In fact, I think the public may have an underappreciation for the degree of seriousness the government is giving these protections.”

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In case anyone cares, a partial transcript of Gingrich’s speech is available at

Newt needs a new transcriber. The misspellings in that transcript are disturbingly bad and frequent. It became impossible to focus on the content and context while continuously running over errors. Better to listen to the audio.

Niko, Pablo asked a question, “Would you be alright with XXX”. Instead of answering the question, you say “XXX can’t happen”. He asks you for some sort of evidence that it can’t happen. You were the first to offer an argument, he only a question. You never answered either the question or the request for evidence supporting your argument. Now, when presented evidence against your position by VerbumSap, you say:

…used the Torah rather as props to illustrate their Jewish heritage rathern than belief.


Specious, disingenuous, stupid all at once. You’re an idiot. Members of the Federal Government HAVE sworn on the Torah, or Hebrew Bible, just as you said they never would. You’ve been shown that it is so, that you were wrong, and still you go on. Back up an argument with more than your suppositions, or else shut up.

Freelancer on November 29, 2006 at 5:07 PM

The Oath of office is an oath to the Constitution

Exactly. So why isn’t it the Constitution that our public officials are swearing on?

token on November 29, 2006 at 5:10 PM

Exactly. So why isn’t it the Constitution that our public officials are swearing on?

The honest answer goes hand-in-glove with the final four words of the oath, WHICH ARE NOT OPTIONAL, “So help me God”.

If you are taking an oath, and sealing it with those four words, then it is symbolically appropo to do so with a hand on His word. This is not 1789, you say, it is 2006. But the men who founded this nation, who crafted this Constitution, and who understood that not governments, but a Creator, hold freedoms and providence in His hands, believed it was the right thing to do.

Freelancer on November 29, 2006 at 5:36 PM

The Oath of office is an oath to the Constitution
Exactly. So why isn’t it the Constitution that our public officials are swearing on?

token on November 29, 2006 at 5:10 PM

Finally… someone gets it. Thank you Token!

The Oath is to the Constitution. The Swearing part is to God. Swearing on the Bible during the Oath is Swearing to God that one will uphold the Constitution. Think through the logic on this.

The Constitution says that it’s power is derived from the people. The Bible says that any principality of power derives such power only from God.

So swearing on the Bible when taking the Oath of office, what exactly are we swearing to?

Lawrence on November 29, 2006 at 5:36 PM

Let me add to that, the founders never presumed that the Constitution would be an immutable document. They put in place the procedures for its adjustment through time. So swearing to uphold the Constitution by swearing ON the Constitution would have seemed inadequate to them, whereas swearing ON the immutable Bible made more sense.

Freelancer on November 29, 2006 at 5:39 PM


The Constitution does not say that its power is derived from the people. The Declaration of Independence says:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government…

A nation of free people has a government which receives its power from the people. The Constitution is the foundation of all law in the land. But to prevent confusion, go to the line of the Declaration before that quoted above:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, they are are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The founders understood that rights were merely delineated by the Constitution and laws, that they are given by God. Any law which would defeat a right granted to free people by God is an unjust law, and that is the point of the following paragraph, the first cited above.

Freelancer on November 29, 2006 at 5:51 PM

Back up an argument with more than your suppositions, or else shut up.

Freelancer, I believe we might have disagreed before, but in this instance you are precisely right, and I thank you for not holding your virtual tongue.

Pablo on November 29, 2006 at 6:02 PM

Exactly. So why isn’t it the Constitution that our public officials are swearing on?

That’s a fabulous idea. I love it.

Pablo on November 29, 2006 at 6:03 PM

Point of information in the Pablo vs. Niko discussion: the Torah is in the Bible!
to wit, the first 5 books of the Old Testament=Pentateuch.


The Koran ban still stands, though.

In your mind, or in the Constitution?

I’m not a fan of Islam, kids. I’m a rabid Constitutionalist.

Pablo on November 29, 2006 at 6:05 PM

Scratch that Mel Gibson analogy. I rather say you frisched yourself.

Niko, as a friend of both Israel and Jeff Goldstein, I ought to c*ckslap you.

Pablo on November 29, 2006 at 6:07 PM

Here’s my comment at my post (last item):

I think it’s fair to ask the fundamental question and to get a definitive answer as to whether the religion Ellison puports to follow demands execution of any members who leave it, OR the killing and/or subjugation of infidels, OR the institution of sharia law. IF Ellison really believes in any one of those three things himself, elected or not, he cannot honestly take any oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States, because each of the three beliefs noted are clearly contrary to the Constitution’s rule-of-law framework. IF Ellison’s religion unequivocally believes in any one of those three things, then it is not a religion that can have an oath taken on it to support the Constitution of the US, because the religion itself does not.

If these points of mine are correct, the easy cop-out way out is going to be to have people take an oath without dragging a book into it, and avoiding the *uncomfortable* points I just raised, even though it will allow people who WILL NOT follow the Constitution into office.

Tom Blumer on November 29, 2006 at 6:12 PM

Thank you as well, VerbumSap, for documenting the utterly impossible.

Amazing, ain’t it?

Pablo on November 29, 2006 at 6:14 PM

There is nothing to compel anyone to swear on a Bible. It’s not in the Constitution. There are no laws requiring it. So…

Seixon on November 29, 2006 at 6:19 PM

Freelancer, you’re right the transcription is horrid, but the audio apparently requires IE to play (activeX, grrr).

VerbumSap on November 29, 2006 at 6:21 PM

I swear Muslims, as Muslims, want to dominate the world.

The al Qur’an told me so.

I affirm to oppose it.

How can one (Ellison) believe in a theocratic Islamic state as the ideal, and then pretend to defend the infidel Constitution?

It’s a patent fraud.

A class-action suit against Ellison’s “divinely” divided loyalties would clear up this problem.

Let’s get it out now, while it’s larval:

Is the Koran – or is it not– a working playbook for global domination by an intolerant religious minority?

When I hear these words spoken before the Supreme Court, I’ll regain some hope.

profitsbeard on November 29, 2006 at 7:23 PM


Don’t thank me to proudly, you held up your end of an extremely sophomoric exchange. Not impressive. Make the arguments, apply the logic. Don’t get pulled into a verbal dirt-clod fight. I was frankly surprised that AP didn’t grab you both by the ears and drag you to time-out.

Freelancer on November 29, 2006 at 8:50 PM

Must side with the freedom OF religion, not the FROM crowd on this one.BUT………..

I just want to ask which Infidel a-hole will be holding the Koran and will they use a fresh one, or the one from the lady’s head at GITMO.

seejanemom on November 29, 2006 at 10:14 PM

If only it was so easy to make a man honest by swearing on a bible…
Let him use a Betty Crocker cookbook, he will do whatever he wants when he wants, and he will be defended.

right2bright on November 29, 2006 at 10:44 PM

Now you tell us not to vote for Nazis.
frankj on November 29, 2006 at 12:48 PM

Yep, just like the MSM holding good news on the economy, Allahpundit held this until after the election.

Crafty Media-person…

gekkobear on November 30, 2006 at 1:18 AM

Swearing in is a problem, especially when the very book that many have sworn on, the Bible, includes guidelines which prohibit swearing.

Swearing in on a Q’ran is even MORE trouble.

Islam is a theo-political religion. They believe in a theocracy which has a system of law which goes with it.

Ellison’s loyalties will NOT be with the citizens of his state or of the United States of America. His loyalties will be with Islam, the Q’ran, Sharia law, and associated concepts. He cannot be a practicing Muslim and NOT follow those teachings.

The cat is already out of the bag; the horse has already left the stable. It is too late. The voters have already elected Ellison. They also already elected the creepiest people to office. They will do as bad or worse in the future.

Not much we can do about it. Our own fellow citizens have some kind of brain disease, plus most candidates require millions of dollars in backing in order to run for office, be it the Senate, House, or the Presidency.


William2006 on November 30, 2006 at 3:56 AM

Rachel Ray could use the Joy of Cooking for all I care.

Hmm… can I take my oath by swearing on Rachel Ray?

“Place your right hand on Rachel Ray and repeat after me: ‘I do solemnly swear…'”

“Now, now, let’s not rush it.”

Mark Jaquith on November 30, 2006 at 4:50 AM

Don’t thank me to proudly, you held up your end of an extremely sophomoric exchange. Not impressive. Make the arguments, apply the logic.

It’s a magnificently uncomplicated point, Freelancer, and any damned fool can see it without much need for directions. I highly dislike dishonesty, and tend to swat at it as in niko’s case. Liar don’t deserve reasoned discussion, and doesn’t work with them anyway. Furthermore, I take extreme umbrage at being labeled an anti-semite and will not ever react politely to such. You approval or lack thereof is irrelevant.

And the facts are the facts.

Pablo on November 30, 2006 at 5:10 AM

[…] the immutable Bible […]

Yes. The immutable Bible. Written by King James (in English of course — God’s language). Edited by Martin Luther 500 years ago (“This Bible has been formatted to fit your particular flavor of Christianity. It also may have been edited for length and content.”)

Mark Jaquith on December 1, 2006 at 1:39 AM