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.”