Reminds me of the dustup over my former representative, Keith Ellison, who chose to be sworn into office with his hand resting on a Koran. It was hugely and stupidly controversial at the time, but Ellison handled it deftly: It’s hard to go on shrieking about what would our Christian Founding Fathers think when your evil Muslim political opponent is standing there calmly holding Jefferson’s own copy of the Koran. Jefferson was an Enlightenment-minded deist who would no doubt be absolutely horrified at the contemporary American political right. Not that it matters: It’s like Sinclair Lewis said, fascism will come to America wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.
When I did service, I was offered a choice of oaths: the usual one, sworn on the New Testament, is:
I swear by Almighty God that I will faithfully try the defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence
but they have a selection of holy books at hand, and versions for whatever religious tradition you prefer; ‘I swear by Allah…’ or ‘I swear by Waheguru…’ or ‘I, being one of the people called Quakers, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that…’
I went for the affirmation:
I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will faithfully try the defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence.
… and I couldn’t help feeling that it would make life easier for them if they just used that as the general purpose oath for everyone. I guess religious people aren’t to be trusted unless they fear that God might strike them down.
No, really, I do think this array of oaths is rather admirable as the bureaucratic expression of a tolerant society. It’s just a bit unnecessarily complicated.
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