You’d think in a world of problems of great importance we’d not have to pay attention to something like this but here goes. I noted a little side blurb on the CNN website regarding an opinion by… Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. (italics is from the CNN site)
My reason for reading this opinion was more a curiosity from the headline, “Presidents should not swear on a Bible”, that someone was trying to conjure up yet another barrage of the non-use of traditional religious symbolism or verbage on public documents, like money, or on public buildings. I was wrong, actually.
I strongly encourage you readers of my humble blog to read this opinion. It’s not long and contains some of those amazing historical tidbits that often get lost in in the footnotes of history. Prior to reading this I was likely one of many Americans who thought that the use of the Bible for the swearing in Inauguration ceremony was probably some grand tradition paramount to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, assigned or declared mandatory by the wise and sage signers of the Constitution, or in the least some “official” protocol from Supreme Court doctrine passed down from the God-fearing Founding Fathers, or the first Chief Justice, to assure the future President pledges his heart and soul to defending the Constitution. Well, it seems it ain’t.
Mr. Obeidallah says,
The Constitution does not require that the president take the oath of office by swearing on a Bible. That would have been a very simple requirement for the constitutional drafters to include. To the contrary, the Founders wanted to ensure that Americans of any faith — or no faith — could hold federal office.
They set it forth plainly in Article VI: “… No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.“
Interesting. Apparently Teddy Roosevelt and John Quincy Adams did not swear upon a Bible. In fact, Mr. Obeidallah presents,
Adams, the son of President John Adams, was a religious man. But he chose to be sworn in with his hand on a book of U.S. laws. He wanted to demonstrate that he recognized a barrier between church and state and that his loyalty was to our nation’s laws above all else.
So, that now begs the question… why does President Obama need to swear on two Bibles? Does he feel he wants to double-swear, as if that somehow puts more importance on his swearing? (If so, he probably should have double-sworn the first time around because now we will forever wonder how serious he really was the first term.)
On the other hand, we know that a God-fearing President-elect is doing the “right” thing by swearing to that one authority greater than the Constitution. (Well, ok… if you believe in that sort of thing.) I’m not sure by today’s religious conservative standards that President John Q. would have gotten away with the hand-on-the-book-of-laws thing… but it was a noble idea, nonetheless.
But… I dunno that using both Bibles.. one owned by Martin Luther King, and the other by President Lincoln, is really necessary. I mean, is the message that not only is the Prez double-swearing on two Bibles, he’s also suggesting that he’s swearing on the “memories” of King and Lincoln? That’s a lot of swearing. You think he’s trying to tell us something? (Oh dear. You think it’s a sign from that secret Masonic organization he’s a member of that wants to de-stabilize the economy at the expense of the middle class, and put chemicals in our water supply to make us all subserviant??)
Now, I understand maybe using a Bible once owned by a member of the clergy. After all, maybe some “holiness” got absorbed into the binding or something. But Lincoln’s Bible? The man was a lot of things to a lot of people (and arguably the most respected president in our history) but if anything he has always been depicted as a kind of “common man” who achieved a level of greatness allegedly with his country wisdom and religious faith… at a time that our country matured violently. I suppose there’s something politically inspiring touching anything owned by Mr. Lincoln.. but not sure swearing on it is significant.
Yet Truman, Eisenhower, and Nixon back in 1969 all swore on two Bibles (apparently double-swearing didn’t help Nixon much). It seems the Bible that Washington used is still available and you’d think that would be the book to use like forever. But what do I know.
Of course there’s a second swearing in ceremony.. a private one (Why?). For that one President Obama will use the family Bible. Ok… I guess. Whatever works. (But judging from the terms of some past presidents, it doesn’t seem to matter how many Bibles they use.)