Swearing on a Bible

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DJ Droood
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Swearing on a Bible

Post by DJ Droood » 12 Jul 2013, 02:27

I had my first interaction with the court system of my country today, acting as a witness in a trial. When I was called up to the stand, I was presented with a Bible to swear on. This possibility had entered my mind...but as almost all of my court "knowledge" comes from American crime dramas, I was not sure if we still used a Bible to swear on. It seems an anachronism, like having a hanging tree on the front lawn of the courthouse, and I figured there must have been a constitutional challenge at some point...but no, the court is very traditional, apparently, with their robes and bowing, and the clerk proffered the Good Book to me, but with a question..."Will you swear on the Bible?" Now, I was already a bit nervous, first time and all, and I didn't have a backup plan...he might have asked me what I preferred....I could have said "Nothing...I give my word to tell the truth, what more do you need?", but I was in no mood for point-making or grandstanding...I just wanted to get on with it....so I put my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth.

There are many ways I rationalized this, after the fact...it is just paper...I was swearing on a tree....the magic ritual of swearing on a Bible was for them, not me...the end result would be the same.....if I was a Christian, I think I would find it *more* offensive to use my holy book that way...I could swear on a phone book and it wouldn't diminish (or enhance) my willingness to tell the truth.....But really, I just took the quick and easy way out and bowed before the established order.

How have other druids resolved this, or how would you?
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Art » 12 Jul 2013, 07:47

My feeling is that you are overthinking the issue. You went to court, said you would tell the truth, presumably did tell the truth, and went on about your business. If there was no particular relevance in a bible being there in your own mind, its presence was less than relevant. You could have simply said that you chose to affirm rather than swear but that too would serve no purpose. My thought therefore is that it is a non-issue so move on to bigger and better things to cogitate over.
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Explorer » 12 Jul 2013, 08:19

DJ Droood wrote:I had my first interaction with the court system of my country today, acting as a witness in a trial. When I was called up to the stand, I was presented with a Bible to swear on. This possibility had entered my mind...but as almost all of my court "knowledge" comes from American crime dramas, I was not sure if we still used a Bible to swear on. It seems an anachronism, like having a hanging tree on the front lawn of the courthouse, and I figured there must have been a constitutional challenge at some point...but no, the court is very traditional, apparently, with their robes and bowing, and the clerk proffered the Good Book to me, but with a question..."Will you swear on the Bible?" Now, I was already a bit nervous, first time and all, and I didn't have a backup plan...he might have asked me what I preferred....I could have said "Nothing...I give my word to tell the truth, what more do you need?", but I was in no mood for point-making or grandstanding...I just wanted to get on with it....so I put my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth.

There are many ways I rationalized this, after the fact...it is just paper...I was swearing on a tree....the magic ritual of swearing on a Bible was for them, not me...the end result would be the same.....if I was a Christian, I think I would find it *more* offensive to use my holy book that way...I could swear on a phone book and it wouldn't diminish (or enhance) my willingness to tell the truth.....But really, I just took the quick and easy way out and bowed before the established order.

How have other druids resolved this, or how would you?
I am just as meek and easy going as you are, but I would never swear on a bible.
I am religiously very tolerant, everybody should freely believe what they want, but when I would be "urged" to line up my own ethics about truth with christian doctrine then that would hit quite a sensitive spot with me. I am afraid that I wouldn't be able to hide my deeply felt disgust with that religion. I could never do it.

But overhere that is not as awkward as in your case where you do not have an alternative. When our last government was installed there were a number of ministers who refused to swear on the bible also, and the alternative was simply to say 'I promise that... blabla'.

I would try to be respectful and friendly, and simply say with a smile "I am sorry, I cannot swear on the bible, I am not a christian", and then leave it up to them to solve the problem. No, I would never ever do that.

It has nothing to do with being a druid btw. I fought religious wars with my (former) inlaws from the moment I met them when I was 18. When we married, I did the unspeakable thing of refusing to marry in a church. The bride's father told us on that happy day that it was no happy day for them. And the tears of my bride then became my viewing glass of that religion.
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Mountainheart » 12 Jul 2013, 08:26

It's ironic when Jesus told his followers not to swear oaths: Matt 5:33-35

I wouldn't beat yourself up: if the Bible is correct we have a lot more to worry about than swearing on it!

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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by DJ Droood » 12 Jul 2013, 11:39

Not really beating myself up over it...it is just an areas where religion...specifically Christianity...thrusts itself forcefully into our lives, in a way where we have to face it one way or an another. IN 99% of our lives, we can ignore religion or participate as we see fit and follow our own path, but sometimes we are reminded of how deeply entrenched that one religion still is. Perhaps i am over-thinking it, but it reminded me that I am part of a bigger metaphysical system, like it or not.

Speaking of metaphysical systems, as I type this, I am listening to news about a court challenge from immigrants who are forced to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth when they become citizens, something natural born citizens don't have to do, unless they are elected to national office. (I guess the rest of us are just born loyal and obedient)....we really do live inside a machine.
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Explorer » 12 Jul 2013, 12:20

DJ Droood wrote:Not really beating myself up over it...it is just an areas where religion...specifically Christianity...thrusts itself forcefully into our lives, in a way where we have to face it one way or an another. IN 99% of our lives, we can ignore religion or participate as we see fit and follow our own path, but sometimes we are reminded of how deeply entrenched that one religion still is. Perhaps i am over-thinking it, but it reminded me that I am part of a bigger metaphysical system, like it or not.
I agree with you.
Practically speaking it doesn't seem a big deal, but I think it is important to be aware of this.
Too much disturbing stuff seems 'normal' in our society, simply because of this thick choking blanket of christianity that we all take for granted.
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Mountainheart » 12 Jul 2013, 13:28

DJ Droood wrote:Not really beating myself up over it...it is just an areas where religion...specifically Christianity...thrusts itself forcefully into our lives, in a way where we have to face it one way or an another. IN 99% of our lives, we can ignore religion or participate as we see fit and follow our own path, but sometimes we are reminded of how deeply entrenched that one religion still is. Perhaps i am over-thinking it, but it reminded me that I am part of a bigger metaphysical system, like it or not.

Speaking of metaphysical systems, as I type this, I am listening to news about a court challenge from immigrants who are forced to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth when they become citizens, something natural born citizens don't have to do, unless they are elected to national office. (I guess the rest of us are just born loyal and obedient)....we really do live inside a machine.
As a republican (in the British sense, definitely not the US sense...) there are various jobs denied to me because I will not swear allegiance to the Queen: so although I am a natural born citizen my freedom is still restricted. Thinking about the court oath I would have more problems with the words ("I swear by Almighty God") than I would do with the action (swearing on the bible). Luckily the UK provides alternative words for non-theists: "I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Dathi » 12 Jul 2013, 20:31

It's been some time since I had regular dealings with courts, but in most jurisdictions there is an option of making an affirmation, something along the lines of

“ I, Joe Bloggs, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I am aware that if I knowingly give false evidence I may be prosecuted for perjury.”

There is an interesting review of this topic from a 1990 Irish law Reform Commission report. parts are quite entertaining.
http://www.lawreform.ie/_fileupload/Reports/rOaths.htm

The report examines the history of oath-taking and reviews several historical positions. It notes that the Canadian LRC saw oath options as an invasion of privacy, notes that some imposed oaths were invalid or inappropriate and has this cracking bit of analysis:
A final difficulty which arises relates to the improbable spectacle of persons desiring to be sworn in a manner which is neither contrary to the common law nor impracticable, but which is either so ludicrous in the eyes of ordinary people as to bring the whole procedure into disrepute, or which is so scandalous as to stretch the bounds of freedom of worship. Subject always to an inquiry as to the genuiness of the belief, it has been pointed put in this connection that there would appear to be no bar on a Satanist invoking the Devil or on a member of an obscure sect which worships goldfish from taking an oath which he claims to be binding while holding a goldfish in his hand.
I see that 18 US states had an affirmation option. Don't know what the current state or distribution of this arrangement is.

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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by DJ Droood » 13 Jul 2013, 00:48

Dathi wrote:It's been some time since I had regular dealings with courts, but in most jurisdictions there is an option of making an affirmation, something along the lines of

“ I, Joe Bloggs, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I am aware that if I knowingly give false evidence I may be prosecuted for perjury.”
Dathi[/quote]

I'm pretty sure we have options too, although the the Bible was the *default* option....
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Aoife » 01 Sep 2013, 16:21

I've always found it hypocritical that Christianity appears in the judicial system considering the US has no official religion, though clearly the culture has been influenced by it. Stuff like swearing on the bible or the 10 commandments statue outside that courthouse is something I disagree with though. It's gotten away with when technically it shouldn't be, not if the country is going to uphold what it preaches. lolpun. I don't think very many Americans mind though since 78% of the population considers themselves to be Christian. I kinda think those numbers are massaged quite a bit though. I think a bunch of people believe in something and due to culture think it's a Christian God, even if they themselves aren't a practicing Christian. This is what I've seen in my own life, anyway. I hardly have a statistic for that.

I suppose in the removal of things such as the bible and the 10 commandments statue there would be more supporters of keeping it than protesters on the matter.

If one refuses to swear on the bible I wonder what else would be sacred enough to swear on...and what about atheists? I wonder if they keep sacred texts of other religions handy for people who aren't Christians...I kinda doubt it. I know there was a controversy of Muslims wanting to swear on the Koran awhile back. It's that sort of ignorant sh*t that gets people protesting the influence of Christianity on the judicial system.

The judicial system is influenced by a single religion more than it has any right to be; a recent example is that there was this news story a little while ago where the courts forced this woman to change the name of her child from Messiah, claiming that Jesus was the only one who deserves that title/name. Never mind that he's not the messiah to a great many people and certain cultures, such as Spanish/Latin cultures, find nothing wrong with naming their children Jesus (hey-soose)

I can't think of anything universally sacred enough to swear on though. Maybe your life? Either way, it doesn't keep people from lying, it's only supposed to psychologically influence you into telling the truth.
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Oleane » 09 Oct 2013, 15:48

The bible told people not to swear upon anything since their life of other's are not theirs.

Sounds you took it more seriously that any christians would do (devot christians would pick out the verse where they could say they can't do it out of their faith of the bible).
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by DJ Droood » 09 Oct 2013, 20:30

Oleane wrote:The bible told people not to swear upon anything since their life of other's are not theirs.

Sounds you took it more seriously that any christians would do (devot christians would pick out the verse where they could say they can't do it out of their faith of the bible).
Well, I certainly took the legal process seriously...I was just a bit flummoxed by the arcane nature of the swearing in....I have since learned that there is a wide range of religious-type symbols I could have used, or simply "affirmed" that I would tell the truth, without the use of magical supplies...I go again in November....maybe I'll try the "affirm" thing and see how it works.
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Qpmomma3 » 03 Nov 2013, 15:07

As a Druid-Christian, I find it very offensive that they swear on Bibles. Jesus told us not to swear by anything and to let your no mean no and your yes mean yes. It would be hard for me to do, being a Christian!

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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by J1Star » 17 Nov 2013, 13:47

I can see there are a lot of interesting opinions and I completely sympathise with any non- Christian that has been asked to do it. It makes me wonder whether the court does indeed require the same oath from people who are clearly Muslim, etc...
What I would like to know is if you are, legally, allowed to refuse to swear on the bible and, if so, what are the conditions following this event.

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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Whitemane » 17 Nov 2013, 14:22

In British courts, you may swear by your religious affiliation without limitation.
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by DJ Droood » 17 Nov 2013, 14:24

Whitemane wrote:In British courts, you may swear by your religious affiliation without limitation.
What if you have no religious affiliation?

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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Whitemane » 17 Nov 2013, 14:35

DJ Droood wrote:
Whitemane wrote:In British courts, you may swear by your religious affiliation without limitation.
What if you have no religious affiliation?
You can affirm.
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by HematiteScales » 18 Dec 2013, 05:16

Sorry for digging up an old conversation!

I just joined the forum and happened to see this. As I had my first court experience this summer myself (called for jury duty), I figured I'd go ahead and offer my experience, especially since thus far all I had known had come from crime dramas as well!

The jury pool has to swear to uphold the law and all that good business prior to being selected for a case. When I walked in to wait for orientation, I had noticed the abundance of bibles (and only bibles) about the room, so it seemed likely that was going to be brought up at some point. :anx: The official in charge of us was a very kind woman, and she made sure to say that if you did not want to swear on the bible that she would swear you separately. I'm not sure how many people were like you and just went along with it to avoid unwanted attention, but I decided to be 'that person' - for once because why not. I was the only one who didn't swear with the others and came up (to the front of the room filled with around 50 people no less!) afterwards to be individually done. This was completely secular and just required me to repeat her words with the religious bits removed. I got a few looks, but there wasn't any trouble. The group I was paired with for trial never hassled me either, so I agree that you may be over-thinking it. I completely understand the concern, especially since you were put on the spot during the trial itself, but sometimes people can surprise you. :)

The court just wants to know that you will be honest/fair/etc after all!
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by DJ Droood » 18 Dec 2013, 08:20

HematiteScales wrote:I completely understand the concern, especially since you were put on the spot during the trial itself, but sometimes people can surprise you. :)

The court just wants to know that you will be honest/fair/etc after all!
I agree...I think part of it was I was there in a professional capacity and as it was my first trial experience, I was focused on doing what in had to do corrrectly....
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Re: Swearing on a Bible

Post by Duellist » 24 Dec 2013, 22:51

To be fair, I think the remark that resonates most with me was that the act of placing a hand on the Bible was not for the sake of the person swearing, but the others (who do believe) in the room. Obviously, I second the sentiment that invoking a deity I do not follow would be a step too far, but half of us have experience of just going along with Christianity for the sake of making people feel more at ease.
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