General Question

717richboy's avatar

Is swearing on the Bible mandatory, or can we opt out?

Asked by 717richboy (234points) February 18th, 2012

You know, like, when you go to court or something of the sort.

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15 Answers

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

In Canada one can choose to “affirm” rather than to swear on a Bible

filmfann's avatar

When I have testified (twice, in California), I wasn’t even asked if I wanted to swear on a Bible. They just told me to tell the truth.
I was glad they did. That kind of thing is pretty heavy.

poisonedantidote's avatar

In some cases you can certainly opt out, but be careful, there may be Christians in the Jury, opt out and they will almost certainly be convinced you are guilty.

RareDenver's avatar

When I lived in the USA I didn’t swear allegiance to the flag every morning at school as everyone else did as I wasn’t a US citizen, I’m sure it’s the same in a court of law. I mean would you expect a Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim etc. to swear on the Bible?

john65pennington's avatar

Poison is correct. Refusing to place your hand on the Bible and swearing to tell the truth can discredit you as a witness.

RareDenver's avatar

Sorry, “pledge allegiance”, it was a long time ago in my defence

JLeslie's avatar

I am pretty sure most states in the US, if not all, either allow you to opt out, or have done away with swearing on the bible altogether for witnesses in court and you just swear to tell the truth.

JLeslie's avatar

I found this that discusses Supreme Court findings on such matters.

SuperMouse's avatar

When I testified in court about a year ago I was asked to swear I would tell the truth, but not on a Bible.

ETpro's avatar

As @JLeslie points out, in the USA you can affirm rather than swear. Swearing on the Bible or in any other Christian context is rather foolish, since the Bible specifically says not to do so. Matt 5:33–36 quotes Jesus as saying, “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Nor should you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

So by swearing on the Bible, we are proving we either don’t know what’s in it, or don’t give a damn. In either case, we are proving our oath is meaningless.

zenvelo's avatar

In California, you aren’t given the opportunity to swear on anything, so no one is put in a position of a jury being prejudiced.

auhsojsa's avatar

From what I remember, swearing is bad as in, swearing the lords name in vain. But making a promise to God underoath, to settle a suit under law is fine.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

You can swear on a Bible or other religious book, or you can simply raise your hand and swear to be honest in your testimony. You are then “under oath” and if you lie it is perjury.

cazzie's avatar

The only time I was asked to do this was in New Zealand, for my divorce. It was crazy. We walked in together, laughing and joking. (we were having a good day and not talking about any of the ‘unforgiven’ stuff.) and when they brought out the bible after we filled in the paper work I got the giggles really bad. The whole process had been such a stupid exercise, (we weren’t using lawyers for the civil stuff, but brought them in for divorcing our ‘business interests’) and I said, out loud, ‘They still do this? oh, why not.’ The court employee saw I wasn’t impressed, and she said it wasn’t mandatory. I asked ‘B’ what he preferred so we both put our hands on the bible.

I mean, seriously, signing legal documents that attest to the truth behind a divorce in front of court witnesses seems a pretty big deal anyway.

Community_watchdog's avatar

If you were to “opt out” you could be sending a message to some of the jurors that what you’re saying is not the truth, which could affect the outcome of the case.

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