Barbara Walters Takes Issue With Biblical Oaths Over ‘Separation of Church and State’

Walters ssOn a recent broadcast of The View, former ABC news anchor Barbara Walters took issue with the practice of taking an oath on the Bible, asserting that it violates the separation of church and state.

During Thursday’s broadcast, Walters and others discussed a new campaign advertisement by Arkansas Senatorial candidate Mark Pryor, who states that the Bible is his “compass” and “North Star.”

“I’m not ashamed to say that I believe in God, and I believe in His word,” Pryor, a Democrat, declares in the television commercial. “It gives me comfort and guidance to do what’s best for Arkansas.”

“I think it’s really unfortunate when you have to bring religion into politics,” commented panelist and actor Jane Seymour, after viewing the advertisement. “I think religion is a very personal thing.”

Walters then chimed in.

“That is very true, but it starts almost with the oath of office, which usually ends with ‘So help me God,’” she said. “Now, most presidents swear on a Bible before taking office, even though we have the separation between church and state. You see it again and again. You don’t have to use a Bible.”

Walters began reading from her notes on presidents who chose not to take their oath on the Bible.

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“Teddy Roosevelt didn’t,” she contended. “John Quincy Adams swore on a law book and Lyndon Johnson took the oath on a book he thought was the Bible. We don’t know what the book was.”

“The basic tenet in America is the separation,” Walters asserted. “It’s very important—the separation between church and state.”

While some like Walters believe that the separation of church and state is a concept that requires government officials to keep silent on religion, others believe that it rather prevents the government from interfering with the practices of the Church.

The American idea of separation of church and state originates from Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State,” Jefferson wrote.

The concept is now often used to decry public religious practices by civil officials, or instances of perceived government endorsement of religion.


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  • Robert Rodriguez

    Walters maintains that seperation of church and state is a “basic tenet.” It never was a basic tenet. It came from a letter Jefferson wrote, as well as the view of the other founding fathers of the young nation that we were not to have an official state church such as England and their official state church, the church of England.

    • Mary Waterton

      Exactly. “Separation of church and state” is a phrase nowhere found in the Constitution. It was a gimmick created by the courts circa the 1950’s to allow the Government the right to meddle in Church business while disallowing the reverse.

      Today preachers in the United States are being prosecuted under “hate speech” laws for simply preaching the gospel (ex: Pastor Scott Lively). Today churches are being sued when they refuse to allow “homosexual marriage” ceremonies on their property (ex: Ocean Grove Methodist Church v. New Jersey, 2012).

      • Doug Indeap

        Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution, much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the first place, the Supreme Court has thoughtfully, authoritatively, and repeatedly decided as much; it is long since established law. In the second place, the Court is right. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) according that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were grounded in some appeal to god(s)), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

        That the words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, to some who mistakenly supposed they were there and, upon learning of their error, fancy they’ve solved a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphorical phrase commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

  • deaconsbench

    Libs use what’s convenient and available to push their godless beliefs. The 2nd Amendment is outdated when arguing for gun control, yet an unofficial Thomas Jefferson letter somehow becomes a national tenet.

  • Doug Indeap

    The Constitution separates government and religion (and I much support that), but that does not mean that public officers cannot be sworn into office using the Bible. Indeed, the Constitution specifically addresses that very point. Article VI, section 3, provides that all executive and judicial officers of the U.S. and states shall be bound “by oath or affirmation” to support the Constitution. An “oath” is commonly understood to entail swearing on some religious text or principle; an “affirmation” is the equivalent minus the religious aspect. The same section of the Constitution further provides: “but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

  • Gideon Dut Dan

    Am utterly ashamed, surprised and terrified that American whose founding fathers were Christians is not just gradually drifting from the Truth but rapidly drifting away from God and that is a scary place to be in. For any Nation in the world to turn her back spitefully against God in the name of political practices so called ‘separation’. And just because sounds good doesn’t make it good. Remember ‘Righteous exalt a nation but sin is a REPROACH to Every People’ proverbs. No wonder Nations that re terrify to hear the name America no longer are, you know why? Reproach! Nobody listen to America anymore that much. Lord Have Mercy!

    • Steven

      Well said.

  • Sir Tainly

    I’ll take my oaths on the Bible….thankyouverymuch. Even though the Gospels themselves say some startling things about oaths to God.

    I don’t mind a bit if a person chooses to take the oath with a Koran, a law book, or even some Buddhist Tome either.

    Prolly should not use a Calvin and Hobbes book….or even Jeff Foxworthy however…… 😀

  • Deborah

    The founding father’s families, recently escaped a Country, in which religious zealots caused centuries of war and persecution. Known as the Puritans, these zealots were exhiled to the New World, along with other undesireables. I believe the Fathers were trying to protect the new democracy from becoming another theocracy;trying to prevent things like the Salem Witch trials. We still fight those battles today, when some people try to force their religious beliefs on the entire country by using the government to enact “moral” laws. A free society does not force religious, moral, laws on those who do not share those beliefs. Yes, there is the freedom to practice religion and the government is not to interfere, unless there is human sacrifice; or other practices harmful to human beings. But, there is also freedom from religion, with each individual having the right not to believe in any religion, and still having equal rights and protection under the law.