WASHINGTON — An atheist organization is seeking to dissuade new members of Congress from taking their oath on the Bible when they are sworn into office today.
“On January 6, Congress will take the ceremonial oath of office, during which each member will solemnly swear, or affirm, that he or she will ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ While members are not required to swear or affirm on a specific text, or any at all, many choose to swear on the Bible,” the Secular Coalition of America recently outlined to supporters.
“This year, the Secular Coalition will seek to remind Congress that it was elected to support and defend the Constitution, not the Bible or any other religious text,” it continued. “We will be circulating letters on the Hill and lobbying in person to get as many members of Congress as we can to take the oath on the Constitution.”
It is not known whether any of the recipients of the letter will actually heed the group’s request.
As previously reported, in 2012, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) did the same prior to the inauguration of Barack Obama, also requesting that he eliminate the phrase “So help me God” from his oath as well.
“When you stand to reaffirm your oath, do so using the language of the Founders. Eliminate the religious verbiage,” wrote FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel. “While you’re at it, why not place your hand on the Constitution instead of a Bible?”
According to historical information, America’s first president, George Washington, took the oath of office on the Bible. While it is disputed as to whether or not he used the phrase “so help me God” in his oath, his presidential address often made reference to the Divine Creator.
“[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States,” he said.
“In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either,” Washington continued. “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.”
According to a recent study, 57 percent of Congress professes to be Christian and 31 percent identifies as Catholic. Although the entirety of Congress takes their official oath together on the House floor with no religious materials involved, many choose to have an additional private ceremony where they recreate being sworn into office, largely for photo-op purposes.