Should We Still Use the Bible to Swear on in Court?

Rebecca Scarlett By Rebecca Scarlett, 15th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Business>Law

A discussion of whether or not the Bible should be used in court for swearing-in witnesses.

Should We be Using the Bible in Court?

Should we, as a society, swear on the Bible in court?

When North America was overwhelmingly Christian, and religion was an integral part of most citizens' lives, swearing on the Bible made sense. It insured that people were telling the truth not because they were afraid to get caught in a lie, and not because they were afraid to go to jail (after all, I'm sure many people would willingly risk a few years in jail if it saved a loved one a lifetime in prison) but because they believed they were risking the damnation of their eternal souls should they break a vow made on the Holy Book.

There are many people today, even those who profess to be Christian, who would lie after swearing on the Bible to tell the truth if it meant that it would save them jail time. Many Christians today do not believe in a literal Hell, instead believing that it to be a metaphor. Without the threat of eternal damnation, the only incentives not to lie in court for these individuals are the punishments meted out if they are caught. It is a sad truth that even people who claim to believe in God and live dedicate their lives to Him are willing to break a promise made before Him. As an example of how many Christians do not feel the need to keep their word sworn before God, just look at the divorce rate today.

Even if there were no hypocrites in our society, and we could believe that every Christian that swore on the Bible would keep his or her word, we are living in an increasingly multicultural society, comprised of people from many different religions. What is it to a Sikh, Hindu, or Muslim to swear on the Christian Holy Book? How does swearing on a Bible prevent those who are not Christian from taking the vow seriously?

It would be possible for each courtroom to have a copy of many holy books-the Bible, Qu'ran, Rig Veda, etc-but there are many religions in the world, some of which do not have books or artifacts considered holy. Also, what would the growing Atheist and Agnostic community swear upon? There are enough citizens who do not hold anything to be sacred (in the way that defiling it will bring eternal punishment) and therefore there is no incentive, in swearing upon any object, for them to tell the truth.

I would go so far as to say the number of people who swear on The Bible to tell the truth, and then lie anyway, is insulting to true Christians who respect God and The Bible enough to keep their word. Having so many empty oaths sworn on (what many believe is) the Holy Word of God is insulting to true believers, because what could defile the Bible more than when criminals hide their lies behind it? It is also disrepectful to people of all faiths who tell the truth because it is the right thing to do and because an honorable person should keep his or her word, even if there are no repercussions for breaking it.

It is clear that the concept of a completely binding vow is mostly lost on society today. There is no way to ensure that a witness is being completely honest, save gathering as much corroborating testimony as possible and making the punishments for perjury sufficiently detrimental. Since the practice of swearing on The Bible in court seems meaningless to so many, those who still believe that it should mean something should want the practice ended, to protect the Word of God from being so abused.


Bible In Court, Religion And Government, Separation Of Church And State

Meet the author

author avatar Rebecca Scarlett
Rebecca Scarlett is a professional freelance writer with over 14 years of experience. She writes articles, essays, blogs, short stories, plays, poetry, songs, novels, and does copy editing. She has been published in print and extensively online. Scar...(more)

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