Sinema Swears Oath on Constitution

Sinema Swears Oath on Constitution January 14, 2013

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who refuses to call herself an atheist but says she wants a purely secular government and listed her religious preference as “none” on House paperwork, did what every elected official should do: Swore her oath of office on the Constitution instead of the Bible.

This week, as members of the 113th Congress were sworn in, Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D – Ariz.) drew attention as she placed her hand over a copy of the United States Constitution, instead of the Holy Bible. The last time this change of pace occurred was in 2007 when Keith Ellison (D – Minn.) requested to be sworn in using the Quran.

Unfortunately, the author of the article above, Stephanie Northwood, doesn’t have much of a grasp of either history or religion. While she praises Sinema for this, she repeats this nonsense?

Although the Bible is traditionally used in swearing in ceremonies, does it really make sense? Our nation was founded on Christian values, but we are a secular state.

That first sentence is a meaningless platitude. Which “Christian values” was this country founded on? Nowhere in the Bible is there any support for political or religious liberty, or for democracy for that matter. The Christian right in the days of the Constitution railed against its adoption, calling it a godless document that would bring down the wrath of God because it did not pay homage to him and forbid religious tests for office.

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  • matty1

    Correct me if I’m wrong here but I was told Representative don’t actually do the swearing in on a book thing. They recite an oath of office in unison on the floor of the house and then some (all?) of them release to the press pictures of themselves mimicking the President’s swearing in ceremony, usually with a Bible but as you point out Keith Ellison chose to use the Quran, an old copy once owned by Thomas Jefferson if I remember rightly.

  • evilDoug

    Why is it considered necessary to swear “on” anything? Is it to make sure both hands are visible so the swearee can’t cross their fingers behind their back? Has the bible, the quran or the constitution ever struck down anyone who failed to uphold their oath? Wasn’t it actually a swat with a rolled up newspaper that did in Tricky Dick?

  • Now she’s done it. This is going to make Bible-monster so angry that he’s going to send a tornado to strike somewhere in tornado alley, probably in the deep South, due to the actions of this woman from Arizona.

  • Cuttlefish

    Does Northwood have an opinion about Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), who was sworn in, this session, with the Bhagavad Gita?

  • eric

    @1 and @2 – IMO it doesn’t matter if it’s a symbolic gesture or a legally required one. Either way she bucked pro-Christian tradition.

  • neonsequitur

    These rituals really are meaningless. If anyone ever asks me to swear on a bible, I really should have my copy of the Principia Discordia with me, so I can claim to be a Discordian and demand to use “my own book” instead.

  • Alverant

    Just for once I’d like those people who say “Our nation was founded on Christian values” would give a listing of these values instead of assuming it’s some historical fact.

  • Michael Heath

    All other things being equal, I’m going to trust someone to defend a state or federal Constitution more if they swear on oath on that Constitution rather than the Bible or any other religious book.

  • trucreep

    #1 Matty,

    You are correct. The actual “swearing in” is done in unison on the floor. The pictures you see of reps swearing on a document (usually the Bible) is purely ceremonial and has no actual legal recognition.

  • About half the members of Congress absolutely believe their oath is to uphold the Babble, even if (or especially if) it contradicts the Constitution. But I’m not sure if any fundies will have a problem with swearing on the Constitution. After all, didn’t Jeebus personally dictate it to Jefferson just as David Barton said?

  • slc1

    As I stated on a previous thread, a Congresscritter could swear on a copy of the, “On the Origin of Species,” or the Principia if he/she so desired.

  • busterggi

    If she didn’t ‘pinky swear’ then she didn’t swear at all.

  • Synfandel

    I find the whole swearing thing pointless, whether on something or not on something. If you have a flexible enough sense of morality that you will do something that you know is wrong or illegal or contrary to the responsibilities of your office, how is having sworn an oath going to make any difference? You’ll just break it.

  • vmanis1

    In Canada, one may swear or affirm an oath. If you choose to swear the oath, you do so on any book (or I assume anything else) you consider normative. Swearing on such an item is intended only to demonstrate that the person being sworn considers the oath binding by whatever criteria they may choose. Obviously, places where oaths are sworn tend to have a Christian Bible handy, but one can bring one’s own book (though I do not know how judges or others might if one chose to swear on a Men of the Pleasanville Fire Department calendar).

    Affirmation does not invoke a higher power, but has the same legal force.

    This seems a good system to me. b

  • vmanis1

    (Ignore the stray `b’ at the end of my previous comment, my fingers got heavy as I went to post.)

  • regexp

    Although the Bible is traditionally used in swearing in ceremonies

    Isn’t even this part also fundamentally wrong? Swearing in on the bible is a relatively new thing in the history of the US is it not? You would be hard pressed to find a lot of examples prior to last century.

  • Nentuaby


    It’s precisely the same way in the US, legally speaking. In less public matters it actually runs that way in practice, too. However, for anything done in the public eye the social pressure to swear on a holy text is extreme. About the only socially acceptable reason to affirm is, ironically, due to one’s religious strictures. (E.G. if one belongs to one of the heavy-duty Christian sects that thinks swearing an oath for secular reasons is taking the lord’s name in vain.)

  • dan4

    Why does “House paperwork” ask one’s religious preference in the first place? What does that have to do with anything?

  • bad Jim

    John Quincy Adams used a law book when he took the presidential oath.

  • Crudely Wrott

    Would not affirming an oath on one’s own word, one’s own integrity and honesty be ever so much more desirable?

    After all, any violation of said oath would be a clear demonstration that the person so swearing is in fact lacking in personal integrity and not trustworthy thereby making them unfit for further confidence.

    The fact that such affirmations are rare is telling, I think.

  • StevoR, fallible human being

    Well done Kyrsten Sinema. Good to hear / read.

  • eric


    I find the whole swearing thing pointless, whether on something or not on something.

    Well, in most western societies telling lies can be perfectly legal – in most circumstances. Its only in limited circumstances that it isn’t. So it is socially useful to have some mechanism to tell everyone involved “okay, starting here and now, for this person, lying is illegal.’ That mechanism could be a signed document or anything else, but a ‘swearing-in’ is a quick and obvious way to do that.

    Of course the above applies much more to courts and witnesses than it does to congresscritters. As far as I can tell, its a meaningless gesture in politics because it doesn’t carry with it any liability for breaking the terms of the oath.

  • azportsider

    Kyrsten Sinema’s my Rep, and I couldn’t be happier. Before she hit the national big time, she was my state Senator, and she’s always busted her butt for her constituents.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne


    The only Constitutionally-required oath in the U.S. is for the presidency, and it is worded this way:

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

    So we have the affirmation option here too, at least on paper.

  • eamick

    Why does “House paperwork” ask one’s religious preference in the first place? What does that have to do with anything?

    It’s probably for the benefit of the Chaplain’s office.

  • coffeehound

    Meh. All I remember about Sinema locally is her refusal to help on local issues like the recall of Russell Pearce and SB 1070, only to be the first to appear in front of the cameras within hours of critical decisions as though her participation was key to the movement. Not to say she hasn’t done some good, but I would not be suprised to see her become the next annoying blue dog vote from Arizona, and I think we had better choices for that seat. . I honestly hope I’m wrong.