On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence (who, as VP, swears in members of the U.S. Senate) swore in Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). While the senator took the traditional oath to uphold the Constitution, she did not swear on a Bible, but on a law book.
Many of the incoming members of Congress took their oath on books other than the Bible, and Sinema is one of the few religiously unaffiliated national lawmakers. She is likely atheist or agnostic, perhaps “apatheist” — someone who does not care whether God exists or not. She swore on the Constitution when she first entered Congress in 2013.
New members were sworn in on a variety of religious texts.
Times have changed at the Capitol: Some of the holy books for new member’s swearing ins, including a Quran, Buddhist Sutra and Hindu Vera (and two Constitutions for the atheists) pic.twitter.com/KES1JKnqP9
— Matt Laslo (@MattLaslo) January 3, 2019
Incoming Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) was sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Quran. Since this Quran is an English translation, it is not considered legitimate by most Muslims. Even so, this historical gesture made a point.
While it is traditional to take the oath of office on a Bible, it makes sense for non-Christians to swear on a document they consider religiously binding. The difficulty is, the Bible presents a uniquely humble and honest morality, and swearing on it arguably makes more sense than swearing on almost any other text, religious or irreligious.
The Pew Research Center claimed that Christians are “overrepresented” in Congress. While only 71 percent of Americans identify as Christian, 88.2 percent of Congress does. Only 0.2 percent of Congress is “unaffiliated,” while 23 percent of Americans said they are not connected to a particular church or religious body. Following this line of thinking, Pew would have to argue that Jews are overrepresented, since only 2 percent of Americans identify as Jewish, but 6.4 percent of Congress does.
Congress is not meant to represent the religions of Americans, but rather their political will (and the Senate is meant to represent the will of the states). Atheists and non-religious Americans will celebrate Sinema swearing on a law book, even while many Christians look askance at it.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.