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Q: Hand on bible before testifying in court ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Hand on bible before testifying in court
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: tparlin-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 01 Apr 2005 06:50 PST
Expires: 01 May 2005 07:50 PDT
Question ID: 503591
Is it a requirement in court that one must physically put his/her hand
on the bible to be sworn in to testify?
Subject: Re: Hand on bible before testifying in court
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 01 Apr 2005 08:09 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear tparlin-ga;

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question.

Physically placing one?s hand on a Bible and swearing an oath in court
are not required. The religious convictions of some people prevent
them from doing so. A person will however be required to publicly
affirm his solemn agreement to tell the truth if he objects to
swearing an oath. Such an affirmation does not involve or require the
use of a Bible.

?AFFIRM: to make a solemn declaration under the penalties of perjury
in place of swearing an oath to which one conscientiously objects?

I have been in law enforcement professionally for more than 20 years
and though in every case I have seen people routinely required to
raise their right hand, I have never seen a Bible actually used in
court ? not even once. This may still be a practice in some
jurisdictions (or on television and the movies) but where I am from it
is considered an archaic and politically incorrect practice. If a
person chooses to affirm rather than swear, there is normally no
hesitation on the part of the court to honor that personal choice.

I hope you find that my research exceeds your expectations. If you
have any questions about my research please post a clarification
request prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating
and your final comments and I look forward to working with you again
in the near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher


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Request for Answer Clarification by tparlin-ga on 01 Apr 2005 08:36 PST
Hi tutuzdad-ga,

Thank you for getting back to me, I would like to request a
clarification. I am actually looking for an answer to this question
that can address most (all if possible) courts in the United States.
As you mentioned in your answer, it might be different in other
jurisdictions from where you live. I would like (if it's possible) to
know what the _national_ practice is concerning this issue.



Clarification of Answer by tutuzdad-ga on 01 Apr 2005 09:20 PST
The use of a Bible is at the discretion of the Judge presiding over
the court. There are thousands of courts across the United States and
there is no accurate (or possible) way to poll them all.

There are a number of examples though that show such a "swearing in"
is not requires. Theodore Roosevelt, for example, chose not to use a
Bible when he took the oath after President William McKinley's 1901
assassination. Franklin Pierce refused a Bible and affirmed but did
not swear on a Bible in 1853.

Courts televised today - from the People's Coourt to more serious
trials such as the Simpson Trial, Bibles are not used or even offered
by the Bailiff during the swearing-in process.

In a statement on this web site a person indicates that Bibles are no
longer used in most Tennesee courts for example, nor is the reference
to God commonly used.

Another statemenet indicates the same for the state of Georgia:

"There is a common misperception that needs to be corrected. People
testifying in court do NOT swear on a Bible to "tell the truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God." That
perception is fueIed by TV and movies. There is no Bible and no
mention of God when being sworn in. I know this as I have recently
testified in cases in the Dekalb County Magistrate Court as well as
the the State of Georgia Superior Court"
cached document

These are common statements:

"Once witnesses in trials were required to swear on a Bible to be
truthful, "so help me God," but that is no longer necessary."

"...the president is not even required to swear on a bible to hold office."

"...nobody is ever required to swear (on a bible or not) in a US court
of law; such a requirement would be unconstitutional anyway."

San Diego att'y explains why city settled with ACLU

Does that make the presentation of the case better?

tparlin-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Thank you tutuzdad-ga for answering my question. It would appear from
your answer that most courts (with possible minor exceptions) no
longer swear on the bible.

Thank you!

Subject: Re: Hand on bible before testifying in court
From: graft-ga on 01 Apr 2005 08:24 PST
A Texas flag should be allowed as a substitute for the Bible.
Subject: Re: Hand on bible before testifying in court
From: answerfinder-ga on 01 Apr 2005 08:37 PST
In the UK will still do it the old-fashioned way. From my own
experience I can say this is what we do: The court usher will ask if
you wish to swear on the Bible, or affirm (if you are not religious),
or wish to swear on any other holy book. In my case, I would take the
Bible in my right hand and read the words from a card which most often
read "I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be
the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". There are
slightly different versions depending on the type of court hearing.

You can see the oaths and more information on this advice site.

Subject: Re: Hand on bible before testifying in court
From: kemlo-ga on 01 Apr 2005 10:59 PST
In the UK several years ago at the start of a trial the judge noticed
that half the jury (SIX) had taken the oath holding the bible in there
left hands. He stopped the swearing in. Explained to the jury why it
was so very important to do it correctly, then had them all sworn in
again using the right hand to hold the bible.
Subject: Re: Hand on bible before testifying in court
From: anonoboy-ga on 01 Apr 2005 16:13 PST
Tutuzdad, you're a lucky person.  974 questions and all of them "interesting".

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