March 15, 2006
|Best. Quote. Ever.||Quotes Rights, Law|
Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You didn't place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.
— Jamie Raskin, testifying Wednesday, March 1, 2006 before the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in response to a question from Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs about whether marriage discrimination against gay people is required by "God's Law."
That quote's so good I just may have to get it as a tattoo.
Ok, a t-shirt.
Read Raskin's full statement here.
While Raskin's barb is amusing and well-taken, it exposes an even deeper fault-line in the supposed wall between church and state in this country. Why do we continue to permit and encourage witnesses (along with government officials, both appointed and elected) to swear an oath on the Bible? What kind of wall is it that affirms the most important instrument of our democracy by reference to the most important instrument of the religious majority of this country?
As an atheist the witness oath is of particular concern to me. Were I ever to take the witness stand, I would, of course, choose a non-secular affirmation rather than one of the religious "so help me God" variety. But I would worry very seriously, especially if I were in the unfortunate role of testifying defendant, that my failure to swear an oath to God would prejudice my testimony in the eyes of some jury members. These days our law is supposed to be blind to the religious beliefs of those that come before it. Which begs the question of why we allow, as their first act to the court, witnesses to either affirm not only that they will speak truthfully but also that they subscribe to a fundamentally religious point of view?
Posted by: Tim Kanwar at March 17, 2006 05:16 PM