miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Prompted by this article on the BBC news website and the ensuing discussion on twitter.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 14


What book would you swear your Oath on?

View Answers

On Liberty
4 (28.6%)

The European Convention on Human Rights
5 (35.7%)

A traditional religious text (Koran, Bible, etc.)
1 (7.1%)

A less Traditional religious text (Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Principia Discordia, etc.)
1 (7.1%)

Something Else which I shall detail in the comments
3 (21.4%)



I'm not sure what the rules are for courts, these days. I suspect they're a bit more stringent than parliament. I know most courts let you choose a religious text if you are going to swear by almighty God to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God, but I don't know if you get a book to hold if you're affirming, or what they do with people from polytheistic faiths... Google gives me an article about the situation in Norn Iron and a .pdf of what happens in courts martial, but nothing concrete on English law other than lots of people saying it needs reforming...

From Andrew (DW's OpenID thing is borked)

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 11:08 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Can't vote in the poll, but I'd choose the Principia Discordia. Although I would *also* have to do something like the Tony Benn thing, as a republican...

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 11:13 am (UTC)
sashajwolf: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
From: [personal profile] sashajwolf
You don't get a book if you're affirming. Hindus usually get the Bhagavad Gita. Members of other religions would usually be allowed to bring their own book. I reckon I might use the Mabinogion :-)

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 11:57 am (UTC)
antisoppist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] antisoppist
I've affirmed in front of a notary public (when clients wanted a sworn translation) and they didn't give me anything to hold. It did involve a desperate hunt round the solicitors' office for "where's the card with the words on for when people don't want to swear on a Bible, we haven't had one of those for years..."

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 11:59 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thamesynne
Hmm... the Principia Discordia is tempting, as is a book of Gnostic texts; but I think I'd have to go with the Illuminatus! trilogy. I'm still not sure I shouldn't have selected "less traditional religious text" rather than "other", though.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 08:54 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Yeah, torn between Principia Discordia, and the Schroedinger's Cat Trilogy.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 12:02 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
I would affirm rather than swearing an oath.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 12:11 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
No problem!

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 12:48 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
Ah, you get the long version of the affirmation.

"Having a religious objection to the taking of oaths, I ... do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm"

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 01:53 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
I would also affirm, but would be undecided as to whether my objection was religious or cultural :)

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 05:32 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
You can only use the long version if you're a Quaker or a Moravian; it's specifically provided for in the Quakers and Moravians Acts 1833 and 1838.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 03:22 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
I get to have convenient religious objections to all sorts :-)

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 06:28 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
Apologies, I got the phrasing wrong. The 1833 version is:

"I, name, being one of the people called Quakers, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that..."

The 1838 version, for former Quakers, is:

"I, name, having been one of the people called Quakers and entertaining conscientious objections to the taking of an oath do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm that ..."

Or you can replace "the people called Quakers" with "the United Brethren called Moravians" as appropriate.

A third form is also used, though without specific legal authority (the modern law from a 1978 requires people to use a form of words they find binding on their own conscience, so it is certainly acceptable on those terms):

"I, name, entertaining conscientious objections to the taking of an oath, do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm that ...".

This was the version that I was misremembering.

You will note that the 1833 and 1838 Acts only granted permission to recognised conscientious objectors, while the 1888 Act (the short version of the affirmation, now under a 1978 Act) grants permission to anyone to take the affirmation. Technically, the 1833 and 1838 versions are still subject to the tests under those Acts, ie you have to produce evidence that you are (or were) a Quaker or Moravian.

The provision to affirm was originally as a result of Quaker conscientious objections to the taking of oaths, and was devised specifically around the Quaker conscience, which is why we use the odd word "affirmation" rather than "promise" as would be ordinary English.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 09:16 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Ooh, I didn't know the law was the same for Moravians - my great-grandparents were Moravians.

Very interesting; thank you.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 12:35 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
Parliament is much better at this than courts, unsurprisingly, because it's full of bolshie awkward gits. I say this lovingly, as a bolshie awkward git myself.

I would, under normal circumstances, bring a copy of On Liberty to hold while I affirm (no book is provided for those affirming, but you can hold one if you like), but, under the present circumstances, the European Convention of Human Rights feels like an apposite political statement.

There are usually four Bibles (Catholic with deuterocanonical texts, Protestant without Apocrypha, New Testament only, Old Testament only), a Tanakh (don't ask me the difference between a Christian Old Testament only Bible and a Tanakh), a Qu'ran (the Qu'ran is kept in an envelope so as not to be touched by one not of the faith), a Guru Granth Sahib, a Bhagavad Gita and a Tripiṭaka. They did offer to find a Book of Mormon if someone needed one (turned out to be a joke), and I imagine a copy of Dianetics would be easy enough to get (presumably for the next MP for Mid Sussex, since that's where East Grinstead is). We've never had a Bahá'í MP, so they've never needed a Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Not sure about Jains. But, in general, you can bring your own holy book.

The form of the religious oath ("I swear by Almighty God...") is only really suitable for monotheistic faiths (Hindus "swear by Gita"), but a suitable modification can usually be negotiated - or you can just affirm anyway.

Note that under 1(3) of the Oaths Act 1978, "In the case of a person who is neither a Christian nor a Jew, the oath may be administered in any lawful manner". This relates to religious oaths - affirmations are dealt with separately under clauses 5 and 6. The substantive text (ie the things you're promising, rather than the form of the promise) can't be changed.

My own choice of words would be this:

"Recalling that the Parliament of which I am a Member makes the Law, I, Charles Richard George Gadsden, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to Law."

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 12:50 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
The controlling legislation is the Promissory Oaths Act 1868 for the content of the oath and the Oaths Act 1978 for the form of the oath/affirmation.

There's a research paper by the House of Commons library with loads of fascinating detail http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/RP00-17/RP00-17.pdf

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 05:46 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
Just to add: the law is the same for Parliament and for the courts, but Parliament does a much better job of implementing it than the courts do, because Parliament is full of bolshie awkward gits who wouldn't let them get away with nonsense like the story recounted by David Allan here

I did a case once where a young Asian woman gave evidence of a serious assault by her ex-partner. Defence counsel began his cross-examination by asking whether she was Muslim. She said yes. Counsel asked why then she had begun her evidence by making a solemn affirmation as opposed to swearing on the Koran. She became quite flustered and said she had just gone along with what had been offered to her. She offered to re-swear an oath on the Koran but the damage was done. The defendant was acquitted.

Of course, he might have been acquitted anyway, and there is nothing innately wrong with a person of any religion choosing to make a solemn affirmation instead of a religious oath. My point is that here was someone who had professed to be a Muslim but who, on the face of it, had chosen not to take an oath on her holy book. Rightly or wrongly, and doing my best to read the jury in court that morning, that seemed to carry some weight.

Personally, I’ve little doubt what had happened: the court usher had asked the witness if she objected to swearing on the Bible, she’d said she’d rather not, and he’d asked her if she was happy to solemnly affirm. She said yes, it not occuring to her to enquire whether she could swear on the Koran and that her omission so to do might be held against her in cross-examination.

Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2015 12:25 pm (UTC)
haggis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] haggis
That's horrifying.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 01:46 pm (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
a Tanakh (don't ask me the difference between a Christian Old Testament only Bible and a Tanakh),

Order of books (and the Old Testament tradition subdivides a couple of the historical books, whereas the Tanakh tradition does not).

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 01:58 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
There are several OT traditions, come to that; the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions (and the Septuagint) include a number of books that are deuterocanonical from a Jewish or Protestant perspective, and also have different subdivisions and ordering.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 05:36 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
Indeed, but the expectation is that Christians will swear on a full Bible (for which they will be presented several options) or on the New Testament alone.

My understanding is that the Christian Old Testament option is from an old bit of law which was intended for Jewish people but didn't really work very well, and the Tanakh was added as an option later but didn't replace the old clause.

Interested to see (from another comment) that religious Jewish people probably affirm in practice.
Edited Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 05:41 pm (UTC)

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 02:05 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
(though more likely the difference is that the Tanakh is in Hebrew rather than English). I'm surprised that it's used much at all given that Judaism all-but-forbids oath-swearing (technically allowed but very strongly discouraged).

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
Thanks, glad to know the difference.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 04:26 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] sassy_scot
I'd be inclined to go for the ECHR simply and to make sure that I was in front of a line that contained the worst, most right wing xenophobic Tories imaginable just to feel the collective hysteria.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 05:37 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
That's why I suggested it in the first place!

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 06:39 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
Continuing my research into this, I found a fascinating report from the Law Reform Commission of Ireland (in relation to the oaths taken by witnesses in court) which mentions that most of the 'oaths' applied to religions other than Christians and Jews are "misconceived exotics of European origin".

"it has been seen that many of the oaths developed by the courts are in fact regarded as either meaningless or blasphemous by the laws of the religions to which they are meant to apply."

In particular, it refers to the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist versions used in English courts as coming to that category, and notes that Indian courts (applying the same Common Law traditions, but presumably far more aware of the actual doctrines of those religions than a typical English court clerk) apply an affirmation to members of all those religions.

Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 07:30 pm (UTC)
haggis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] haggis
My religious background is Baptist (low church Protestant) but I would actually find it really *weird* to swear on a bible. As a church, they tend to view objects as only symbols - so they use normal bread and drink Ribena (blech) for communion wine, rather than consecrated wine because the holiness comes from the intent and the community gathering together, rather than the objects.

So I would feel sincerely promising before God (when I believed in him) would be binding but adding a bible would detract from it (by adding a meaningless symbol to the process) rather than enhancing it.

Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2015 06:52 am (UTC)
azurelunatic: The Wizards' Oath from Diane Duane's books, labeled "RTFM" (RTFM)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
If I were doing it in full reverent seriousness, probably a copy of the Wizard's Oath from the Young Wizards series (or any book in the series if the Oath were hard to find a copy of outside of that, on short notice).

If I were taking the piss, the gaudiest game manual possible to lay hands on.

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