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...

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.

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