Your favorite Peasant had an interesting political conversation
with an old friend and fellow political activist last week, and he
shared with me a stunning idea that would make it less
discomfiting for some elected candidates for public office to
take the oath of office and thereby be sworn in, officially beginning
their terms and duties of the offices that they were elected to.
I'm referring to candidates who, because they are not of the
Christian nor the Jewish faiths, would find it awkward to swear
theoath of office on a Bible. Perhaps some Jewish candidates
would be uncomfortable with taking the oath on the Bible as well.
My fellow political enthusiast, John-Mark Pawlowski, who is active
in political circles in Saint Paul (where I used to live before
returning to the Milwaukee area nine years ago), mentioned his
idea as an alternative which would have served U.S. Rep. Keith
Ellison (D-MN) well when he first won election to the House of
representatives a few years ago, and in his subsequent reelection.
Ellison, a Muslim, took the oath of office on a copy of the Koran,
Isalm's holy book. This caused some controversy in that some
people thought that Ellison would not somehow be well and truly
sworn in and set to being his congressional duties; after all,
everyone else who ever was elected to either chamber of
Congress, let alone all other political offices, regardless of
religious faith or lack thereof have sworn the oath on the Bible.
But, my friend states, for Ellison to have sworn the oath on the
Bible would have had as much meaning for him as swearing on
a Marvel comic book. I agree wholeheartedly.
So John-Mark proposes this: every elected candidate to public
office, from dogcatcher in the smallest podunk in the country up
to the Presidency, swear the oath of office which requires the
elected candidate to uphold the Constitution on the Constitution.
Think of this for a moment. All candidates would be able to stay
true to their beliefs, religious or otherwise, while still officially
starting their duties in the offices which they were elected to.
In the case of state and local elected officials, they could swear
the oath on the state constitution of the state that they live in.
All that matters, it seems to John-Mark and myself, is that the
elected candidates promise to uphold the law which is rooted
in the state constitutions and the national one, and be held to
their promises; what does it matter how or whether they worship?
And this is not necessarily a sop to seperation of church and state
zealots. All it is is a simple means of ensuring that each elected
candidate be responsible, by his or her word, for adhering to
constitutional requirements regarding making and upholding
the law while also making the ceremony of taking the oath of
office more comfortable and meaningful for those candidates
of faiths which do not act by biblical instruction. And I
would add to this idea, which is simplicity itself, that
candidates of either the Christian or Jewish faith could
still swear their oaths on the Bible if they so choose.
This way there would be freedom of choice in the matter
as to who or what elected government officials swear their
oaths of office upon, and that they will be duly sworn in
and immediately held to the promise made to adhere to
constitutional principles in executing their duties. And
when all is said and done, that certain promise and
the keeping of it is what really counts.
In closing, wouldn't it be better, and wiser, to have an
elected official swear the oath of office in a manner
not inconsistent with the religious beliefs of said offical,
rather than have the official be inserted into a needlessly
awkward and contradictory position, and forced therefore
to live a lie? Politicians lie enough on their own as it is,
let's not require that a politician lie right off the bat in
order to assume the duties of office!