This year, members that the most diverse Congress ever before opted because that over a dozen different religious and non-religious messages in your swearing-in ceremonies.

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Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), wearing a timeless Palestinian robe, take away the oath that office on thomas Jefferson's Quran, with household members existing in a swearing-in ceremony in ~ the start of the 116th congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., top top January 3rd, 2019.

(Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)


On Thursday, throughout the swearing-in ceremonies for members that the brand-new 116th Congress, one of the an ext interesting texts from the Library the Congress' archives do its second-ever illustration on the floor that the Capitol building: Thomas Jefferson's 1734 English translation of the Quran, Islam's holiest text. Rashida Tlaib, among the very first two Muslim women ever to sign up with Congress, determined to take her oath top top the historic book. As Speaker the the house Nancy Pelosi swore in Tlaib, the Democrat native Michigan placed her hand ~ above the faded covering of the founding father's Quran and also took an oath come "support and also defend the structure of the joined States versus all enemies, foreign and domestic."


For lot of U.S. History, members the Congress—as well as witnesses in court, firefighters, and also presidents—have preferred to swear on a copy of the holy bible when acquisition their oaths. However, the 116th conference is the most varied in history, and the texts used in swearing-in ceremonies on Thursday were as diverse as the new class. Jefferson's Quran joined much more than a dozen other spiritual and non-religious messages that were used by brand-new representatives and also senators come take your oaths: Ilhan Omar, a autonomous representative native Minnesota and also the other an initial Muslim woman to serve in Congress, additionally opted because that a Quran. Krysten Sinema, the brand-new Democratic senator native Arizona, opted because that a law book that included both the U.S.'s and also Arizona's constitutions (Sinema is the only human in the Senate come state the she is "religiously unaffiliated.")


Though the bible is by far the most typical object provided in swearing-in ceremonies, the Constitution renders no necessity that the Christian text—or, indeed, any type of other message or object—be used. Article VI, i 3 the the Constitution calls for that senators and representatives "be bound by Oath or Affirmation" to assistance the Constitution, however that same clause ends v the declaration that "no religious Test shall ever be compelled as a Qualification to any kind of Office or public to trust under the joined States."

Jefferson's Quran do its an initial appearance in the Capitol in 2007, once Keith Ellison the Minnesota came to be the first-ever Muslim member that Congress and chose to use the archival Quran to take his oath. Ellison's swearing-in ceremony caused serious controversy amongst many top top the Christian Right, who, in spite of the Constitution's clean language ~ above the matter, said that the holy bible was the just text that could be offered to swear the oath of office. The conservative columnist Dennis Prager wrote that Ellison's decision to usage anything other than the holy bible would "do an ext damage to the unified of America ... 보다 the terrorists the 9/11."

The heritage of making use of the holy bible in oath-taking likely comes from ninth-century England, where, without devoted governmental centers, the altar of a church regularly served as the courtroom for oaths and contracts. Gospels began to be provided in the contractual ceremonies, and, eventually, the heritage migrated into English courtrooms before crossing the Atlantic right into American legitimate ceremonies. Despite oaths room indeed spiritual in origin, the Constitution makes clear that the oath deserve to be replaced with one "Affirmation," i beg your pardon substitutes the spiritual language (the "I swear" and "So aid me God") v a secular affirmation (for example: "I affirm to tell the truth, the totality truth, and also nothing yet the truth").

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Though religious diversity amongst elected officials has highlighted the heritage in recent years, over there are plenty of historical instances of the bible being lacking from swearing-in ceremonies. President john Quincy Adams, like Sinema, swore his oath that office top top a publication of a law instead of a religious text in 1825. Once President william McKinley to be assassinated in 1901, Vice chairman Theodore Roosevelt took his oath of office without any type of oath-object whatsoever, as no holy bible could be conveniently found. In 2013, Tulsi Gabbard came to be the first Hindu member of conference and swore she oath ~ above a copy of the Bhagavad Gita.

Other public officials have opted because that a non-religious, non-traditional object: In 2014, Suzi Levine, the then-incoming ambassador come Switzerland and Liechtenstein, swore her oath of duty on a Kindle. In 2018, Mariah Parker swore in ~ above a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X when she took she oath together Athens-Clarke county commissioner in Georgia.