Do judges use bibles to swear people in, or is it just an old-fashioned practice that no one pays attention to anymore?
Do they even have bibles in courtrooms these days?
1. The history of swearing on the bible in court proceedings
Swearing on the Bible is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years.
As early as 1697, people were swearing oaths and testimonies upon the Good Book in courtrooms across America; however, it wasn’t until 1832 when Congress decided to make this practice standard for all federal court proceedings.
In fact, according to Senate Judiciary Committee records from 2007: “An Act Regulating Proceedings in Certain Cases was passed by Congress on March 23, 1807 (later incorporated into Section 2071 of Title 28).
This act mandated that any person giving testimony before either House or any committee thereof had to swear an oath ‘by Almighty God’. Thereafter many state courts also adopted similar procedures.”
For most states today though–and especially in family court–judges no longer use bibles when someone’s oath is being taken; rather, they use a standard form that asks the person to raise their right hand and swear under penalty of perjury to tell the truth.
2. Why people swear on the bible during court proceedings
When you think about it, swearing upon the bible in court is a bit odd. The oath doesn’t have any special significance: rather, it’s a tradition that people were taught in order to make their testimony feel more consequential.
Swearing an oath upon something sacred is intended as a way of preventing lies: if you know the person will face divine consequences for perjury, then they’re less likely (theoretically) to commit it!
3. Do they even have bibles in courtrooms these days?
In the past, there were many bibles in courtrooms. However, these days they are a lot less common. Do they still exist? Yes!
Do you need to bring your own bible into the courtroom when giving testimony? No.
In fact, if you’re taking an oath in court, there’s a good chance that no bible will be present at all–you might have to raise your right hand and swear under penalty of perjury with nothing but the judge in front of you.
There might be some very old court buildings that still have a bible or two lying around–but for the most part, no.
4. Is there any other religious text that can be sworn upon for legal purposes?
Do they use some other religious text? No, there are no other options available in courtrooms today!
In fact, if a person tries to swear on something else (e.g., the Quran), then it counts as perjury and can land them with major penalties.
Swearing an oath upon the bible is very common–but not mandatory!–in family courts across America these days; however, you shouldn’t expect to find any bibles lying around when you’re taking your oath…or even be given one for that matter!
And don’t worry: even though judges ask people to raise their right hand instead of placing their left hand on a bible, it still counts as an oath–so you won’t be perjuring yourself if you slip up.