After a deluge of disagreement, conservative Jewish pundit Dennis Prager eventually agreed that Muslims should not be legally barred from taking oaths on the Qur'an. Prager launched the controversy by saying U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison "should not be allowed to do so," but later said he does not support a law requiring the use of the Bible. Rep. Virgil Goode, another critic of Ellison's decision, didn't call for one either. Don Wildmon's American Family Association remains alone in calling for such legislation.

As the Ellison case quieted down, the North Carolina Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit by a Muslim woman and the ACLU challenging a 1777 state law that requires courtroom oaths on "Holy Scriptures." Lower courts have ruled that the phrase allows only for oaths on the Bible.

Meanwhile, some officials in Wisconsin are still upset about the state's new Marriage Protection Amendment and therefore also object to the state's mandatory oath, which pledges support to the state constitution. So Madison's city council allowed dissenters to make a supplemental oath resolving to work to allow same-sex marriage. The Family Research Institute of Wisconsin charged the council with defying the law and undermining democracy.

Quakers and Anabaptists, most of whom refuse to take oaths entirely, have faced similar accusations in the past. They balk at taking oaths because of their interpretation of the very book most officeholders swear on.

There are different kinds of vows and oaths in Scripture, but many passages suggest they're all dangerous. In the most troubling example, Jephthah, in exchange for a military victory, swore to sacrifice the first thing that walked out his door, and it turned out to be his daughter (Judges 11). Both he ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Tidings Columns:

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.