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Still Waters

Judges bid to banish the Bible from court

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Defendants and witnesses in British courts will no longer swear on the Bible to tell the truth under controversial plans being considered by a powerful body of judges.

The traditional religious oath could be scrapped amid concerns that many giving evidence in criminal cases no longer take it seriously.

Instead, all witnesses and defendants would promise to tell the truth without mentioning God, and would acknowledge they could be jailed if they are caught lying.

http://www.dailymail...-seriously.html

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The part about how non-believers could choose to affirm instead of swearing on the bible always bothered me as I figured Christians on the jury would automatically assume I was lying as I was a Godless atheist

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Like the Bible has stopped liars anyway.

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Religious or not - it appears to me to be yet another attempt to undermine the traditional British way of life which our Lords Temporal and Spiritual all seem to despise!

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God (divinity) is not recognised in a court of Law as an entity. This means, in the eyes of our legal system, there is no force or commitment behind any oath sworn upon the bible beyond that of the person's commitment to upholding the integrity of our legal system. It makes sense to remove the requirement of swearing an oath upon the bible, then.

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Good :D

It doesn't stop people from lying. Being reaffirmed they'll face arrest if found to be lying sounds a better guilt trip.

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Last time I was sworn in I was told to raise my right hand and the bailiff said, 'Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, under penalty of law." Nothing about God or a Bible. If you don't tell the truth you go to jail. That is enough for me. If I am to swear on something it would have to be an oak branch.

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I've never been in court, but as a Christian I would refuse to swear an oath of any kind, whether on the Bible or anything else. Jesus says not to do this (Matthew 5:33-37), simply be truthful in everything you say. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.

As far as court systems go, I'm pretty sure everyone knows there are penalties for lying. The procedure of acknowledging this is just the system's way of ensuring no one can feign ignorance if they are caught. Swearing an oath isn't going to makesomeone intent on lying to tell the truth.

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^agreed and besides, the court is governed by the laws of human and their trials & justice are different systems from the bible.

Edited by crimson089

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There is no place in the courtroom for the bible. IMO it is embarrassing that it is still used in a 'modern' courtroom.

Do you swear on this book (that may hold no meaning to you whatsoever) tell the truth, maybe in fear that you may suffer the wrath of a faith you do not believe in while respecting a deity you do not believe exists?

Edited by Junior Chubb

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Do they actually do that in US courts? I thought there was separation of church and state?

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Do they actually do that in US courts? I thought there was separation of church and state?

On paper, yes, in practice, not so much. They also start every session of congress with a prayer. Doesn't seem to be helping much.
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Do they actually do that in US courts? I thought there was separation of church and state?

On paper, yes, in practice, not so much. They also start every session of congress with a prayer. Doesn't seem to be helping much.

Perhaps this is because you have not studied the nuances of said state/church separation. The wording of the creed only demands that in matters of Law, church cannot interfere with Law (and vice versa). This was a direct result of the English system from which America grew, being that the Anglican system was part of the political hierarchy in England. No Law is affected when swearing an oath on the Bible, therefore there is no issue with the Constitution. The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear on any official document I'm aware of. From memory (and don't quote me on this), the text only says something along the lines of "Congress shall make no Law that favours one religious group over another". I'm no expert, but this is my understanding.

Edited by Paranoid Android

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This was a direct result of the English system from which America grew, being that the Anglican system was part of the political hierarchy in England.

I believe that the church/state separation that we enjoy in the US is indeed a result of the English system, namely that we did not want to have the English system.

No Law is affected when swearing an oath on the Bible, therefore there is no issue with the Constitution. The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear on any official document I'm aware of. From memory (and don't quote me on this), the text only says something along the lines of "Congress shall make no Law that favours one religious group over another". I'm no expert, but this is my understanding.

One could also argue that no law is affected by having school-led prayer in public schools, but that is an issue for the US Constitution at least and forbidden. The phrase 'separation of church and state' is a shorthand way of describing the US government's approach to religion, that the govt can make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof, it was also how Jefferson described the 1st Amendment religion clauses in a letter I believe to some Baptists. The fact that the exact 'separation' phrase doesn't appear in the Constitution doesn't really mean much; it similarly doesn't contain the phrases 'right to privacy' or 'right to a fair trial', although those are also used as shorthand ways of describing the corresponding concepts.

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One could also argue that no law is affected by having school-led prayer in public schools, but that is an issue for the US Constitution at least and forbidden. The phrase 'separation of church and state' is a shorthand way of describing the US government's approach to religion, that the govt can make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof, it was also how Jefferson described the 1st Amendment religion clauses in a letter I believe to some Baptists. The fact that the exact 'separation' phrase doesn't appear in the Constitution doesn't really mean much; it similarly doesn't contain the phrases 'right to privacy' or 'right to a fair trial', although those are also used as shorthand ways of describing the corresponding concepts.

The only difference between a tradition and a law, is the different quality of belief in the authority invoked in following them.

It could be argued the US Congress' tradition of prayer is de-facto law, and I would like to see what the response would be should someone object to the daily prayer and suggest it be abolished as a tradition, but that each member of Congress may perform their preferred religious ritual in their private office before attending chamber.

My bet is that there would be great opposition to this and it would be decried as 'restricting religious practice', when in fact it is not restricting that practice at all but separating that practice from the practice of government.

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I believe that the church/state separation that we enjoy in the US is indeed a result of the English system, namely that we did not want to have the English system.

My point, exactly.
One could also argue that no law is affected by having school-led prayer in public schools, but that is an issue for the US Constitution at least and forbidden. The phrase 'separation of church and state' is a shorthand way of describing the US government's approach to religion, that the govt can make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof, it was also how Jefferson described the 1st Amendment religion clauses in a letter I believe to some Baptists. The fact that the exact 'separation' phrase doesn't appear in the Constitution doesn't really mean much; it similarly doesn't contain the phrases 'right to privacy' or 'right to a fair trial', although those are also used as shorthand ways of describing the corresponding concepts.

Not quite the same. In a school, students are forced to do the bidding of teachers. In a legal sense, this is a problem, since kids don't have the ability to opt out. This is not the same as a court system, where a person cannot be forced to swear on a Bible.

And of course note, that privateschools are not restricted from prayers. If a private school wants prayer, the government can't interfere.

In the public sector I would suggest that ths Law takes a "safety first" approach when dealing with this. Because teachers are considered people of authority, when it comes r to kids, even if prayer in school were voluntary, because of the authority granted to teachers, prayer in school would still be an issue of legal mandate. In a private systemthe Law is powerless, but in the public sector by allowing things like prayer in school it can be viewed as an endorsement of such belief. Unless a school decided to have voluntary prayer for thousands of beliefs, with students opting in and out of what suited them. Which would be an inefficient use of time and resources.

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The only difference between a tradition and a law, is the different quality of belief in the authority invoked in following them.

I agree that is a difference, but to me the pertinent difference has to do with enforcement; mere traditions are free to be ignored by anyone, laws are not.

It could be argued the US Congress' tradition of prayer is de-facto law, and I would like to see what the response would be should someone object to the daily prayer and suggest it be abolished as a tradition, but that each member of Congress may perform their preferred religious ritual in their private office before attending chamber.

My bet is that there would be great opposition to this and it would be decried as 'restricting religious practice', when in fact it is not restricting that practice at all but separating that practice from the practice of government.

Well put, and I think you're exactly right on that last part. It has been pretty clearly established that every member of Congress, every student, every teacher, every mailman can pray or indulge in any legal religious ritual they wish to on their own time (the Free Exercise clause). They are restricted when they are acting in the capacity as an agent of the government (Establishment Clause).

It's striking in the US how some Christian Congressmen's tune changes concerning pre-session prayers as soon as a Muslim or Hindu prayer is said instead; they very quickly, and sometimes hypocritically, get an appreciation for the 1st Amendment when a prayer is said that they don't like.

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Not quite the same. In a school, students are forced to do the bidding of teachers. In a legal sense, this is a problem, since kids don't have the ability to opt out. This is not the same as a court system, where a person cannot be forced to swear on a Bible.

I'm pretty sure it's been established here that even if the students are not forced to do the bidding of teachers regarding school-led prayers and can opt out, it is still illegal. There was a mild controversy recently requiring a school to take down a picture of Jesus they've had in the hallway forever and obviously no one was being required to worship or even acknowledge it. I believe the issue has more to do with what appears to be an establishment of a religion more than what students are forced to do.

In a private systemthe Law is powerless, but in the public sector by allowing things like prayer in school it can be viewed as an endorsement of such belief. Unless a school decided to have voluntary prayer for thousands of beliefs, with students opting in and out of what suited them. Which would be an inefficient use of time and resources.

Agreed, the issue is endorsement. What is sometimes lost is the fact that the school already has voluntary prayer for thousands of beliefs; students, teachers, administrators, are all free to pray pretty much anytime they want to, as long as it doesn't interfere with the functioning of the school. My opposition to it is mostly because allowing school-led prayer is bad government, but as you alluded to earlier, with respect to Christianity, I believe it is clearly bad theology also.

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I've never been in court, but as a Christian I would refuse to swear an oath of any kind, whether on the Bible or anything else. Jesus says not to do this (Matthew 5:33-37), simply be truthful in everything you say. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.

There is a precedent in the American legal system for that. An elderly Quaker was asked if he would rather swear or affirm. He replied, "I neither swear nor affirm. I tell the truth." The judge replied that that was good enough.

The swearing of an oath that one will tell the truth this time, implies that one does not tell the truth at other times. This is an insult to an honest person and does not keep the dishonest from lying under oath.

Doug

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Perhaps this is because you have not studied the nuances of said state/church separation. The wording of the creed only demands that in matters of Law, church cannot interfere with Law (and vice versa). This was a direct result of the English system from which America grew, being that the Anglican system was part of the political hierarchy in England. No Law is affected when swearing an oath on the Bible, therefore there is no issue with the Constitution. The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear on any official document I'm aware of. From memory (and don't quote me on this), the text only says something along the lines of "Congress shall make no Law that favours one religious group over another". I'm no expert, but this is my understanding.

There are two parts to the first amendment concerning religion the free exercise clause which says congress shall pass no law infringing on the free exercise of religion and the establishment clause saying congress shall pass no law establishing a state religion. Whether things like wearing oaths on a bible or praying before opening a session of congress violate the establishment clause as well as putting in God we trust on our currency depends on interpretation. I think the separation of church and state were deemed necessary by the founders to justify the revolution as George III ruled by divine right and so the revolution could be seen as heresy.

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There is a precedent in the American legal system for that. An elderly Quaker was asked if he would rather swear or affirm. He replied, "I neither swear nor affirm. I tell the truth." The judge replied that that was good enough.

The swearing of an oath that one will tell the truth this time, implies that one does not tell the truth at other times. This is an insult to an honest person and does not keep the dishonest from lying under oath.

Doug

You make a good point but I think the point of it all is that lying normally is not a crime lying under oath is

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I'm pretty sure it's been established here that even if the students are not forced to do the bidding of teachers regarding school-led prayers and can opt out, it is still illegal. There was a mild controversy recently requiring a school to take down a picture of Jesus they've had in the hallway forever and obviously no one was being required to worship or even acknowledge it. I believe the issue has more to do with what appears to be an establishment of a religion more than what students are forced to do.

Because teachers are seen as authority figures, anything they do can be viewed as authoritative. Therefore if they hold a school prayer, then even if there is an ability to opt out, the potential exists for a kid to believe that if a teacher says it then it must be true. Hence a public institution endorsing one religion as true.

Agreed, the issue is endorsement. What is sometimes lost is the fact that the school already has voluntary prayer for thousands of beliefs; students, teachers, administrators, are all free to pray pretty much anytime they want to, as long as it doesn't interfere with the functioning of the school. My opposition to it is mostly because allowing school-led prayer is bad government, but as you alluded to earlier, with respect to Christianity, I believe it is clearly bad theology also.

True. Anyone can pray whenever they like. One interesting scenario I witnessed though - my last school had a large Muslim majority (eg, on the festival of Eid, a holy day celebrating the end of Ramadan, of 400 students only 15 turned up at school, the rest were celebrating with family) and every Friday an Imam was allowed to enter the school and on the school oval led whoever wanted to join, in Friday prayer.

Entirely voluntary, and I'd say about 100 students participated every week. Where do you think this stands in terms of separation of state and church.

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Because teachers are seen as authority figures, anything they do can be viewed as authoritative. Therefore if they hold a school prayer, then even if there is an ability to opt out, the potential exists for a kid to believe that if a teacher says it then it must be true. Hence a public institution endorsing one religion as true.

I think we're in agreement then. I was thrown a little when you mentioned, "No Law is affected when swearing an oath on the Bible, therefore there is no issue with the Constitution", and I may have confused things by bringing up school prayer. Swearing on a bible is not required in court so I think that has kept it legal here. The issue with school prayer in the US doesn't rely on the position of authority between student and teacher, it is the endorsement; we don't have school prayer for essentially the same Constitutional reason we don't allow mailmen to affix a cross or crescent to the front of their mailtruck: the unconstitutionality of the appearance of government endorsement or establishment of religion. ('in my understanding, IANAL" to be appended to every statement I'm making there)

True. Anyone can pray whenever they like. One interesting scenario I witnessed though - my last school had a large Muslim majority (eg, on the festival of Eid, a holy day celebrating the end of Ramadan, of 400 students only 15 turned up at school, the rest were celebrating with family) and every Friday an Imam was allowed to enter the school and on the school oval led whoever wanted to join, in Friday prayer.

Entirely voluntary, and I'd say about 100 students participated every week. Where do you think this stands in terms of separation of state and church.

I can't say for sure how the US courts themselves would rule on this, it seems like there must have already been a case similar but I can't find it in a quick search. Assuming this is a public school, one of the key things to me is whether the Imam is there during normal instructional hours, if so I'd say not cool. We have an embarrassing school shooting problem here in the US which is one reason entry to schools is and should be restricted, thus the only way an Imam is gaining entry is with the allowance of administrators who I would think then would require a purpose for being there, which would be 'to have a prayer session' which school faculty shouldn't become entangled with. I know you're not in the US, but regardless if a school is allowing a function to take place during school hours to me there seems to be an implied endorsement of that activity.

On the other hand, students are and should be allowed a lot of religious freedom including organizing extra-curricular clubs, and praying together in non-disruptive groups even during school hours, and as long as every other club is allowed to have visitors or guests in to visit and has equal access to the school oval (I'm assuming that's a central hallway or something in the school?) then I personally don't think it's a problem.

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The school oval is the football field.

The imam turns up at roughly 1 pm, lunch is a 40-minute break, and the prayergoes for 20 minutes (legal requirements in Australia dictate that every child must have at least 20 minutes for lunch, so most schools I've taught at have a bell to signal half lunch).

And yes, it was a public school, in part of Sydney with large Muslim populations - it was a boys-only high school, down the road from a girls-only high school, andMuslims from all over the region send kids there to separate boys and girls

Edited by Paranoid Android

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The school oval is the football field.

The imam turns up at roughly 1 pm, lunch is a 40-minute break, and the prayergoes for 20 minutes (legal requirements in Australia dictate that every child must have at least 20 minutes for lunch, so most schools I've taught at have a bell to signal half lunch).

And yes, it was a public school, in part of Sydney with large Muslim populations - it was a boys-only high school, down the road from a girls-only high school, andMuslims from all over the region send kids there to separate boys and girls

I think having the prayer occur during the lunch hour helps, definitely. Again, not sure if it would fly in the US, but it might as long as school officials have nothing to do with it, including not participating in these sessions themselves.

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