Posted: 18 Oct 2013 09:05 PM PDT
Magistrates are to debate whether to do away with the swearing of oaths on the Bible and other holy books in courts in England and Wales. Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, said: "This could be the slippery slope towards the increasing secularisation of society. Where will it end – with the Coronation Oath? The Bible is bound up with the constitution, institutions and history of this country," he told the Bristol Post.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Queries have been raised over whether the Bible is a necessity when asking people to being honest in court.
Magistrates are to debate whether to do away with the swearing of oaths on the Bible and other holy books in courts in England and Wales.
The move would see the end of the familiar sentence: "I swear by Almighty God, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
Instead there would be a statement in which people would promise "very sincerely" to tell the truth.
Experts will discuss whether the current oath and affirmation are "fit for purpose" during the Magistrates' Association annual conference in Cardiff today.
Witnesses currently have the option of swearing an oath on a Bible or other holy book, or making a non-religious affirmation before a judge.
Other faiths can take the oath on their own holy books, for example, Muslims on the Koran and Jews on the Old Testament.
But now the Magistrates' Association is to debate whether the holy books hold any moral force in modern society.
The plan has been put forward by a Bristol magistrate, Ian Abrahams, who argues people are no more likely to tell the truth by using the Bible.
He believes what is needed is a greater sense of how seriously lying in court is treated, the BBC reported.
He told the Daily Mail: "More and more I see people shrug their shoulders or say 'whatever' when asked to take it.
"Instead, people will have to show they understand they could be sent to prison if they don't tell the truth," he said.
But critics point out non-believers already have the option of promising to tell the truth without any reference to a sacred text, and that the change would further erode Britain's Christian heritage.
Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, said: "This could be the slippery slope towards the increasing secularisation of society.
"Where will it end – with the Coronation Oath? The Bible is bound up with the constitution, institutions and history of this country," he told the Bristol Post.
"It is right for people to have a choice of oath, a religious or non-religious one.
"But we are being urged, in the name of tolerance and secularisation, to restrict that choice."
The practice is so old that it is not clear whether it is simply custom or if the move to alter it would require a change in the law. -- The Huffington Post UK, 19 October 2013
"Please raise your left hand and place your right hand on the Bible ……… Do you swear by Almighty God, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"
"Before I do that can I first ask the court a question?"
"Yes, of course you can."
"You want me to swear by Almighty God, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, am I right?"
"Yes, that is correct."
"Do you mean you want me to tell the truth based on evidence or do you want me to tell the truth based on the unproven?"
"Of course the truth has to be based on evidence. If it is unproven then that would mean there would be no evidence to support whatever you say."
"Right. That is what I am driving at. There is no evidence of the existence of an Almighty God or that the Bible is the word of God. It is merely a belief based on faith. Hence if I raise my left hand and place my right hand on the Bible and swear by Almighty God, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, would that be considered an act based on evidence or an act based on the unproven? Would that, therefore, be the truth or the untruth?"
"We have not come to your evidence yet. We are just swearing you in first. Then we will listen to your testimony after that."
"Yes, but if my oath is not based on the truth and then I swear an oath to tell the truth how can you be sure that I am telling the truth?"
"What do you mean your oath is not based on the truth? Do you intend to lie?"
"No, I do not intend to lie. I intend to tell the truth. But you are asking me to swear an oath in the name of an Almighty God that you cannot prove to me actually exists and on a Bible that is supposed to be the word of God but which you cannot also prove to me is really the word of God. Hence there is a doubt as to the existence of God or that the Bible is God's word. So can this then bind me and convince you that what I am about to say is the truth if the source of my oath is in doubt?"
"You are making this very complicated. This is just a formality that everyone who is about to testify in court has to go through. It does not really matter whether God does exist or not or whether the Bible is really the word of God. You need to swear an oath in the name of God and on the Bible."
"But why is this the formality and who started this?"
"I don't know who started this! It all happened so long ago that no one can remember who started it. It is just something we do before you are asked to testify."
"If I swear an oath in the name of God and on the Bible would that mean you will believe beyond any shadow of doubt what I am about to say?"
"No. We will still need to see whether any other witnesses contradict you and whether what you are about to say can be proven or not."
"So you are saying that even if I swear an oath in the name of God and on the Bible there would still be a possibility that I will lie?"
"So what is the purpose of this oath if you will still not accept my testimony as the 100% truth? That means even if I swear an oath my testimony will still be in doubt just as if I never swore an oath."
"Just because you swear an oath in the name of God and on the Bible that does not mean you may not be lying. So we still cannot consider your testimony as the 100% truth because you could still be lying."
"So my oath will mean nothing in the end then."
"That is correct."
"So can I then just give the court my testimony without swearing an oath?"
"No you cannot! You must first swear an oath in the name of God and on the Bible before you give the court your testimony."
"Even if my oath does not strengthen my testimony or makes my testimony more believable?"
"That is correct."
"And you do not know why I must do this and when this all started and who started it in the first place?"
"That is correct."
"Okay, and tell me Mr Zakaria, do you believe that the Bible is God's word?"
"Look Mr Waheed, it does not matter whether I believe that the Bible is God's word or not. This is my job and for more than 20 years as the clerk in the Birmingham Magistrates' Court no one has so far questioned this practice of taking this oath in the name of God and on the Bible. It is just a practice that we have had for more than 1,000 years. So please swear by Almighty fucking God, to tell the fucking truth, the whole fucking truth, and nothing but the fucking truth?"
SEE VIDEO ON YOUTUBE HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FIhpVUrhx4
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