- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2015

The Secular Coalition for America asked members of Congress to reject using religious texts such as the Bible or Torah to swear into office Tuesday, urging them to instead use the Constitution — or nothing at all.

“By taking the oath of office on the Constitution, senators will demonstrate their commitment to our secular government, the laws that they’re affirming to uphold, and the people they were elected to represent,” said the coalition, which bills itself as a group of atheists, agnostics and humanists who are fighting against religious influences in politics.

All members of the House and more than a third of the Senate are due to be sworn in on Tuesday, officially opening the 114th Congress.

Some will carry their own religious texts with them for their official swearing in en masse on the chamber floors, and then repair to ornate rooms off the floor where they will have ceremonial do-overs which their family and friends are invited to join.

Each chamber provides copies of religious texts that the lawmakers can hold for the ceremonial swearing-in, and the growing diversity has spawned new options. A lawmaker was sworn in on a Koran for the first time in 2007, and last year the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita was used for the first time, bringing the total to nine options for House lawmakers.

There is no requirement that a text be used, and many lawmakers will simply hold up their hand — particularly for the official swearing-in on the chamber floor. But most do choose to hold a text for the ceremonial swearing-in.

The Secular Coalition said the lawmakers take their oath to the Constitution, so it doesn’t follow that they should swear on a holy book instead.

A new Pew Research Center analysis released Monday found that 92 percent of members of Congress identify as Christian, about 57 percent are Protestant, and 31 percent are Catholic.

Only Rep. Krysten Sinema, Arizona Democrat, describes herself as religiously unaffiliated. In 2013, when she entered the House as a freshman, she didn’t hold any text on the House floor, and didn’t take part in a ceremonial swearing-in later.

Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers who did attend the ceremonial swearing-in opted for the Constitution, while others declined any text and instead just shook hands with House Speaker John A. Boehner.

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