Sworn Into Office — with Dr. Seuss

The Bible or a Dr. Seuss book? Taking the oath of office is just as legitimate using either.

Swearing to God – is up to you

In American politics, taking the oath on the Bible, or any religious text, is customary — but not required. St. Louis County Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway was sworn in on the Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go! in August 2019. There is no law in Missouri that requires council members be sworn in on a Bible. Historically, Dunaway isn’t alone in not being sworn in on a religious text.

In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt had to take the oath in a hurry after President William McKinley’s assassination. As he had no Bible around, he was sworn without one. In 2014, U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Suzi LeVine took the oath on an Amazon Kindle — and she swore on the Constitution rather than on the Bible. But even the American Constitution states that no religious texts are required as a qualification to any office. “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious text shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Source: Article VI, Clause 3 - U.S. Constitution.

Oaths of office can be taken on a Hebrew Bible, or on a Quran, as Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota demonstrated in 2007 when he used one once owned by Thomas Jefferson to be sworn in as the first Muslim member of Congress. Mr. Ellison, or anyone else, could have also used a comic book, a lesser Shakespeare play or nothing at all. This issue comes up every now and then. Some people are convinced that Bibles must be used.