Roy Moore, the disgraced former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, resurfaced recently to spew more inaccurate nonsense about the U.S. Constitution.
Moore jumped into the fray after Republicans in Alabama decided to pick a fight with U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Religious extremists like Moore love to come after Omar in part because she is a Muslim. She’s a lot smarter than they are, however, and things usually end up with them being embarrassed.
Moore didn’t disappoint. His ignorance of our country’s foundational document was on full display during a recent appearance on a Huntsville radio station. Noting that the Alabama Republican Party had recently passed a resolution calling on the House of Representatives to expel Omar, Moore added that she’s not able to serve in federal office because she’s a Muslim.
“If you swear on the Quran, which does not allow religious liberty, does not support the Constitution of the United States – if you swear on the Quran, that contradicts the religious liberty given under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Moore blathered. “[The Constitution] was founded on the God of the Holy Scriptures. And we recognize historically that it was that God who gave religious freedom. That’s why you have religious freedom in our country, because that is outside of government interference, except under the Quran. So, I would say if they take an oath to the Koran – no, they should not serve in Congress.”
Do we really have to go through this again? For starters, nothing in the Constitution requires any public official to swear an oath on the Bible, nor is that document based on “the God of the Holy Scriptures.” It is a charter for secular government.
Let’s look at the relevant passage. Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution deals only with the Oath of Office to be taken by the president. It reads, “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”
Oaths for the holders of other federal offices, such as members of Congress, aren’t mentioned in the Constitution. Those oaths were dealt with by statute. As Andrew L. Seidel points out in his excellent new book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American, the very first law the U.S. Congress passed under President George Washington regulated the time and manner of administering oaths of office. The bill prescribes secular oaths, and there’s no mention of Bibles.
Although the practice of swearing oaths of office on Bibles became common in America, it’s purely a matter of custom, not something required by the Constitution. Members of Congress and those holding state and local offices have sworn on copies of the Quran, Jewish scriptures, the Constitution and other tomes. (And you don’t actually have to swear “on” anything – you can just recite the oath.)
Furthermore, the Constitution specifically states that federal office is open to everyone, no matter what their religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) may be. The language, found in Article VI, reads that elected officials “shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution” but goes on to add “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Thus, Moore’s claim that Muslims can’t serve in Congress isn’t just flat-out wrong, it’s un-American. It’s remarkable that a man who once held high judicial office would spout such tripe.
Moore claims to venerate the Constitution. Perhaps it’s time for him to do something radical – like actually read it.