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Biden’s Bible puts him in line with inaugural tradition

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Biden plans to make use of the identical household Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice chairman and 7 instances as senator from Delaware.

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take their oaths of workplace on Wednesday utilizing Bibles which can be laden with private that means, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one which seems nowhere in the regulation.

The Constitution doesn’t require the usage of a selected textual content for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies solely the wording of the president’s oath. That wording doesn’t embody the phrase “so help me God,” however each trendy president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically important Bibles for his or her inaugurations.

That contains Biden, who plans to make use of the identical household Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice chairman and 7 instances as senator from Delaware.

The e-book, a number of inches thick, and which his late son Beau additionally used when swearing in as Delaware legal professional basic, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden informed late-night discuss present host Stephen Colbert final month.

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“Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a training Catholic.

Biden’s use of his household Bible underscores the outstanding function his religion has performed in his private {and professional} lives — and can proceed to take action as he turns into the second Catholic president in U.S. historical past.

He follows in a tradition of many different presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, together with Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, in keeping with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Some have had their Bibles opened to personally related passages throughout their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for instance, selected Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the religious to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a primary time period marked by political schisms with conservatives.

Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the primary Catholic president, who in 1961 used his household’s century-old tome with a big cross on the entrance, just like Biden’s.

The tradition of utilizing a Bible dates way back to the presidency itself, with the holy e-book utilized by George Washington later showing on exhibit on the Smithsonian on mortgage from the Masonic lodge that offered it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

But not each president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath with out one after the loss of life of William McKinley, whereas John Quincy Adams used a regulation e-book in 1825, in keeping with his personal account.

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Some have employed a number of Bibles throughout their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump selected to make use of, alongside with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861.

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Harris plans to do the identical for her vice-presidential oath, utilizing a Bible owned by an in depth household good friend and one which belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in authorities because the excessive court docket’s first African American justice.

“When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and good friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when turning into legal professional basic of California and later senator.

Harris, who attended each Baptist and Hindu providers as a toddler, worships in the Baptist religion as an grownup.

While U.S. lawmakers have usually used Bibles for his or her oaths, some have chosen options that mirror their non secular variety.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the primary Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Quran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives.

Jefferson’s Quran made a return in 2019 on the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of many first two Muslim ladies elected to Congress.

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., selected a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to mirror her Jewish religion. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who can be Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, plans to make use of Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights motion.

Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after turning into the primary Hindu elected to Congress.

And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the one member of the present Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018.

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