The religious books used during the swearing-ins -- and the symbolism behind them

There were a number of notable swearings-i...

Posted: Jan 21, 2021 11:47 AM
Updated: Jan 21, 2021 1:30 PM

There were a number of notable swearings-in on Wednesday (though the President's oath arguably received the most attention). Aware of the attention their ceremonies would receive, the five elected officials who began their terms this week chose the religious texts they'd take their oaths on with care.

The Bibles -- and, in Sen. Jon Ossoff's case, Hebrew Scripture -- that President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and more used for their swearings-in this week reflect the values important to them: Family. Faith. Equality -- fitting themes for a presidency, and by extension, a Congress, that seeks to be defined by unity and healing.

President Joe Biden's Bible honored his family

President Biden was sworn in on a 19th-century Bible that's been in his family since the late 1800s. Biden has used the five-inch thick Bible with a Celtic cross on its cover every time he's taken an oath of office, from his first Senate swearing-in in 1973 to his second swearing-in as vice president in 2013.

His late son, Beau Biden, also used the Bible when he was sworn in as Delaware's attorney general in 2007.

Vice President Kamala Harris stacked two important Bibles

Vice President Harris was sworn in with two Bibles -- one that belonged to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice in the nation's highest court, and another owned by Regina Shelton, Harris' former neighbor in California whom she considers a 'second mother.'

Sen. Raphael Warnock honored his church

The Rev. Raphael Warnock took his oath in the Senate using a Bible gifted to him by members of Ebenezer Baptist Church when he became senior pastor, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Since 2005, Warnock has helmed the historic Atlanta church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached until his assassination. Ebenezer was the site of Rep. John Lewis' funeral in July.

Sen. Jon Ossoff used the scripture of a civil rights figure

Jon Ossoff, the first Jewish senator from Georgia, was sworn in with a Hebrew Scripture that belonged to lauded Atlanta Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Rothschild was former rabbi of the Temple, Atlanta oldest Jewish congregation -- also where Ossoff celebrated his bar mitzvah. Rothschild helmed the congregation during the early 20th century, when he denounced segregation, advocated for racial justice alongside MLK and shepherded Temple members after the building was bombed.

Sen. Alex Padilla carried a piece of his mother

The first Latino to represent California in the Senate and Harris' successor, Padilla took his oath with his mother's Bible, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

'As the proud son of immigrants from Mexico, I'm committed to working as hard as my parents did to build a better future for the next generation,' he tweeted after his swearing-in.

Past swearings-in that skipped the Bible

Members of Congress aren't bound to using Bibles to take their oaths of office. According to the Constitution, they are only bound 'by oath or affirmation' to support the Constitution and no religious text is required as a qualification for office.

Three presidents didn't use Bibles for their swearings-in: John Quincy Adams used a volume of law; Theodore Roosevelt took his oath without any books or religious texts -- he became president after his predecessor WIlliam McKinley died; and Lyndon B. Johnson used a Catholic missal belonging to President John F. Kennedy after Kennedy's assassination.

In 2007, Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, took his oath with a Quran -- a choice that incensed some members of the House at the time. In 2019, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim women in the House of Representatives, were sworn in with their own copies of the Quran (though Tlaib considered using Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Muslim text).

Though not a lawmaker, former ambassador to Sweden and Liechtenstein Suzi LeVine made an unusual choice for her 2014 swearing-in. Instead of a physical text, she took her oath with an Amazing Kindle e-reader and a digital version of the Constitution. It may've been a wink to her career in tech -- before her ambassadorship, LeVine worked for Microsoft.

Huntsville/Redstone
Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 39°
Muscle Shoals
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 43°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 39°
Decatur
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 38°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 38°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 498076

Reported Deaths: 10094
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson716711387
Mobile36294737
Madison32616468
Tuscaloosa24340421
Montgomery22739519
Shelby22174218
Baldwin19873289
Lee15039157
Calhoun13832293
Morgan13753254
Etowah13390325
Marshall11448211
Houston10124264
Elmore9483190
Limestone9420138
St. Clair9022227
Cullman8984182
Lauderdale8612214
DeKalb8489175
Talladega7606165
Walker6585259
Jackson6545104
Autauga632492
Blount6236127
Colbert6001121
Coffee5264103
Dale4671107
Russell406933
Franklin399878
Covington3993106
Chilton3898103
Escambia379173
Tallapoosa3622143
Clarke344053
Chambers3431111
Dallas3422142
Pike293373
Marion288695
Lawrence284985
Winston258368
Bibb246160
Geneva240370
Marengo238857
Pickens225457
Barbour213651
Hale212269
Fayette202057
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178039
Monroe166739
Randolph164840
Washington156836
Macon147745
Crenshaw146255
Clay145954
Cleburne139841
Lamar133733
Lowndes132751
Wilcox122925
Bullock117336
Conecuh107024
Perry106127
Sumter99732
Coosa90224
Greene88532
Choctaw55323
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 779449

Reported Deaths: 11501
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby876181509
Davidson81809871
Knox46250587
Hamilton40539463
Rutherford38563386
Williamson25382204
Sumner21448318
Montgomery17484213
Out of TN1706694
Wilson16510211
Unassigned15772127
Sullivan14431274
Blount14141183
Bradley12996141
Washington12818234
Maury12246163
Sevier12109164
Putnam10635170
Madison10123230
Robertson8997121
Hamblen8063165
Anderson8044158
Greene7309145
Tipton6962103
Coffee6418115
Dickson6256106
Gibson6196141
Cumberland6127122
Carter5990155
McMinn594592
Roane592696
Bedford5816120
Loudon571966
Jefferson5688119
Lawrence557483
Monroe536590
Warren532576
Hawkins527195
Dyer5242101
Franklin475785
Fayette468372
Obion436995
Lincoln415662
Rhea415273
Cocke401295
Cheatham394544
Marshall391956
Campbell381859
Weakley379359
Giles375297
Henderson362273
Carroll349181
White339366
Hardeman338864
Macon337273
Hardin331563
Lauderdale309642
Henry301275
Marion294744
Scott288144
Wayne287630
Overton285557
Claiborne283069
McNairy268353
Hickman266541
DeKalb266151
Haywood264960
Smith256936
Grainger244246
Trousdale239822
Morgan230338
Fentress229544
Johnson217138
Chester202348
Bledsoe201010
Crockett197547
Unicoi181447
Polk177722
Cannon176730
Union173033
Grundy169730
Lake167926
Sequatchie157327
Humphreys154921
Decatur153837
Benton151039
Lewis147425
Meigs126722
Jackson125634
Stewart124025
Clay107130
Houston103632
Perry103527
Moore94516
Van Buren79720
Pickett74623
Hancock49712

Community Events