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Magistrates reject proposals to end Bible oath in court

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A motion to end the traditional practice of swearing on the Bible in court has been rejected by the Magistrates’ Association during its annual meeting in Cardiff this week.

Traditionally, witnesses and defendants can hold the Bible and swear by “Almighty God” when giving evidence in a court in England and Wales.  Atheists are given the option to promise to "solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm”.


Ian Abrahams, a magistrate from the Association, tabled a motion to end Biblical oaths in court and replace references to “Almighty God” with a promise to “very sincerely tell the truth”.

But the Magistrates' Association, which represents over 17,000 of the 23,000 magistrates in England and Wales, defeated the motion by a show of hands this week. 

Graham Higgins, a magistrate who rejected the motion said: “We will be pilloried for going against centuries of tradition.”


Another Justice of the Peace called on members to reject the motion on the basis that it would lead to a “further marginalisation of faith in our society”.

Commenting on the motion before the result, Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, said: “This could be the slippery slope towards the increasing secularisation of society.


“Where will it end – with the Coronation Oath? The Bible is bound up with the constitution, institutions and history of this country." 

“It is right for people to have a choice of oath, a religious or non-religious one.

“But we are being urged, in the name of tolerance and secularisation, to restrict that choice.”




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