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India and you

Sadanand Murthy
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Joined: Nov 26, 2003
Posts: 382
Originally posted by R K Singh:

depending on religion, you are given a holy book. At least in movies

In the US courts, the witness is required to swear on the Bible. I wonder if the US courts also allow for one religion or lack of it. What if the witness is a hindu or a muslim? What if the witness is an atheist? Then can his/her testimony be considered "truth" if he/she swore on the Bible (or any other religious book) to tell the truth & nothing but the truth?


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Sonny Gill
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Joined: Feb 02, 2002
Posts: 1211

Originally posted by Devesh H Rao:

Hmm that brings a point to my mind... in india a witness needs to swear on bhagwad gita in the court while giving witness.
does any one know if a non hindu gets to swear on his holy book of choice..
or is it that i watch too much movies.. anyone care to enlighten me

He he..I'd say too many movies.
In most of the courts, as far as I know, the witness just has to say something like 'In presence of God almightly, I ..blah blah' , no holy books! , and of course than they forget about what they just said, and go on to tell whatever serves there interests.
I would recommend everybody to go see the insides of an Indian court(esp. the district ones), It is total chaos, quite an experience!!


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Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Joe King:
Is it true that a presedent has to swear on the bible when getting his job? If so, this seems to be preference to christianity. Is there an alternative swearing in ceremony for other religions? (Or is in not likely that a non-christian could get in?)

The US Constitution has the rule for the swearing in. The person must take the oath of office:
"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."
No mention of a Bible being required but most Presidents do use a Bible when they take the oath.
As to the courts, I can't vouch for every state but in NY we don't use a Bible. The exact form is somewhat vague but the only requirement is that the witness must swear that their testimony is truthful.


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Joe King
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Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

The US Constitution has the rule for the swearing in. The person must take the oath of office:
"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."
No mention of a Bible being required but most Presidents do use a Bible when they take the oath.
As to the courts, I can't vouch for every state but in NY we don't use a Bible. The exact form is somewhat vague but the only requirement is that the witness must swear that their testimony is truthful.

That's good. I'm not quite sure what I'd do if I was called up to a theoretical court that demanded that I swear on a bible before giving evidence. I don't think I could agree to do it.
Its not fair really - christians have a book, muslims have a book, but us athiests get nothing . Maybe we should write one. It would have one page, with the single sentence "Think about it" written on it.
Arjun Shastry
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Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
I think court should allow you as a programmer to swear on "The Art of Computer Programming"(Donald Knuth)(all three books!)


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Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Joe King:
That's good. I'm not quite sure what I'd do if I was called up to a theoretical court that demanded that I swear on a bible before giving evidence. I don't think I could agree to do it.
Why not? As an atheist the Bible is just a book like any other book. Would you have a problem if they asked you to swear on Judy Blume's new opus or the collected works of Franz Kafka?
sunitha reghu
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Joined: Dec 12, 2002
Posts: 937
Originally posted by Paul McKenna:

Like I said earlier, I dont like that law and you are quite possibly right that the law was done to appease voters and doesnt really have much to do with law.
However I will tell you that I have come in contact with some of these missionaries who work in India and ,at least, I felt that they went a little too far. Its not like what you might imagine. A westerner doesnt go into India and look for converts merely for spirituality, the modus operandi is more complex. A westerner or a western religious charity organization sets up base in India and recruits some of the local christians. These chrisitans are then drilled for a month or two about the importance of their work and are promised indirect rewards if they can convert many people. When I say indirect rewards it is something like a transfer to a western country where they can possibly settle down in the future.
These recruits then employ a lot of pressure tactics to gain converts. Those tactics did not work on me or my friends because we come from very well to do families and we know what exactly their intentions are. But the same cannot be said about the lower segment of the Indian population. They are definetly more gullible and this is why a law was introduced against "forcible conversions".
Dont misconstrue the above to be a sign of anything against christianity. I have more christian friends than hindu and I definetly see many things in Christianity that I wish Hinduism had. I dont dislike missionaries either but I am merely trying to explain to you that the way missionaries work in India is very different from the way they do so in the west.

These recruits then employ a lot of pressure tactics to gain converts. Those tactics did not work on me or my friends because we come from very well to do families and we know what exactly their intentions are.
we come from very well to do families
Mapraputa Is
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
JK: Its not fair really - christians have a book, muslims have a book, but us athiests get nothing.
Well, there is this book, we could swear on it... We only need to agree on a book, ha, fat chance. Actually, this could be fun: atheists arguing over which book is truly atheistic...
[ February 17, 2004: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]

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Jim Yingst
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Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
[JK]: I'm not quite sure what I'd do if I was called up to a theoretical court that demanded that I swear on a bible before giving evidence. I don't think I could agree to do it.
[TP]: Why not? As an atheist the Bible is just a book like any other book. Would you have a problem if they asked you to swear on Judy Blume's new opus or the collected works of Franz Kafka?

For me personally, in all three cases I'd probably ask why, what is the significance of putting my hand on the book? It's meaningless to me, but I'd want to know what the court understands it to mean before I do it. As long as the court doesn't think it implies something about my beliefs which I consider to be untrue, then fine, I don't care. But if the answer is that putting my hand on the book is an acknolwedgement of the divine authority of Judy Blume, that's a problem. I'm in the process of swearing to tell the truth and nothing but. I'm not going to do that with what I consider a false or hypocritical statement.
Putting a hand on a book is an ambiguous act, for me. I'd have a bigger problem with an oath containing a phrase like "so help me God". I don't mind if someone else uses such an oath of course, but I couldn't say it myself. I don't need to ask what the court thinks it means; it's clearly inconsistent with my beliefs.
Fortunately I don't think this is actually a real issue in the US. I don't know details for sure, but I think that in most cases either a bible isn't used (anymore), or it's in some sense optional (as Tom suggests re: the US presidential oath). All our presidents have sworn on a Bible (as far as I know) because they themselves have all been Christian (or at least claimed to be) - that's a reflection of our demographics. Fine. As long as it's at least theoretically possible that the bible can be omitted if a given President is so inclined, that's enough for me. People can swear oaths in whatever terms are significant to them.
Note - we've had a long previous discussion about a related issue, the US pledge of allegiance in school. I'm not going to get into that much now, except to note that here, we're not talking about children, and it's not a daily part of the educational process. So if you want to compare my statements here with my statements in the old pledge thread, you'll see some differences - and they're based on the differences in context. If someone feels compelled to resurrect that thread to resume the fight, please take the time to actually read the thread first; chances are that whatever you have to say has already been said several times by one person or another.


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R K Singh
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Joined: Oct 15, 2001
Posts: 5371
Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
JK: Its not fair really - christians have a book, muslims have a book, but us athiests get nothing.
Well, there is this book, we could swear on it... We only need to agree on a book, ha, fat chance. Actually, this could be fun: atheists arguing over which book is truly atheistic...

After denying 100s books you are again after a book...
God save these humans


"Thanks to Indian media who has over the period of time swiped out intellectual taste from mass Indian population." - Chetan Parekh
Falana Dhimkana
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Joined: Jan 13, 2004
Posts: 38
Originally posted by R K Singh:

Gill ji, I can talk about Sikhs and Jains as I have many friends who are eiter Sikh or Jain.
Yes, not only they but their parents and their kids also consider themselves part of Hindu.
And some of my friend are from Punjab (specially Ludhiana)... AW I am going to Ludhiana on 7th of March.. will tell you after coming back

Well, I am a Sikh and do not consider myself a Hindu. I have never come across a Sikh who says (s)he is a hindu. Anyway, I see allegations of being a hardliner/fanatic flying my way. The moment Sikhs say they are not Hindu I see the rest of India going nuts. I will never understand what Hindus gain by calling Sikhs as Hindus. Is it a numbers game? Also, Sikhs don't want any debates about it. We are what we think we are. It is our business only. PERIOD. CASE CLOSED.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
For me personally, in all three cases I'd probably ask why, what is the significance of putting my hand on the book? It's meaningless to me, but I'd want to know what the court understands it to mean before I do it.
I am sure the court will tell you that the significance is that if you lie you could go to jail.
The problem I have with optionally using a Bible when swearing in a witness is that a juror might consider your testimony less believeable if you don't use a Bible.
Jim Yingst
Wanderer
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Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
[Tom]: I am sure the court will tell you that the significance is that if you lie you could go to jail.
Yeah, but that's true whether I use a bible or not, right? Does placing my hand on the bible have some role in the process?
The problem I have with optionally using a Bible when swearing in a witness is that a juror might consider your testimony less believeable if you don't use a Bible.
Hmmm, perhaps. I'm not sure we want to second-guess just how stupid some jurors may be. We could also spray-paint all the witnesses a nice uniform white so the jurors wouldn't inadvertantly take race into account either. :roll:
So what if the jury has some way of knowing (or guessing) the religion of a witness, and it's not Christian? (Maybe inferred from something they wear, or from details in the testimony.) Will that witness' credibility be enhanced by swearing on a Christian bible? Seems to me the reverse might be true - the witness may be seen as too willing to say things they don't really believe.
In general I'd expect that if I'm a witness in a trial, whichever side summoned me to testify probably has an interest in having the jury see me as credible. As do I. Thus, the whole conversation about "what does it mean?" would take place with a lawyer well beforehand during witness prep, not in front of a jury. And we can ensure things go smoothly. Perhaps there's some nice old leather book of legal codes which I could put my hand on instead? The jury isn't going to inspect the book after all. Wouldn't surprise me at all if something like this is already done; they just don't make a big deal about it, precisely because it shouldn't matter.
[ February 17, 2004: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
Joe King
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Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Why not? As an atheist the Bible is just a book like any other book. Would you have a problem if they asked you to swear on Judy Blume's new opus or the collected works of Franz Kafka?

The problem is that if I'm making a serious oath, then unless 100% of it is something I feel strongly then I dont think its quite as valid. An example would be if I got married and mentioned god as part of the marriage vows. For me that would make the vows not as valid as if they didnt mention god. In a similar way, swearing to tell the truth while holding the bible seems to imply that I am doing so because I believe in the bible and am telling the truth because of it. I'd be far happier saying "I understand that I am legally bound to tell the truth in the statements I will give".
Similarly I couldn't say an oath of allegiance (should I suddenly wish to be american for example) that mentioned god - I'd have to ask if there was an alternative version I could say. I dont even like my own national anthem "God save the Queen" for similar (but not so serious) reasons. (but then how many Brits do? The Welsh and Scots have their own anthems, and the English prefer "Land of hope and glory" and "Jerusalem").
 
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