Claim: A constitutional law professor quipped on the difference between the Bible and the Constitution.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]
On Wednesday, March 1, 2006, at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at AU, was requested to testify.
At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said:
Raskin replied: “Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”
The room erupted into applause.
Origins: In February 2006, Baltimore Circuit Court
Murdock (a move that was defeated in the Judiciary Committee) and a bill calling for the amendment of Maryland’s constitution to prohibit all same-sex marriages.
Although the bill failed to garner sufficient support for passage, it was reintroduced in a version that would have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman only but would still have allowed for same-sex civil unions. The latter bill was being debated by a Senate committee on
Part of that debate featured some give-and-take between Nancy Jacobs, a Republican state senator, and Jamin Raskin, a professor of constitutional law from Washington’s American University (who was himself elected as a Maryland state senator later in the year) over the influence of the Bible on modern law. The Sun reported the following exchange taking place between the two:
Raskin shot back that the Bible was also used to uphold now-outlawed statutes banning interracial marriage, and that the constitution should instead be lawmakers’ guiding principle. “People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution; they don’t put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible,” he said. Some in the room applauded, which led committee chairman
“As I read Biblical principles, marriage was intended, ordained and started by
Raskin shot back that the Bible was also used to uphold now-outlawed statutes banning interracial marriage, and that the constitution should instead be lawmakers’ guiding principle.
“People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution; they don’t put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible,” he said.
Some in the room applauded, which led committee chairman
Based on the Sun‘s account, we note that the version of events quoted at the head of this page has been somewhat altered and compressed to make the exchange more direct and personal (i.e., Senator Jacobs’ statement about marriage and the Bible has been simplified, and she did not issue a “What do you have to say about that?” challenge; Professor Raskin’s response referred to people in general, not to Senator Jacobs specifically; and although some spectators applauded, the room did not “erupt into applause”), but the setting and gist of Professor Raskin’s statement are correctly reported.
Professor Raskin wasn’t the first person to employ this form of quip, however. Comedian Bill Maher said the following (in reference to the Terry Schiavo case) during the
The Federal Appeals Court in Atlanta scolded [Congress and the President] the other day for acting in a manner they said, “demonstrably at odds with our founding fathers’ blueprint.” There are laws named after one person, like the Miranda laws, but they don’t just apply to
And a 1997 article about Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois reported him as offering a similar sentiment:
Jackson voted against a House resolution supporting a judge who displayed the Ten Commandments in court. He was dismayed that it passed. “When I came here, I put my hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. I didn’t put my hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”
Last updated: 12 July 2015
Zaslow, Jeffrey. “Straight Talk.” USA Weekend. 25 July 1997. The Baltimore Sun. “Emotions Flare Over Same-Sex Marriage.” 2 March 2006. Associated Press. “Gay Marriage Opponent Calls for Impeachment of Maryland Judge.” SignOnSanDiego.com. 7 March 2006.