Barbara Walters expressed concerns on “The View” Thursday about politicians swearing on the Bible when they take the oath of office.
The co-hosts were discussing a commercial for Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in which he holds a Bible and states his belief in God. The ad is largely thought of as an apology for supporting Obamacare. Pryor is up for reelection in 2014.
“I think it’s really unfortunate when you have to bring religion into politics,” said guest Jane Seymour. “I think religion is a very personal thing.”
“That is very true, but it starts almost with the oath of office, which usually ends with ‘So help me God.’ Now, most presidents swear on a Bible before taking office, even though we have the separation between church and state,” Walters said. “You see it again and again. You don’t have to use a Bible … Teddy Roosevelt didn’t. John Quincy Adams swore on a law book and Lyndon Johnson took the oath on a book he thought was the Bible. We don’t know what the book was.”
“We talk about the separation between church and state and almost every president ends up saying ‘so help me God,’” she added.
Co-host Whoopi Goldberg remarked that Pryor never came out and said he was sorry for supporting Obamacare. “‘I’m sorry I made a mistake.’ Why not just say that? ‘I think I made a mistake voting for this.’ As opposed to [making it about] the bible.”
“The basic tenet in America is the separation,” Walters added. “And it’s very important, the separation of church and state.”
The First Amendment doesn’t actually use the words “separation of church and state,” although as political commentator Dean Obeidallah points out that has long been the interpretation.
Obeidallah wrote that John Quincy Adams was a religious man, “but he chose to be sworn in with his hand on a book of U.S. laws. He wanted to demonstrate that he recognized a barrier between church and state and that his loyalty was to our nation's laws above all else.”