Arizona Senators Take Oaths on Different Books as Kyrsten Sinema Avoids Religious Book

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
January 4, 2019Politics
Arizona Senators Take Oaths on Different Books as Kyrsten Sinema Avoids Religious Book
Vice President Mike Pence administers a ceremonial Senate oath during a mock swearing-in ceremony to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 3, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo)

Arizona’s two new U.S. Senators chose different books on which to take their oath of office on Jan. 3.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, avoided a religious book and instead chose to take her ceremonial oath of office using a copy of the Constitution.

Sinema’s move was not illegal but unusual, as nearly all incoming lawmakers take their oath on the Bible. Other religious books have been increasing in use in recent years.

Vice President Mike Pence ended Sinema’s oath with the usual words, “so help you God?” Sinema responded, “I do.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of Congress is Christian, 6.4 percent is Jewish, and other faiths are less than one percent of the body.

Sinema is the only Congressman or woman to identify as religiously unaffiliated, although 18 others, all Democrats, said they either didn’t know or refused to answer. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said in 2017 that he identifies as a humanist and questioned whether God exists.

A spokesman for Sinema declined to address her religious views but said that Sinema used a book from the Library of Congress that contains the texts of both the U.S. and Arizona constitutions.

“Kyrsten always gets sworn in on a Constitution simply because of her love for the Constitution,” Sinema spokesman John LaBombard told the Arizona Republic.

In contrast, Arizona’s other incoming Senator Martha McSally, a Republican who was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to fill the seat vacated by Sen. John McCain when he died in late 2018, used a Bible that was recovered from the USS Arizona, one of the ships that sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

She noted the Bible’s origins to Vice President Pence. “Pretty amazing,” McSally said. “How special is that?” Pence responded.

In a statement, her office said that the Bible was loaned to her for the occasion by the Special Collections department of the University of Arizona library.

McSally sworn in
Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) participates in a mock swearing-in ceremony with Vice President Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 3, 2019. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

McSally Appointed to Seat in December After Kyl Steps Down

McSally narrowly lost to Sinema in a race for the U.S. Senate seat but was appointed to the state’s other Senate seat after Sen. Jon Kyl stepped down in December.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced the appointment of McSally on Dec. 18.

“All her life, Martha has put service first—leading in the toughest of fights and at the toughest of times,” said Governor Ducey in a statement.

“She served 26 years in the military; deployed six times to the Middle East and Afghanistan; was the first woman to fly in combat and command a fighter squadron in combat; and she’s represented Southern Arizona in Congress for the past four years. With her experience and long record of service, Martha is uniquely qualified to step up and fight for Arizona’s interests in the U.S. Senate.”

Sen Jon Kyl
Sen Jon Kyl (R-AZ) departs the weekly Republican policy luncheon in Washington on Sept. 25, 2018. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

McSally in a statement said that she was thankful for the appointment.

“I am humbled and grateful to have this opportunity to serve and be a voice for all Arizonans. I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Kyrsten Sinema and getting to work from day one,” she said.

Gov. Ducey appointed former Senator Jon Kyl in September to fill the seat vacated by McCain, but Kyl indicated he did not want to serve into 2019 and recently announced his resignation effective Dec. 31. McCain’s term runs until 2020.

He noted that whoever was appointed to the seat would have the opportunity to enter Washington along with the lawmakers elected in the midterms, making the transition smoother.

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