Any MP wishing to take their seat in the Commons has by law to either swear an oath or make a solemn affirmation of allegiance to the Crown. After this June’s General Election, 483 of Parliament’s 650 MPs, three quarters of the whole, chose to swear their oath of allegiance on a religious text (Christian or other faith). The option to affirm, for those MPs not wanting to involve God in their declarations of allegiance, was taken up by 160 MPs.
While swearing in habits might give some general insight into trends of religious and cultural affiliation, they don’t help us to pinpoint with exact precision numbers of the faithful on the green benches. Over half of all MPs, 378 in total, chose to swear an oath of allegiance on the King James Bible, but that may say more about tradition and precedent than about personal Christian commitment. Historically the option to affirm instead of swear on a religious text was as much about providing conscientious alternatives for the religious as well as for atheists, and choosing to affirm instead of swear is still practised by a small number of MPs of Christian and other faiths (both Sikh MPs affirmed, whilst one MP affirmed whilst holding the King James Bible). Even with those caveats, it’s possible to notice some broad trends. Continue reading “Oaths and Affirmations”